I was recently at a work conference where I had the opportunity to listen to a motivational speaker. In his presentation, he described how he had turned his life around from a life of crime to living a life of tremendous success. Interestingly, he explained how when he was a criminal, he was constantly surrounded by people that supported him; yet now that he was living a different life, there were not as many people that rallied around him. He felt less lonely in his times of struggle than he did when things were going well.
At that same conference, I heard a woman speak of her work with incarcerated women. When these women were asked why they behaved badly and acted out, they all seem to echo the same reason- that when they were good, no one paid attention to them.
This got me thinking.
There have been many times in my life when I went through my own personal struggles. I am fortunate that at these points in my life, I was surrounded by people who were supportive and helped me through the rough patches. These people I had considered to be my true friends... there with me through thick and thin.
But were they? Every life has ups and downs. When looking back at the ‘ups’ of my life, there are definitely times that I’ve not seen the same people with me, applauding. I remember when I had my first magazine article published. At the time, I was a stay-at-home mom with no significant career accomplishments on the horizon. The call from the publisher left me on a complete happiness high. My bubble was quickly burst, though, when the person I thought would be the most proud of me said he was ‘embarrassed’ and refused to tell anyone about the publication. How could that be? I wonder now if he felt a little threatened or resentful of my achievement. Sadly, this can be somewhat of a pattern in life.
Fortunately, though, there have also been some consistent friends who were there for my celebrations. Like one who was a shoulder to cry on years ago when I experienced a bad breakup; yet so genuinely shared in my recent excitement and insisted on going to lunch the very next day after hearing I got engaged. These friends- the ones that are capable of sharing happiness (and not just misery) alongside of me- are the ones that I consider to be steadfast and true.
Is it possible that the old adage “Misery Loves Company” is more accurate, than not? Is it easier to be there when someone is not in a good place? Do we feel better when we are needed? Do we see another’s win as a loss for us? Do we let our own roadblocks overcome our ability to share in each other's jubilation along the way?
I think we must be willing to build one another up during times of happiness as equally as we do during times of tribulation in order to be the best friend we can be.
Instead of focusing on how someone’s else’s success is not ours, we should shift the focus on how it CAN be ours. After all, advancement into the joyous times of my life would never have been possible if not for those that were there along the way – encouraging me and lifting me up when things were difficult. In that respect, my successes are just as much theirs as mine.