I can’t help but notice and influx of personal Facebook pages promoting face creams and anti-aging serums and weight loss products. I also can’t help but notice that when one of these things pops up on my feed, I get really irritated. I mean REALLY irritated. Then I have to wonder, “Ok, what’s this about? What do I care if people want to do that?”
After a few frustrated scroll-downs, it hit me. My irritation was really bitterness, which was hiding my own sense of insecurity. Like I told one of my friends in jail today, my entire perspective has changed since I became a counselor and especially since I started spending time inside the jail. Things that used to matter so much to me just don’t matter anymore. Things I used to expect – like name-brand makeup, new clothes, fancy food, and an Amazon Prime account – are now rare luxuries. REALLY rare luxuries that almost never happen. This is, in large part, because I chose to go into one of the most unpredictable professions. I chose to work with people who, for the most part, can’t afford therapy. I believe it’s my gift and calling, but it was a choice. Out of this, I have become a snob in another way.
I have noticed over the past year or so that I expect everyone around me to have my perspective on life. I expect everyone else to see a bed and a roof and a fridge full of food and a car with gas in it as gifts and not givens. No matter what I am complaining about when I go into the jail on Sundays and Tuesdays, I always come out reminded of how much I have. To be blunt, I find myself wrestling with a sense of entitlement that I have, until now, only heard sometimes comes with the territory of working in ministry or nonprofit. I am shocked when someone doesn’t excuse a late payment on a bill because last month I had to choose between groceries and gas. (Gas won. I can run on peanut butter. The car can’t.) I realize I have developed this weird pride that leads me to expect things from people that just should not be expected.
I think I really get angry when I see some posts on Facebook because I am jealous that I can’t afford things like that. I have been faced with some of my ugliest vices: pride, greed, and envy. None of those things can be fixed with a cream or serum. As I continue to navigate the waters of living responsibly and thriftily, I am often reminded that everything I have – from my car that breaks down frequently to my really comfy bed – is a gift. It isn’t something I earned or deserved or was entitled to receive. No one owes me anything. I have to remind myself of this daily. Rather than judging people who try new products or have more stuff, I should A) realize that has nothing to do with me and B) be content with what I have.
I love the song by Jake Owen titled “What We Ain’t Got”. The lyrics are:
We all want what we ain’t got,
Our favorite doors are always locked.
On a higher hill with a taller top,
We all want what we ain’t got.
We ain’t happy where we are,
There’s greener grass in the neighbors yard.
A bigger house and a faster car,
We ain’t happy where we are.
This is a great song that reminds me, almost daily, to be grateful instead of spiteful; to be thankful instead of bitter; to be humble instead of entitled. I constantly pray that I will wake up every day and go to sleep every night saying, “Thank you” instead of “Why didn’t you…?”
My prayer is to be happy where I am and happy with what I got.