When I wrote Grasping at Gratitude I mentioned that Mary & Martha are two of my favorite people in the Gospel. Mary and Martha are sisters and I’d like to think that generally they got along well as most sisters do. And here we see the two of them in a bit of a conflict. Normal, right? Well absolutely normal. Mary’s asking for Martha’s help in getting the household chores done. Something that I think Martha, particularly since Jesus is there, teaching and having a meal or three with the family, would respond to. Mary’s asking for Jesus’ help and it seems he denies Mary Martha’s help telling her to adjust her attitude.
Over the years I’ve heard this Gospel explained in a variety of ways: explaining that Mary was asking for something reasonable; that contemplative religious life is preferable to active religious life or married life; that prayer is more important than work; that Martha should have helped Mary; and the list goes on. Each explanation has some reason to it and makes sense, holding within it some merit. And yet something this morning as I thought about this Gospel, reflected/contemplated this Gospel there was another thought that presented itself, one that is kind of disturbing and yet very real. It’s something I’ve experienced over and over again; something I’m constantly personally railing against and when I teach or talk with quilters encouraging them in a different direction.
What might this be? What is it that this Gospel brought to my attention this morning? What do I rail against in myself and hope to help other quilters through? It surprised me that’s for darn sure.
To stay I was startled would be something of an understatement. And yet, I can see the effect that jealousy has. Jealousy allows us to get stuck, mired in, and constantly comparing our skill – or more to the point, lack thereof – with other quilters with “I’ll never be able to quilt like this or that quilter”, “if I had this or that machine I could quilt like you”, “if I had your talent. . . “. I have uttered these words in or something similar in a variety of situations. I’ve thought this about other quilters. Jealousy has its roots in our own, my own feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Feelings. Real, honest to goodness feelings. Feelings that need to be acknowledged and dealt with.
Whew! There I’ve said it. I have been jealous of other quilters. Not so much now but I have been. As I reflect further I can think of both Scriptural stories and personal experience where I can clearly see that jealousy causes problems. Sometimes those problems are easily resolved and sometimes not so much. I’ll say this right up front, it is never easy to make personal changes, particularly a change in attitude that frees us up to really develop a deep appreciation for the work of others and in doing so, our own work.
It’s so easy to be jealous and give in to those deep feelings. It’s further nurtured by our own competitive nature and the desire to be better than the other person. Given that I’m a competitive quilter I get and very much understand that desire. I choose to be competitive and therefore have chosen to focus my personal work at developing my skill as a quilter and as a teacher. What goes into that? A lot of hard work, a lot of head banging frustration and quite frankly, as with any artistic endeavor, a lot of money. Its my choice. My choices might be different if my life were different.
So how did I, how do I deal with feelings of jealousy? Here’s a short list:
* being honest enough with myself to acknowledge the feelings
* recognizing that it takes work to develop the God-given talent I have
* recognizing the work that other quilters have put in to developing their talent
* recognizing that skill develops over time and for some it develops more quickly than others
* being thankful for the skill of others – like my sweetie who can cook I mean really cook.
*being thankful that so many quilters have worked so hard to develop an industry that allows me a place and a clear identity
* working hard at developing my place in this quilterly world – and it takes work, real honest to goodness hard work
* learning how to develop my own talent and encouraging others to do the same (teaching)
* teaching others to develop their own skill by sharing with them how I’ve gotten here
* soul-searching or examining my conscience, if you will
* determining that acting on my feelings of jealousy isn’t a good thing, it hurts me and it hurts the other person
* refocusing on expressing gratitude
Is this always easy? No.
Is this simple? No.
Should it be easy or simple? No.
Is it worth it? Yes.
And that’s all I need to continue on. Letting go of jealousy allows freedom to explore quilt making in new & tried and true ways. Letting go of jealousy allows a deeper appreciation for the skill that goes into the process and frees me to work well with what I have. Letting go allows me to see where I can develop my skill rather than focusing in on what I don’t have.
Truth be told working hard is a good thing. This quilting this is my work, the work that God has (at least for right now) given me to do. So I must do this to the best of my ability, to not quilt to the best of my ability would be, for MY part, a disservice to this talent. Will I win best of show somewhere? Doesn’t matter. It only matters that I do my work well.