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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Comparison is a Thief

Like many of you, we are dog people. We’ve got two rescue dogs that keep us entertained and laughing.

Mack and Sky have similar stories. Both were abandoned as pups and were hungry for attention and permanent homes. But that’s where the similarities end.

Mack is a laid back pup that is grateful for anything. A rub on the head. A treat. A long walk. Whatever the day, he’s just grateful to be with you.

Sky is different. She’s never satisfied with what she has…but wants more. Take her for a walk? She wants to go farther. Give her a snack? She’ll ask for more. Rub her back or belly? She’ll cry when you stop.

Her biggest issue? Comparison. She will let you know if her meal isn’t comparable to Mack’s portion (although he outweighs her by 80 pounds). She’ll check out Mack’s treat before she’ll enjoy her own. It’s a running joke around the house…Sky just can’t fully enjoy life.

I’m not altogether different.

Like Sky, I often compare my life to others and let that dictate my own happiness.

A better car. A nicer house. The perfect family.

Comparison robs me of happiness.

Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

Be content with what you have. Take notice of the blessings God has given you. He is faithful and gives us all we need.

This week my prayer is to focus on my blessings, and to be content with my present situation.

And please let me know how I may pray for you.

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Smoking weed in San Diego

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I’m in San Diego for a conference this week.  I’ve enjoyed the city- especially the weather.

Yesterday I went for a run from the conference hotel.  I walked down to an intersection to cross over into a park- and was met by a strange odor in the air.  It was sharp, distinctive and permeated the air around me.  I looked sideways at two young men standing next to me and quickly determined the source.

These guys were smoking marijuana.  In broad daylight. At the corner of a busy intersection.

I was stunned, but it obviously wasn’t a rare occurrence for these two.  Isn’t this illegal? They causally talked and laughed while they waited for their bus.

The light turned green and I ran across the street into the park.  But I couldn’t get the thought out of my head.  It was just a strange sight.

I later found out that this wasn’t illegal at all.  If you are 21 and follow certain rules, public usage of marijuana is perfectly legal in California.  It wasn’t agains the law at all.

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.  Philippians 4:9

It made me think of my own life…and how my behavior and attitude might shock others.

The times that I show greed or envy.  The opportunities to show mercy- but I don’t.  When anger takes over my thoughts and I secretly harbor ill feelings toward others.

Thoughts of anger, greed or envy aren’t illegal, but they are unproductive.  When I display those tendencies, I can hurt others or diminish my influence as one who loves Jesus.

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. Philippians 3:17

Pray for me to be a better example to others.  I want to show Jesus in my life- even when  I think that no one is watching.

And let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

 

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