-Rev Melissa Fain-
On being "green with envy."
It's not easy being green, but sometimes it's necessary. In a study published in 2011, Niels Van de Ven explored which motivates us more: admiration or envy. It was interesting because it separated envy as either malicious or benign. Jeremy Dean, a Psychologist and founder of PsyBlog explored the study.
He explained there are two ways we can be envious. One is driven by the heart, and one is driven by the head. Envy driven by the head is benign. It's a good kind of envy because it gets us to climb, to reach, to soar. We are driven by the accomplishments of others to be better ourselves. Envy driven by the heart is malicious. It's a bad kind of envy because it drives us to pull others down in jealousy.
Benign envy can be a personal teaching tool. When healthy, it maps out a path. You see someone, and can see how they got where you personally did not. You can take notes and do it differently the next time around. We sharpen one another.
Malicious envy is when envy becomes deadly. It is, in my opinion, one of the more dangerous deadly sins, because it's often born from oppression. I can speak from my experience. It's really difficult for me being a female minister, to have benign envy towards my male colleagues. When I map out their path, I know part of what got them there was there gender. As a female that's an automatic closed door I cannot pass. I can open that door, but it's added work in other areas, where I must leave the path and go on a side quest. It forces me to let go of my malicious envy for my colleagues (whom I truly love by the way) and move my focus on the benign envy for the women coming up after me who don't have to do the same work.
I'll just say it. That's not fair. That level of fairness is another post for another day.
As women ahead of me have opened doors I don't have to open, I'm doing the same for those who come after me. If I throw my envy back instead of forward, I'm given room to envy with my head instead of my heart.
Kindness when tied to deadly envy.
I wondered if anyone was picking up on how I was connecting the good virtues. Last week I connected long-suffering to faith. The week before I connected humility to hope. This week, I'm going to connect kindness to love.
That's right, 1 Corinthians 13 is my test of virtue. "Faith, hope love abide these three, but the greatest of these is love."
Kindness is an action. To be kind is not to be passive. It's written into our DNA to shut-up and take it when someone get's nasty. In those cases, it's always good to pull out my favorite MLK jr quote:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
We look at this quote and only see half of the equation. Don't hide the light. Don't hate. We forget the second half where action must be taken in order to bring positive change. In reality, darkness attempting to drive out darkness is much more passive than the light driving out the darkness. Hate attempting to drive out hate might not feel passive in the moment, but it is the path of least resistance. Love is very active, and transforms. Hate is easy, while love takes work.
To enact kindness as a true virtue, we need to see beyond being nice. Nice is passive. I live in the South where we've got "nice" down to an art form. Nice doesn't change anything. We can all play nice, and get through life. Kindness reaches beyond ourselves to seek help for someone else or a community at large. Kindness is love in action.
Kindness when weaponized.
I really believe we actually realize the difference between kindness and being nice. Kindness is really difficult to weaponize. It's much easier to remove kindness and replace it with being nice.
There are people who simply don't want positive change. They make a living bringing darkness into the darkness, and piling hate on top of hate. It doesn't take much light to bring those mentalities down. It's just incredibly hard to shine lights in those areas because the kindness givers are put on mute, and their lights have been extinguished.
Those who bring kindness are often the ones to shine on the pain. Kindness reveals those terrible truths so those who are wounded can be helped. This is where "nice," comes in. Revealing pain doesn't feel "nice." Kindness is quietly replaced with nice so the broken system can continue. If this has happened in your communities, this phrase might ring true: "Why are you being so mean? Just play nice."
Kindness as an action of love.
Seeking kindness doesn't always feel good. In a broken system it can be like attempting get upstream in flooded river.
Let me go in another direction that many of you might get. Those who bring kindness are like healers in a multi-player online role playing game (MMORPG). They are the first targets for those who don't want actual change to their community. If you can take down their healer, than everyone else goes down with them. A good raid set-up has at least someone tasked to protect the healer.
Those who bring true kindness are often not treated very kindly. These people need support systems surrounding them the most, because they're in it for the whole; not themselves. The virtues tied to love are the most difficult to follow, because they bring the most positive change when acted. That's not to say that all negative reactions are signs what you're doing is positive, but it's something to know to keep you from being disheartened. There are reasons good people do bad things. Sometimes they don't even realize they're protecting broken systems. Knowing this helps kind people continue to be kind. If you're a "healer," find peace in that. If you are not, protect your "healer" at all costs.