Keeping score. It’s important! Imagine a football game without a final score. Imagine the Olympics without stop watches, tape measures, and judges to assure accurate scores. Imagine going to the …
Keeping score. It’s important! Imagine a football game without a final score. Imagine the Olympics without stop watches, tape measures, and judges to assure accurate scores. Imagine going to the Super Bowl only to go home unaware of who won or lost. We want to know the score. We want winners and losers . . . of course, it’s nice when the loser is the other guy. Most of us would rather lose than tie. As the late University of Alabama football coach Bear Bryant once quipped, “Tying is like kissing your sister.” We want excitement, the stimulation, the joy of winning even if at times we must endure the pain and agony of losing. That’s why we go to great pains to insure that we accurately monitor every movement and every moment to ensure a fair and accurate outcome.
As helpful as keeping score is in sports, it is equally destructive in relationships. Envy is all about keeping score, carefully monitoring what you have compared to what another has. Like a sport, envy is highly competitive; it is always comparing. There is an old Jewish folktale of two merchants who owned shops across the street from one another that provides an excellent illustration of the comparative and competitive nature of envy. Both merchants judged the day successful not on the basis of total sales, but on whether he made more than the other. Upon the completion of a sale, each would look across the street and mock the other. One day, God decided to put an end to this nasty rivalry and sent an angel to visit one of the merchants. “You can have anything you want in the world,” the angel said. “It can be riches, wisdom, a long life, many children. Just know whatever you ask, your competitor will get twice as much. Thus, if you ask for $20,000, he will get $40,000. What is your wish?” The merchant thought for a while before he answered, “Make me blind in one eye.” Envy is as blind as that. All that matters is doing better than others.
Because there is always someone who is doing better than we are, envious people are never content. Moments of satisfaction are quickly replaced by months of dissatisfaction. Whatever might be attained is never enough. Grumbling and complaining become the consistently irritating and corrosive sounds that eat away not only at the envious person but also the unfortunate people within earshot. Being around an envious person is akin to Chinese water torture. Slowly and methodically the corrosive nature of an envious person wears and tears down our spirits. We naturally want to push them away, to create some distance, to remove ourselves from the torture.
Sadly, envy can never be satisfied. Whatever a person might accumulate, no matter how grand, the envious person remains blind to what he has since his fixation is always on what he doesn’t have. The envious person may have many wonderful assets and abilities but all he can see is what he lacks. What others have always seems larger and more special than what the envious person possesses. No wonder there is little joy in the accumulation of things. How can we be thankful when we are only aware of what we don't have?
Keeping score – without it sports wouldn’t be the same and with it relationships can never be what they could be.
Rob Coombs is a professor with a doctor of ministry degree and a doctor of philosophy with an emphasis in Family Systems.
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