Defeating Envy

Confession: The theme of the last year of so of my life is probably “envy.”

I’m chuckling (in a “to keep from weeping” way) as I type this because it’s humiliating for a grown woman and trained counselor to admit that she can be derailed by such issues. I know better than that. Yet sometimes, knowing just isn’t enough. Sometimes, you just have to wait until you’ve hurt yourself and others in your life so much that you finally realize, “Well, this isn’t going anywhere.”

Envy is a soul-killer. It tunes our hearts away from the Lord’s love, purpose, and provision for us and robs us of the joy and gratitude that could be ours with a simple attitude adjustment. When we focus on what’s happening in the lives of others, we fail to develop the lens to see the unique good that is occurring in our own. We become myopic. At one point in my envy binge, I read something about someone visiting Europe, and immediately began an internal whine-ologue: “How come they get to visit Europe? I want to visit Europe! So unfair. . .” completely forgetting that I lived in Europe in high school (missionary kids have it rough these days.) I became envious of people who were having experiences I have already had! It was admittedly insane. . .but my sinful obsession with the experiences of others had grown to such a degree that it was impossible for me to recognize my own blessings and privileges.

That’s kinda where I’m at right now. Finally getting real about how marrow-deep I’ve allowed this problem to become, and hitting re-set on it.

While I’m by no means an expert, here are the action steps I’m trying to put into place to eradicate the envy in my life.

1. Pray about it.

I’ve been reading a lot on prayer lately, and the more I read about and start to practice it, the more I realize its centrality in a thriving relationship with the Lord. It’s critical for maintaining intimacy with God, awareness of my own dependency and inadequacy, and awareness of his love for me. I’m growing more and more convinced that there is no sustained spiritual growth without prayer.

2. Stop feeding it.

To whatever extent you can, stop feeding your envy. If you have to fast from social media, so be it. I’ve had to stop reading certain blogs that kept luring me into the trap of feeling inadequate, and I won’t let myself sign up for Pinterest because I know I’ll just waste my time coveting everything on it.

Obviously this won’t work across the board–you can’t just stop being friends with awesome people whose lives you covet. I mean, you could, but that wouldn’t do your spiritual maturity any favors; those situations provide you with a fantastic chance to practice point 3.

3. Practice gratitude.

I’ve written about gratitude a lot. I practice it far less regularly. But if envy tunes us away from the Lord, gratitude can serve as the antennae (just go with the analogy, ok?) to tune us back to the Lord’s heart for us. And gratitude is the gift that keeps on giving. The more you practice studying the blessings in your life, the more blessings you’ll see.

4. Seek to serve.

Since envy gets us stuck looking outward, use that stuckness to keep looking outward. . .but at a different demographic. Instead of looking at all the people in your life who have more than you, look for those who need something you can offer. Maybe it’s prayer, or time, or food. Noting the needs present in the world around you can make comparison much easier to overcome; seeking to fill those needs eliminates mope-time and provides purpose. Wins for everyone!

5. Act.

And lastly, once your attitude is in line (but really, practice the attitude adjustment first–that life lesson will take you through practically anything), if you want your life to be different, then figure out how you can make it different. Envy is often just wheel-spinning. “I wish I could, I wish I could, I wish I could. . .” Put a stop to that by doing. Maybe you can’t have everything that you want right away. Most likely you’ll never get everything in your life to line up exactly as you would like. That’s ok. Pick the things that are in your control and change them. Wishing you were outgoing and had lots of friends like so and so? Great. Host a party, or even ask one person out for coffee. Wishing you could travel the world? Sweet. Pick a place you want to go to, sit down with your budget, and make a plan to go, even if it’s years from now. Wishing you could be an Olympic beach volleyball player? Yeah. . .that ship has almost certainly sailed, friend. But I’m sure with an imagination like that, you’ll find a new dream in no time.

One thought on “Defeating Envy

  1. Love your list. Always PRAY first, whatever. And loved that you didn’t forget the last ‘Act.’ I’ve been thinking about how it is not necessarily bad to look at someone and say, “Wow! I wish I could do that, be like that.” But a lot of times I am not willing to do what they did, or go through what they had to go through, to get it! And a lot of times, God says “no” to me, because He knows my character. Many times the things I want, covet, envy, involve having a certain degree of His character in me to sustain. For example, we are all quick to say, “I wanna be like Jesus!” and “What would Jesus do?” Well, He would die on a cross. If you want to share in His glory, then you will share in His suffering. (Rms. 8) And my level of ‘dying’ is still at, being willing to clean the house when I’d rather be doing something else. And finally, some of the things I think I want, God says, “Well, that is not what I want for you!” Sometimes I wonder, “Now, how did I find myself to be doing this (instead of that)?” And I have to reflect on my journey and how God led ‘me’. It is one thing to watch a race, but a totally different thing to ‘run’ a race; and requires pain and planned training to actually run to win a race. There are lots of good races to run and a lot of “good things to do.” I have make sure I am running the race that God has prepared for me. It always helps if you can surround yourself with people to cheer you on in the painful, training moments and challenge you to come up higher! And that is the work of the Holy Spirit, too!

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