I Hope You Fail
He had possessions of flocks and herds and many servants, so that the Philistines envied him. . . And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.” Genesis 26:14-16
At the gym, we’re in perpetual competition with each other, pushing one another to become better than we’d be on our own. I love this about the gym, and I genuinely want my friends to do well, getting stronger and faster. I’m thankful for those around me who make me better and I want to be one of those people who makes others better. Still, there’s this tiny part of me that doesn’t want others to get stronger and faster if that means that they’re getting better than me. Ninety-eight percent of my brain cheers for those around me, but there’s this tiny part of my brain that wants to win no matter what, even if that means cheering for failure on the part of someone else.
This is an ugly human trait that was on full display in today’s passage. In the story, Isaac lived among the Philistines for some time, becoming wealthy and successful. The Philistines grew to despise him for it and eventually they had enough. In his petty envy, King Abimelech expelled Isaac and his people. Initially, Abimelech had welcomed Isaac, but that welcome wore off as Isaac’s wealth, power, and success grew to threaten the King and his status. I want you to be successful, but if you do too well, I’ll hate you for it.
We may not think we cheer for failure in others, but most of us – if we’re honest – have a little of this pettiness in us. Think of your definition of someone who makes too much money. Ask yourself – How much is too much? Most of us don’t think of ourselves as too wealthy. The rich are only those who make far more than we do. To someone else though, we’re excessively rich because we make more than they do.
In my addiction, I found myself annoyed with those who’d found recovery. I wouldn’t have admitted that I wanted anyone to relapse, but if someone did relapse, I found some perverse comfort in it. If I was going to wallow in failure, I didn’t want to be alone. In recovery now, it’s my desire to see others succeed. I don’t want to be that person who indulges in petty jealousy. I want to love my neighbor as myself, finding joy in enriching the lives of those around me. I want the lives of others to be better for having known me – even if that means they beat me at the gym.