What does it mean to “Stay in your own lane?” And how hard is it? Quite hard, evidently.
I have a friend whose husband is unhappy in his job. He only focuses on the negatives, and when he comes home to his family he shares his negative feelings. Feelings his wife tires of hearing. She asks how the negative things affect him and he says they don’t—he just doesn’t like seeing people slack off. That’s when she told him, if it doesn’t affect him, to let it go—stay in your own lane and do your job.
That made him mad, and he stormed off only to come back a few minutes later complaining about something else that had happened. When he went outside, his five-year-old granddaughter looked up and said, “Pop-pop doesn’t listen.”
We laugh about that, but how many times have we done the same thing? Focus on someone who slacks off and gets by with it and is sometimes even rewarded. But when it has nothing to do with our job, or us…why do we complain? Is it because we resent others getting by while we do our jobs the best we can? Could we even be a little jealous?
Jesus talked about this very thing in the Scripture for my Sunday School lesson this past Sunday. It was from Matthew 20:1-15 and is the parable of the workers in the vineyard. A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. (I know there are other definitions, but I like this one.)
The story goes like this: a man has a large vineyard and the grapes are ready for harvest. Early in the day, he goes to the place where workers hang out and hired a crew who agreed to work for a denarius for the day. Then he goes back three hours later (around 9) and hires more men, promising to give them a fair wage. This happens two more times, around noon and then around five, near the end of the work day.
He pays the workers, starting with the last hired (who worked about an hour) and gives them a denarius. Same thing happens with the ones who worked half a day and the ones who work three-quarters of the day. Can you imagine what the workers who had been there all day thought by the time the paymaster got to them? They were certain they would receive more money than the others. Probably their expectations were very high.
And then the vineyard owner paid them what they agreed to—one denarius. The first workers complained—after all, they had worked in the heat all day, and the landowner paid those who’d lazed around in the shade the very same thing they received! It wasn’t fair.
We might even sympathize with the first workers and agree they had a legitimate beef. But did they? After all, they had agreed to work for a denarius. If the land owner wanted to be generous to the others, did it cost the first workers anything? No, they received what he promised.
This is when I remembered that metaphor about staying in your own lane. By the way, Webster’s defines the saying as advice to worry about your own assignment and not worry about someone else’s. But it’s more than about assignments.
Do we cast a jealous eye when God gifts someone else with riches while we can barely make ends meet? Or in the case of an author, how do we feel when another author becomes an overnight success while we’re still on the B-list, struggling to get recognized? Read Jesus’s answer in Matthew 20.
Life is a journey. Don’t compare yourself or your work to others. Be happy for others when they succeed. Stay in your lane and enjoy your journey.