What to do With Other People’s Greatness

For many years, my daughter went to school with a girl who took dress-up day to a WNL (Whole Nother Level). Every dress-up day – whether it was favorite literary character day, cowboy day or any of the endless themed days that give me hives – this little girl was a show-stopper. Her mom was a make-up artist in the entertainment industry and I’m not exaggerating when I say her costumes were Broadway worthy. There had to have been weeks of prep, sketches, power tools and maybe even additional stylists behind her dress-up day coup. Some of her costumes could not be worn the whole day because of their weight or our school’s narrow hallways that couldn’t accommodate that much greatness.

Cut to the Hildebrand house on dress up day and it’s a “this’ll work” kind of affair. A bandana makes a cowboy, a floral shirt looks just like one Laura Ingalls’ Wilder would have worn (wink, wink), and that lei from the dollar store reminds me of the spray off the Maui waves. Done and done.

My kids know they will never be Best in Show on dress-up day as long as I’m in charge (and they don’t seem to mind). But what to do about that girl from my daughter’s class and others who knock it out of the park on dress-up day? Should we let jealousy win the day? No. We cheer them on. We high five them. We speak encouraging words to them. We enjoy the heck out of their awesomeness. I want my kids to get used to complimenting others and taking the focus off themselves. I want my kids to recognize excellence in others AND CALL IT OUT.

But often, when we see other people’s greatness on display, we take it as a referendum on our own worthiness and before we know it, jealousy is welling up in our minds and spilling out in our words and deeds. I know for me, jealousy is something I have to intentionally root out of my thought life. Calling out other’s greatness and enjoying their talents has to be an intentional, disciplined reaction, because it’s not a natural one for me, or at least it didn’t used to be.

And why is it important to root out jealousy? As a Christian, my life is to be marked by holiness (1 Peter 1:15 -16; 1 Peter 2:9; Hebrews 12:14; Revelation 22:11). While jealousy may be a natural reaction, it’s not a holy reaction – to say the least. According to 1 Corinthians 3:3, if you are jealous, you are still worldly, acting like mere humans (emphasis mine). Jealousy is hurtful to the person experiencing it as well as the person to whom the jealousy is directed.

Before I make it sound too easy, I do have to confess that as I’ve gotten older, while I may be able to cheer people on who have different talents than me, I still struggle when someone is really great at what I do. For example, I can read an absolutely fantastic book and almost ruin it for myself wishing I could wordsmith like the author. Or even worse, wish I’d have thought about that fantastic phrasing instead of the author. There are times when I’ve been in an audience and heard a life-changing message, but instead of ruminating on the key take-aways, I’m busy nursing my own insecurities and wondering why I can’t be as dynamic, demonstrative, funny, or calming as the speaker.

In the last few years, I’ve been able to quickly recognize jealousy welling up and move in the opposite direction and instead, encourage the author or speaker. Since connecting with people is easier than ever, I make it a point to reach out to the person and encourage them (maybe they see it, maybe they won’t, but the important part is me being faithful regardless of them seeing it). Don’t you know, my whole outlook changes and I get way more satisfaction from encouraging others as opposed to nursing my own ego. Funny how that works.

When faced with someone else’s greatness, we have a choice. We can diminish their God-given drive and talent or we can be in the cheering section. The most wonderful secret to all of this is that you lose absolutely nothing by being in the cheering section. In fact, don’t be surprised if you amass your own cheerleaders when people notice greatness in you. Encouragement is contagious.

Often, we are so self-focused that we miss the opportunity to call out greatness in other people who might desperately need (or just enjoy) the encouragement. Maybe it’s not a school dress up day or the big stage, but some other display of excellence in your midst. Take the time and speak life into the greatness around you.

Be bold, be generous, be extravagant with your words of encouragement. When you witness excellence in others call it out, praise it, bring attention to any good thing you see from those around you. And teach your kids to do the same. Others need your encouragement and the world needs more good – good work and good words.

To borrow from Philippians 4:8, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy” SPEAK about such things.

Dear Lord, thank You for creating us all differently. Help me to celebrate those who have different talents than me, and please help me to celebrate and cheer on those who have the same talents as me. I know jealousy stems from the belief that there is a scarcity of good things. Do not let me fall for the lie that there is anything scarce about what You give. You are not a God of scarcity, but a God of abundance. Lord, deal with our jealous hearts and fashion them for Your good. Please give us the desire to call out greatness in others. We love you. Amen.    

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3 thoughts on “What to do With Other People’s Greatness

  1. This should be mandatory reading for parents on back to school week! JK
    No, I really mean it! How valuable this is for parents to pass on in example to their children!


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