February 27, 2013

Coping with Envy

Have you ever wished that you were more like that girl?  You know the one I'm talking about.  She's always put together, she seems to have life figured out, and everyone loves being around her.  I've definitely been there.  I sometimes get caught up in comparing myself and becoming envious of other people, and I'm sure many of you can relate.  Envy is really easy to fall into because our flesh is so weak (Galatians 5:14-26), and it causes us to devalue our gifts from God, which takes away our joy.  
At our Bible study this week, Father Barron defined envy in a couple different ways.  It's sorrow at another person's good or pleasure in their failure.  It's feeling as though something in you has died when someone else succeeds.  It's comparing yourself to others and finding yourself lacking.  And it all stems from pride.  So what can we do to help counteract those envious feelings? Father Barron said the antidote to envy is admiration. 

First of all, we have to admire the gifts that God has given us. I have my own personal struggles with this.  Wishing I was more outgoing and extroverted   Wishing I was funnier.  Wishing I was more animated.  However, that's just not the way that God made me.  I'll see people who are blessed with those gifts and get caught up in being envious of their personality.  Father Barron said that fear is the root of every one of the deadly sins, and I can see how it plays into my own envy through the fear of not being good enough, the fear of failure, and the fear of not being accepted by others.  

I have loved Father Barron's videos so far because he is SO positive and encouraging, reminding us that God has blessed us all individually with our own unique gifts. 

"There are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.  To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.  To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit;to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit;to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes."
-1 Corinthians 12:4-11

God has given us different individual gifts because he has called each one of us to a specific purpose and mission in our lives.  He has amazing plans in store for each and every one of us.

We also have to remember that God works through us to accomplish great things.  He is responsible for all that we do.

"O Lord, you mete out peace to us.  
For it is you who have accomplished
all we have done."
-Isaiah 26:12 

Envy closes us off to God's plans for us, and it inhibits us from letting him work through us to accomplish so many good things.  We really need to appreciate and admire the many gifts he has given us so that we can best carry out his plans for our lives.  

Also, when Thomas and I were doing our homework for the study, I was talking to him about how I sometimes have a really negative way of handling envy.  When we watched Father Barron's video, he gave a name to my way of coping with jealousy:"scapegoating," or undermining and attacking another person.  If I am envious of something another person has or does, I sometimes think about a negative quality of theirs and a positive quality of mine to build myself up.  Yikes. It's such an ugly, nasty thing to do that I don't even want to admit to doing it on here!  And while it might make me feel better in the short term, that is not the right way to handle it, and it's definitely not giving any glory to God.  

That leads into Father Barron's next point.  We have to admire others and their gifts from God.  Consider the way in which we are all related to each other and the importance we all have in this world through reading this passage from 1 Corinthians: 

"As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. 

Now the body is not a single part, but many. If a foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, “Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. If they were all one part, where would the body be? But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” 

Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy"
-1 Corinthians 12:12-26

We are all members who make up the body of Christ.  We all have different individual gifts, but we are all necessary to work together to accomplish God's plans.  

Also, regardless of whether our friends fail or succeed, we are called to be supportive and offer them love.  We must make an effort to praise them for the good that they are doing and the gifts we see in them that come from God.  Recognizing and appreciating those gifts in our friends is a way to glorify God and his creation.  After all, he is the one who has blessed them with those gifts, so it would only be right to credit him with the good we see in others.  

"Would you like to see God glorified by you?  Then rejoice in your brother's progress and you will immediately give glory to God.  Because his servant could conquer envy by rejoicing in the merits of others, God will be praised." 
-St John Chrysostom 

Reflecting on all of that definitely helps me feel more content with who I am and the person God has created me to be.  

How do you cope with envy? 


  1. Oh, lady, you're speaking to my heart right now!

  2. One of the best books I've read is called the Hidden Power of Kindness. It was tremendously helpful to me. I've definitely struggled with envy... most recently with women who were pregnant when I wanted to be. They were everywhere. It was really hard (and still is at times). In addition to the book was specifically praying for the grace to be happy for those who received good in life. Their joys or blessings did not take away from the ones I received. I LOVE that quote - when someone else's happiness is your happiness, that is love. It's SO true!!

  3. This is wonderful, Caitlin...I am going to reread the Corinthians section again and again...Thank you for always sharing your thoughts! Have a great day!

  4. I am so glad I read this because I usually find myself envious of other people´s houses, vacations and financial situations. I have managed to look around me and see how blessed I am that maybe I don´t have so many material things but I do get to spend the day taking care of my kids and we have dinner together as a family everyday. I ask for God to show me how to be truly happy for others´success even if it´s a different kind of success, to be happy for them because they are happy with that. Thank you for this post.

  5. Danielle Bean gave a talk that I was at, and she said "Don't compare your interior with anyone's exterior". That has stuck in my mind ever since, and I always think about it. I always compare all my interior flaws with another's exterior displays of a happy life, beautiful face, awesome kids. I have no clue what her interior life is like, yet I compare my worst to her best. It's so easy to do , and once you realize it, it's so easy to stop!

  6. This is a great post... great stuff to think about. I am not sure how exactly I cope with envy. I think I try to ignore it mostly. I have always struggled with comparing myself to others. Hmm... well, you have challenged me to do something reflecting here!

    Thanks, Caitlin! :)

  7. This is one of my favorite posts you have ever done, Caitlin. I needed to hear this message today. And you have pulled together the teachings and the quotes and the images so beautifully.

    I used to LIVE in envy, in high school. My friends and I, that was just our mode of operation. And then in college I remember feeling so happy for a friend who had achieved something. I felt happy. It was a huge moment for me, and I was excited to recognize that some sort of emotional maturity was happening, but so sorrowful to realize that I had been operating in a complete bubble of self-centeredness and jealousy until that point.

    Constantly renewing the heart with wise words such as those you shared, plus prayers for contentment, help keep envy at bay for me. And I try to truly enter into another's situation, whether it be suffering or joy.

  8. This is beautiful. I also needed to hear this today. This is something I will need to tab and link back to time and again. Thanks for writing.

  9. This is so true and something I really needed to hear. You're definitely not alone on the scapegoating thing. That's exactly how I handle envy too. Thanks for this post!

  10. Exactly what I needed to read today! Thanks for sharing what you're learning!

  11. I really enjoyed (and needed) this post.
    I am struggling right now with envy over an IVF-pregnancy; I cannot wrap my head around "after all, He is the one who blessed them with those gifts" when to me it seems rather that they "stole" a gift by using IVF. It is difficult when these situations are not so black and white...
    But I do find these tips very helpful. Thank you for sharing them!