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My Failure Can’t Stand Your Success

My Failure Can’t Stand Your Success

So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves. Exodus 1:13-14

In my first official attempt at recovery, I went to outpatient treatment with a naive confidence, knowing that I’d never relapse. When one of the other clients discovered my drug of choice, he pulled me aside and offered to sell me a large bottle of those pills. I was annoyed. I genuinely wanted to stay sober and he tried to derail my efforts. Maybe he thought he was being nice, but I don’t think he was motivated by altruism. Though he was in treatment, he wasn’t sober and I think he was probably tormented by the sobriety of anyone around him. I declined his offer and subsequently stayed away from him. I did well while I worked on my recovery, but a year or two later, falling victim to apathy, I eventually relapsed.

While pursuing recovery, I found myself angry at that guy who tried to ruin my sobriety. Once I relapsed though, I understood him a lot better. While using drugs, I didn’t want to be around those who were sober. Their success shone a spotlight on my failure. I never tried to make anyone relapse, but I’m embarrassed to say that I certainly found comfort when they did.

Cheering for failure. That’s the ugly theme of today’s passage. In the story, the Israelites had settled in Egypt and multiplied, wearing out their welcome. The Egyptians came to fear and despise them simply for their success in growing as a people. The more the Israelites numbers increased, the more the Egyptians hated them. Envious of their success as a people, the Egyptians enslaved the Israelites, treating them ruthlessly.

I’d like to think that I’d never cheer for anyone to fail but when I’m struggling and someone else is successful – whether it’s regarding weight loss, athletic ability, or financial success – it’s easy to indulge in jealousy. When I see those who are more successful than me, I should be inspired to seek success too. That’s a lot of work though. It’s far easier to simply cheer for failure. It is of course, also quite a horrific thing for me to hope for someone else’s disaster. When I surrender to my envy, I find that it’s emotionally and spiritually toxic to me, leaving me in a worse condition that I was before. In recovery now, I must abandon my jealousy, choosing rather to cheer for the success of others, using their achievements to motivate me to be better than I was.

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