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 | By Cathie McDaniel

‘Keeping up with the Joneses’

Dear Cathie, I have many friends. How do I keep up with the lifestyle of my friends? It appears they are getting ahead in life quicker than I am. I am angry and frustrated.

Christian friendships are a spiritual and rewarding gift from God. True friendship is mutual and reciprocal and can inspire both parties to greatness. However, your question was about comparing your lifestyle choices to other people’s. What causes the discomfort? Perhaps the friend you are comparing to does not share your faith, values, or morals. Many people become trapped in the race to “keep up with the Joneses.”

It’s very easy to compare ourselves to others as a way to gauge our own lives. But, for starters, comparison does not come from God. It is not godly. God did not create us to compare ourselves to others. He created us perfectly in His own image to walk in His good works and follow His unique purpose for our lives. Keeping up with the Joneses, even though that may not have been a direct goal, must be tempered with spiritual growth and development.

It would be beneficial to keep things in proper perspective. Keeping up with others in our secular world or surging ahead of them is far less important than God’s plan for us, our future, and our family. If we become like our friends, or adopt their lifestyle, how important have we made it to spend our time with Christ in prayer?

Young and old are consistently challenged not to place the values and lifestyle of culture over their faith. The choices are many and, sometimes, awful. No one relishes the idea of standing alone without their friends, who all seem to be living by the motto of: “Everybody’s doin’ it, so it must be OK!”

Like our parents told us, though, “If everybody’s doin’ it, then it probably means something about it is wrong.” As Christians, we live perpetually within this tension. We are in the culture, but not of it. When we look like everyone else, talk like everyone else, behave like everyone else, no one can see the unique Christian thread in our life.

If you are going to be Catholic, you must resign yourself to living within the tension between popular culture and the Catholic faith. Surround yourself with people who have the same goal. These people will love, support, and encourage you when things get tough, not compare their lifestyle choices to yours. We need to seek God’s plan first. Perhaps then, we will allow ourselves to balance our material wants more easily. It’s hard to keep the faith when all those around you are caught up in the culture of having more.

Proverbs 17:17: A friend is a friend at all times, and a brother is born for the time of adversity.

Cathie McDaniel is the director of Catholic Family Services in Huntsville. She has a master’s degree in clinical counseling from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Alabama.