As the holidays invade our common life, we have a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and visit people as well as host and entertain others. The wonderful opportunity to share a snapshot of our life with others.
Many people like to have people over to their house and others prefer to just go out to dinner. There seems to be a bit of motivation behind the attitude people take when connecting with others. There is also a load of emotions taken when people have to do what is uncomfortable.
Generally, people are comfortable with their accomplishments and situation if they are willing to invite others over. No one wants people to come over to their house and make jokes or shame them for inviting them in. Others have nice homes and prefer to not invite others in as a sign of modesty. Whatever the situation, it is never a casual situation. Either the host is trying to make experience appreciated, or the visitor is playing down their expectations.
Visiting relatives adds even more complexity. Whether you are hosting your family or going to visit, there is an added bit of pressure experienced. What it comes down to as a man, how are we doing? If nobody else does, we judge ourself. We do a self-assessment of where we are at and measure that with what we expected/anticipated of ourself.
It happens to me each time I visit a friend that has done well for themselves. They are wonderful hosts and they are truly just being hospitable, but the whole time the enemy gets the tape running in my head. Challenging me with the competition that I cannot compete with. The huge home, the wonderful family; the sports car in the garage; the first wife of 20+ years; the grandkids, and the storyline rolls.
Do you ever get in situations where you are emotionally challenged with “what happened?”
One of the habits many guys can get into is to meet others on common ground. Not go to the other people’s house, but go out to dinner. Get on some neutral turf. At a restaurant it is generally just face to face exchange. Even the poorest guy at dinner can pretend to be wealthy and appear to measure up when credit cards are available.
Do you find it more comfortable to host or visit someone else’s house? Or do you prefer to go out to dinner?
By living in denial we may have escaped into a world of fantasy and unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others.
For light is capable of showing up everything for what it really is. It is even possible for light to turn the thing it shines upon into light also. – Ephesians 5:13-14 PHILLIPS
Humility seems one way
1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:2-4 ESV
This chunk of scripture might be easy to hold when we invite someone over that is in a less than beneficial situation than ourselves, but it gets pretty uneasy when we read that as we visit others that are better off than ourselves.
Have you had any experiences of feeling uneasy when visiting someone’s house?
The Comparison Trap
Keeping up with the Jones’. Or being better than your relatives. We are not generally taught this approach, but it resonates internally to all of us. Even if we don’t struggle with the situation, we still face it. Do we match up to what we experience. Is our family as good as theirs. Or maybe the other way around. We need to make sure we represent the family well and just cover up the real “us” while the guests come over.
It is a strong American psychological challenge we face. Even the media plays on the situation. You deserve more than you have, you can have it better than you have it. You are worth more than you are living. But it did not start in America. It started a long, long time ago. There are times when we get an attitude because of where God has led us. We are not the first. After God miraculously frees the Hebrews from Pharaoh and the Egyptians, they begin to grumble.
All the People of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The entire community was in on it: “Why didn’t we die in Egypt? Or in this wilderness? Why has God brought us to this country to kill us? Our wives and children are about to become plunder. Why don’t we just head back to Egypt? – Numbers 14:2-3 Message
How about later, after God delivered and came through with his promises, they were at it again. It was after they entered the Promise Land and after the judges, the Hebrews, looked around and compared themselves to the surrounding countries. The neighboring countries all had a king and the Israelites did not. They began to compare and they cried out to God, why can’t we have a king?
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” – 1 Samuel 8:4-5 ESV
What has been your sore wound that keeps your emotions flowing?
Praise & Desire
Isn’t it odd that we want to claim that we love it when friends do well. That we are truly happy for others when things go their way, yet we seem to desire what they have. Or we get some internal resentment because we have not been blessed as much. We remember what we did or the decisions we have made in the past and we wonder: what if?
What has been waking you up at night? What continues to eat you up inside?
We actually fall into a sin that is outlined in the last of the 10 commandments.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” – Exodus 20:17 ESV
Isn’t it exactly what we do when we look around at what our friends have and ponder “What if” or “If only”?
Now, isn’t it strange how we just look at the glass half empty, rather than half full? Instead of being grateful for what we have, we look at what we don’t have. Recently when I stayed at a friends house, I was faced with these exact challenges. A huge house, no a lot of property, a couple ponds, garage full of nice vehicles, the house like out of a southern living magazine. When they said they have plenty of room and there is a bathroom for each bedroom, they were not joking. As I walked from the living room upstairs to the the bedroom, I could not help but notice all the details of this beautiful house, and then of course the tape starts playing: “what have you got to show for yourself after all these years?”. “You could have had all this if you would not have screwed up”. Then even when I silence the voices, they continue to declare their judgement.
Now later, I can clearly think that I do have a lot going for me. I have more to be grateful for than I even declared that day. It is almost like I had an attitude that I was upset with God that he did not come through for me. Like what he had provided for me was not enough.
The desire to be Liked
In other ways, don’t we get our self-worth or our self-esteem booster by getting approval of others. Facebook is the greatest example of this in our times. We post things and see how many likes we get. We see these grate pictures of people, most of the time making us envious. We see pictures of nice cars, motorcycles, vacations and smiling kids and happy families. All of Facebook is ego centric, meaning that most of the content of people is produced by those people. They want to show how normal they are, or how greate their life is. WE get challenged with the “what if” and “if only’s” even when we don’t even really know so-called friends.
12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. – 2 Corinthians 10:12 NIV
To be free from care because of satisfaction with what is already one’s own. The Hebrew meaning simply means “to be pleased.” The Greek reference is illustrated in one of Paul’s writings.
6 Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 7 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. 8 So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.
9 But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. – 1 Timothy 6:6-10 NLT
What makes us happy? If we had more, would we really be happier? Who’s purpose do we live for. Looking at our neighbor and wanting to be more like them and discrediting what God has done.
As we get older we need to face the facts. We are not going to be able to do all the things we have done in the past. Many of the dreams and aspirations we may have had need to go into the past. Many times it can be challenging to let go of dreams, and grasp the victories.
Can you be content (pleased) with who God has allowed you to be?
We may get more hope from Paul’s words in verse 6 and expounded in other ways as well.
Godliness with contentment is great gain. – 1 Timothy 6:6 NIV
11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:11-13 ESV
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5 ESV
Let us close with two old British quotes. The witty Puritan Thomas Watson once said:
“Discontent keeps a man from enjoying what he doth possess. A drop or two of vinegar will sour a whole glass of wine.” – Thomas Watson
The famous preacher Charles Spurgeon gave us the other side of the picture:
“A little sprig of the herb called content put into the poorest soup will make it taste as rich as the Lord Mayor’s turtle.” – Charles Spurgeon
It isn’t what we have, but what we enjoy that makes for a rich life, and the wise person understands that contentment is not having everything we want, but enjoying everything we have. Contentment is an elusive commodity in today’s society, yet it is one of the distinguishing marks of the Christian.
Are you going to bring some vinegar or a sprig of herb into your life?
- Morgan, R. J. (2001). Nelson’s Annual Preacher’s Sourcebook (2002 Edition, p. 214). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
- The New International Version. (2011). (2 Co 10:12). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
- Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
- Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.