Years ago, I was struggling through a book my bible study was reading. I found the writing to be undeveloped and her thoughts to be repetitive. Around the halfway point, in a moment of frustration, I told my group: I can't take it anymore. She just keeps saying the same thing over and over. If this girl has a book that's this popular, I can definitely write a book.
Not exactly my most flattering look. It's for moments like these that we need safe, nonjudgmental people by our sides.
My friend, Kate, replied: OK. So why haven't you written a book yet?
It was a defining question for me. It was the moment I realized I was being so critical of this author not because I cared about her writing style, but, because I was jealous of her. She'd made my dream happen. She did the thing I thought I'd do first. And she's done it multiple times with multiple books!
My reaction had nothing to do with her, or her success, but, was simply an arrow pointing to the hole in my own heart.
We do this all the time as women:
When someone loses (a healthy amount of) weight, we are quick to say they look too thin, as we quietly wish we could do the same.
When someone has her fourth baby, we're quick to imply that it's a little odd, don't you think, to have yet another child so soon? Meanwhile, we're yearning for one sweet babe of our own.
When that deliriously happy couple gets engaged after just six months, we find ourselves judging them: what's the hurry, after all? Doesn't it seem a little strange?
When a coworker gets fast-tracked for a promotion, we huddle with friends over the coffee machine, agreeing that she has always been a bit opportunistic.
When a friend buys that big, beautiful home with a farmhouse sink, we think of all of the things we don't like about the house. Who wants all that space to take care of, anyway?
But the truth is, in these moments, our criticism very rarely has something to do with the other person at all. It is an indicator, instead, of what we yearn for. It is evidence of what feels beyond our reach. Whether it be a career goal, a relationship dream or anything in between, if we take time to sit in our frustration - our jealousy - and examine where it is pointing us, we'll be able to move more quickly beyond it.
Sometimes I read books that don't have great writing. But most of the time, if I find myself being hypercritical, I ask myself the hard question: am I really just jealous that she's doing the thing I said I'd do? And, if so, why don't I just go out and do it?
Sending you solidarity and forward momentum on this Monday.