In reality, rejoicing for others not so easy..(Reprinted with permission from my favourite sportswriter)

By Terry PlutoBeacon Journal columnist
Can you celebrate when others have success?
Take your time before you answer, because the goal is to be as honest as possible. I know I can lie to myself quickly, especially knowing what I’m supposed to say and feel. I also know that I have a jealous streak that can ambush me at the slightest beat of my envious heart.
I hear that someone won an award, and I think, “That guy doesn’t even know all the letters of the alphabet. I think the guy writes in crayon. How can they say he’s better than me?”
Or maybe you hear of someone’s promotion, and we think, “That’s what you get when you kiss the boss’s butt.”
Or maybe your brother or sister buys a new house or car, and you may think, “Showoff!” This is especially true in families, where some siblings often ventured long into adulthood still trying to get the approval of their parents by outperforming someone else in the family.
What does all this have to do with faith?
Romans 12:15 says: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.”
I’ve read that a few times and said, “I can do that.”
Then I heard sermon tape from Willow Creek. It’s a Chicago area church, where a pastor named Mike Breaux asked, “Is it easier to weep with those who weep, or rejoice with those who are rejoicing?”
It was a brief mention in a message about something else, but the question stayed with me.
My heart is more likely to feel someone else’s pain. I’m reasonably comfortable in hospitals, prisons and other places where many are in misery.
I can think, “Thank God that’s not me.”
I can think, “I feel so bad for you.”
I can think, “I really do want to help.”
But I never feel envious.
Compare that to when someone has sudden success. A part of me knows I should rejoice. I can fake it, put on the plastic smile, shake hands and say the right things.
But I fight the urge to play the comparison game, to keep score — and then rig it so I win.
The question hangs in my heart: “Why him? Why not me?”
Rabbi David Lipper from Temple Israel said there is a Jewish morning prayer that comes from the Talmud’s Ethics of the Father that reads: “Rejoice with bride and groom, console the bereaved.”
But as I read that prayer, I thought of a single woman at a wedding wondering how that person somehow found a husband, and she’s still single.
“It comes down to selfishness,” said the Rev. Bob Combs of Norton Grace Brethren Church. “It’s a battle not to relate everything to us. I know that when I look at myself realistically, I’m surprised how selfish I am sometimes.”
Combs talked about how we can get excited when a kid gets a hit at Little League, but it’s more difficult when someone in your business just hit a financial home run.
“I’m training myself to just go up to people and tell them when I see them doing a good job,” he said. “I want to lift them up, rather than fall into little pity parties.”
Because we live in a very competitive society, it’s hard not to view everything as a zero-sum gain. If another person gets a raise, that means there will be less money for me. There are countless books and motivational speeches given with the basic theme of “How to win at life.”
The premise is that if we win, that means someone else loses.
Or if someone else has won, we’ve lost.
That’s often not true, but we can fall into that ugly trap.
“Our faith tells us to be content with our lot in life,” said Lipper. “We are called to be happy for others.”
Most of us should be content because we have so much.
Ecclesiastes Chapter 5 says: “Whoever loves money never has money enough… When God enables (anyone) to accept his lot and be happy in his work, this is a gift from God.”
One that most of us can really use.
Messages for Terry Pluto can be left at 330-996-3816 or Sign up for Terry’s free, weekly e-mail newsletter “Direct from Pluto” at


1 Comment »

  1. A rather long post, but an enjoyable read, and poignant. Thanks

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