Woody Allen once said, “My one regret in life is that I am not someone else.”
That’s funny. But in an erie, sort of personal way. Most of us, at one time or another, imagine what it might like to be someone else. Some of us even voraciously harbor Allen’s regret. We’d really rather be someone else.
Back in the early 90’s, my wife, Anna, and I enjoyed watching the television series Quantum Leap. In it, Scott Bakula played a futuristic Dr. Sam Beckett who invented a time machine of sorts that had him leaping uncontrollably from one time to the next into the mind of another at precisely the time they were in some predicament. Anna and I were intrigued by the concept of assuming another’s volitional character for a time; the ultimate escape from one’s own life, which, ironically, is what a good story provides.
Predictably, the intellectual and relational genius of Dr. Sam Beckett managed to make life easier for each of the hapless hosts he found himself leaping into. But I couldn’t help wonder what that might be like in reverse. What if instead of always being the hero, helping another avoid some imminent disaster, Dr. Beckett had real life challenges of his own he was escaping from by leaping into another’s success? What if he were able to choose who’s success he could enjoy? Perhaps to be on stage to receive a Nobel Prize? Or to enjoy a lavish private island villa in the Maldives? Or to orbit the Earth?
Those would be fitting for a man as accomplished as Dr. Beckett; six doctorates and inventor of the Quantum Leap Accelerator. But let’s get a little closer to home. Let’s get Woody Allen-like personal. And real.
What about you? Who’s success would you like to enjoy?
How about that person who got the promotion you didn’t? Or that leader who’s running a larger, more prominent organization than you? Or your friend who just took off for a vacation you could only dream of having? Or the new mother celebrating a child you long to have? Or the new relationship, if you’re single? Or the person with better health? Or more beauty?
These trips into envy are costly. They erode our vitality.
Left unchecked, we’ll frequently take them, until eventually we’re in full agreement with Woody Allen. But, unlike Dr. Beckett, we don’t need to leap uncontrollably into them. In fact, there’s One who took The Great Leap to live within us, not to rescue us for a moment, but to satisfy us for a lifetime and beyond.
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” – Philippians 2:13
When do you find yourself most prone to regret or envy?