Envy: the thief of joy

I recently read a study that reported that Americans are the unhappiest they’ve been in 50 years.

I completely understand it. We’ve faced the uncertainties of a pandemic. We’re seeing social unrest. We’ve been more isolated over the past 20 months.

We’ve also seen a spike in social media usage. As society has faced the frustrations COVID-19, the amount of time that people have turned to social apps on their phones and laptops has increased dramatically. We’re interacting with people less than we did 20 months ago, and we are turning to social media to fill a void. And that’s impacting our mental health too.

The uncertainties of our current lives coupled with an increase of social media usage has created an interesting dynamic: a dissatisfaction with our own lives. I fall victim to the urge everyday. Through online social media outlets I see people taking incredible vacations. I see happy children. I see impeccably prepared meals and smiling spouses. I read about successes in someone else’s job or office. I witness virtual reminders that people are running races, losing weight and winning awards.

I see people that have life all figured out.

And I’m envious.

Why can’t I have those things? When I look in the mirror, all I often see are imperfections. In my own mind, I feel doubt and second-guess decisions. I kick myself for past mistakes…and I certainly don’t have life figured out.

“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings and not your own.” – Harold Coffin

We read many examples about envy in the Bible.

  • Cain and Able (Genesis 4:1-16)
  • Saul and David (1 Samuel 15-31)
  • The older brother and the Prodigal Son (Luke 15)

It’s one thing to recognize and acknowledge envy and comparison, but what can we do about it?

As Christians, I believe we have three ways to combat the “envy urge.”

  1. Celebrate the good in others. “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) We all have unique abilities. Take time each day to recognize the special gifts God has given others and praise them for it. Is someone a great cook? Praise their cooking! Has someone lost weight? Celebrate their success with them! By lifting others up, we might lighten a burden or insecurity that they are struggling with internally.
  2. Focus on YOUR talents. Comparing our talents to the talents of others isn’t healthy. What are talents? Find a friend, counselor or someone who can help you explore your own gifts. Figure out what YOU do well and focus on becoming even better. The only comparison we should struggle with is summed up in the following question: “Am I better than yesterday?” The focus should be on personal improvement, not the standards you set by comparing yourself to others.
  3. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10) A relationship with Jesus is the most important relationship that we can have. If we keep our eyes on Jesus, our work to love others, serve others and lift others up will fill our lives with joy, peace and happiness. Contentment comes from a close relationship and walk with Jesus.

“Don’t compare your life to others. There’s no comparison between sun and moon. They shine when it’s their time.” – unknown

My prayer this week is to tune out the voices of defeat and insecurity in my own head. Please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless you.

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4 thoughts on “Envy: the thief of joy

    • Jennifer: Thank you! I’ve been in a funk since the start of the pandemic 20 months ago. I’ve let fear, dread and worry create a writer’s block. I’ve made a commitment to write some every day for the rest of the year…and to put out a blog post at least every two weeks. Thanks so much for your kind words. You are a blessing. Keith

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