Is the other side green or just full of cows?


For the Mirror

One of the many myths of life today can be summarized in the over-used proverb, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Songwriters have crafted hit songs on the subject, directors have created movies about it, and even religious teachers have commented on the subject.

Ironically, though, most people seem to ignore the obvious truth involved in that phrase, either because they do not wish to believe it, or because they have heard it so many times they no longer pay it any heed. Sometimes lessons too familiar become lessons quickly forgotten.

One facet of this idea is the romanticism of fame and fortune, or, as it is more popularly known, success. The cult of self-made success is rampant in the nation today, almost to the point of insanity at times. On the other side of the issue are those who villainize anyone who has attained any level of success, though probably only because they are jealous that someone else has accomplished what they haven’t. Religious leaders have fallen into both categories at times, probably because of misunderstandings of some of the Scriptures they have based their arguments on. Realistically, the teachings of faith praise the fruits of hard work (success), while at the same time stress that real meaning and purpose are not wrapped up in it.

The fact is that success can be just as stressful and difficult to deal with as disappointment and failure. Failure brings bitter feelings, can wound the ego, and leave an individual with a brittle sense of self worth. Success, on the other hand, can either go to a person’s head, making them “hard to deal with,” or just the sheer effort required for them to keep up can burn them out. Typically, the crash from burnout following success can be just as life shattering as a massive failure. In short, neither is desirable.

One of the biggest letdowns involved with success can be finding out it was not the huge rush someone thought it was supposed to be. Reaching a long awaited goal can be very exciting, but the thrill comes one moment, and fades a short time after. This can make a person ask, “Is this all there is to it?” Having to create an even bigger and better achievement to top the last one can eventually wear you out, or bring disappointment at some point.

Balance is important in every aspect of life, and this area is no different. The phrase “winning isn’t everything” needs to be countered by the affirmation that “losing stinks too.” A sensible approach to the subject is to realize that success may be sweet, but it can create just as much work and stress as its opposite. One writer noted that “the grass is always greener over the septic tank.” My paraphrase reads “greener pastures means more cows.” In other words, the grass may indeed be greener, but that patch of lawn may have a few “surprises” scattered along the way.

This is the point where a faith relationship with God plays its greatest stabilizing role in a person’s life. Faith may console you during the rough times, but it helps you equally deal with the good times. Spirituality affirms the reward of a job well done, and gives you the right viewpoint to keep it all in perspective. Ultimately, this right method of living helps you truly enjoy success, and learn from it.

Religious teachers have long taught their followers how to cope with the hard times of life, but they have not addressed the subject of success. This has left the faithful unprepared for the unique dynamics of what to do with such times, either how to rightly enjoy them, or even how to manage them.

Neither life nor God promises a “rose garden” continually, that much is guaranteed. However, by learning to properly respond to His blessing during the “good times” you can grow just as much personally as you do when the dark clouds come, so to speak. And truthfully, in Federal Way, where the sun is sometimes a stranger, that can be a huge adjustment.

Joe Rinehart is a Federal Way resident and a former pastor of Cascade Christian Church. He can be reached at

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