‘Envy’ is given the name, ‘The Green-Eyed Monster’. He – or maybe she? – lurks deep in our soul, always watching what others are up to…
A promotion? A new car? Recently engaged? Cute baby photos everywhere?
Envy keeps tabs on people’s lives and our happiness invariably fluctuates depending on what’s happening to them. As I write this, I see the irony in envy: our happiness depends on people’s (un)happiness.
Envy comes in two stages. The first stage is when you want what other people have. It tugs at your heart to put yourself in their shoes. To imagine what it’d be like to have what they have, to live the life that they live, to post pictures of what they post on social media.
The second stage is when our envy grows and takes up a big part of our mental space.
All we think about is what we don’t have. Every conversation, every photo, every reminder of what we lack is like the pollen to our hay fever. It’s irritating and becomes an eyesore.
Suddenly, it seems like the universe is ridiculing us by constantly reminding us of what we don’t have. Our irritation and uncontrollable envy is fuelled by this sense of injustice: If I can’t have it, no one else should!
As a ‘good’ Christian, to manage that ugly green-eyed beast we call ‘envy’, we like to think of ourselves as perceptive and realistic about life, telling ourselves what really is going on in people’s lives, beneath the glory of their success and good fortune:
‘She has a successful career. Probably single or divorced, or both.’
‘He’s rich. Probably lonely.’
‘She’s thin and gorgeous. Probably has an eating disorder.’
The only way to avoid being eaten up by the green-eyed monster is to tell ourselves anything to make them look worse in our eyes. When we tell ourselves they’re probably suffering inside like we are, then we’d feel happier – the envy beast is satisfied… for now.
I mentioned there are two stages of envy, but I think we actually have three. The third stage is how we deal with this monster living inside of us. We need to confront him – recognising his presence – then vanquish it.
Envy hides itself in the shadows and tries to control us by preoccupying our mind with what we don’t have. Like an empty stomach that grumbles and craves to be filled with food, our envious thoughts grumble and growl for immediate attention and immediate satisfaction.
Unlike our stomachs, though, our whole being is more complicated than filling ourselves with food to satisfy this hunger. The short answer is God can fulfil what we think we lack, but the long answer recognises the struggle of sin we’re still battling today.
Our journey for Christian godliness involves looking deep into our heart and mind and finding out what we’re afraid of. Is it loneliness? Is it humiliation? Is it unworthiness?
What is it you’re afraid of? Let God tell you who you really are.
When envy rears its ugly head, recognise it early. Claim it: “I have envy.” Try to understand why this particular aspect of a person’s life or photo triggers that uncomfortable feeling of envy in you. Ask God to tell you who you really are.
Rachel is a pastor, preacher and writer. Based in Sydney, she’s a fan of literature, sport and the arts. Check out her website rachellhli.wordpress.com