Why do I enjoy it when others fail?

Thomas Christianson

November 05, 2015 | 3 minute read

Our world has billions of people in it. That makes it easy to feel anonymous and valueless. As a result, we’ve created scorecards so that we can determine who has more worth than others.

Some of the scorecards we use refer to looks, athletic ability, and popularity. One of the biggest scorecards we use is money: The person with the nicest and newest gadget, car, or house scores high in this area.

Failure to score higher means there’s some deficit within us. We see ourselves as somehow less valuable human beings. But one of the most twisted results of these tests is that when another person experiences success, we feel it pushes our rating — our worth — lower. And we can’t stand that.

I want to genuinely be happy for my friends when good things happen rather than silently counting the ways their success makes me look bad.

When our friend or facebook contact shares some great news about getting accepted to a great school, or getting the perfect job, or meeting an amazing special someone, we may tell them how happy we are for them, but inside we’re dealing with frustration and pain that comes from having someone score higher than us. We'd secretly rather see the breakup post.

At least, that's the way we tend to think. And society keeps telling us to. Companies broadcast how incomplete our life is if we can't purchase their product. Books offer to instruct us how to win friends and influence people. Social media lets us compare our numbers of friends and followers against others, not to mention the opportunity to rate others.

We’ve bought into the ideas that the scorecards are necessary, because they allow us to compete against others. Our life runs on them, because without them, how would we understand our value? If we're not rich, but we're fairly popular, we're able to derive our value from our popularity. In our minds, we don’t have to feel the pain of losing if we have an area where we are winning. A society where everyone had equal value would rob us of the satisfaction of being better off than others.

It’s exhausting, and there’s got to be a better way. I want to genuinely be happy for my friends when good things happen rather than silently counting the ways their success makes me look bad.

Here’s what I know to be true, even if I don’t always practice it: There’s an old quote that says, “The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.”

If we take this idea seriously, it means that there's only one scorecard for all of us that matters; one that doesn't derive our value from any of our own attributes other than the fact we are utterly and unconditionally loved by God.

My favorite thing about this scorecard is that not only does it give everyone equal value, but since God is unchanging, we don’t have to worry about our value ever diminishing or being lost. It’s not about what we do, but what God has done.

We are unable to change that value, and therefore, we can never be more or less valuable than we are at this moment.

Now, if we decide to take God seriously, he calls us to lead healthier lives. He says crazy stuff like don't lust and don't worry and even love your enemy; but this is important to understand — God doesn't say these things so we can make our score higher. God says these things because he loves us completely and wants to help us avoid pain.

God isn't a jerk boss. He's a loving father.

If you can be happy for others, you’ll never be at a loss for good news.

Mother Teresa said this, "God does not demand that I be successful. God demands that I be faithful."

God wants relationship with you. Not because of what He can get out of you, or what He can get you to do. God wants that relationship because He loves you. Your value never fluctuates to Him.

Whether you accept that God feels this way is up to you. Nobody can force you to do so. But man, I hope you'll toss away those other scorecards so you don't have to feel worthless when somebody else finds some success.

When we all have equally high value to God, we can celebrate the success of others instead of feeling threatened by it.

I can want the best for my friends instead of worrying what it will mean for me.

Next time you're feeling threatened or worthless, try to open yourself up to the idea that God's love is not affected by any of our scorecards, and see if that changes how you connect with others.

If you can be happy for others, you’ll never be at a loss for good news.

Thomas Christianson is a pastor, professor, and writer in Baltimore, Maryland. He's the author of a new ebook, "Making My Faith Practical," as well as a graduate of Regent University with a master’s degree in practical theology. He blogs regularly at thomaschristianson.com

(Photo source: Dollar Photo Club)

Thomas Christianson

Thomas Christianson

Thomas Christianson is a writer, speaker, pastor and professor living in the Baltimore area. He is a graduate of Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, TX and holds a Master's Degree in Practical Theology from Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA. He is currently pursuing a Doctorate through Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA.

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