The other night I was at my parent’s going through some memorabilia. I came across a picture i have been searching for in order to write this blog. So, I guess that means it’s time. In High School, I took a class called “Shakespeare”. I was in it with my best friend and we had a phenomenal teacher whose passion for Shakespeare work made it actually interesting to read books with wording we barely understood. When we read Othello, my friend and I were particularly intrigued by the visual of a “green-eyed monster” used to represent jealousy/envy. When Halloween rolled around, we thought it would be very smart and clever and dress up like green-eyed monsters (we also hoped it might get us into good graces with our teacher who we imagined would be highly impressed by this gesture). We looked pretty awesome and were very impressed with ourselves, though I’m not sure that anyone else understood or appreciated our brilliance. So, this green-eyed monster image implies that jealousy and envy are, well, “monstrous”. Bad. Ugly. Scary. Evil. At their root, I think that is accurate. But it’s so easy to dress up the monster in a fluffy kitten costume and disguise it as something else. I never thought of myself as envious or jealous because it didn’t come out in nasty, hateful ways. But here’s how I notice when it has gotten ahold of me: I can’t celebrate with others without thinking about how it relates to me. See if this sounds familiar: “You lost 10 whole pounds? Wow. Man, I really need to lose weight too. No matter what I do it seems I can’t get the weight off. I wish I could look like you. blah, blah blah. ” I can take someone else’s success party and turn it into a self-pity party for myself. That’s called “envy”. It means “a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.”
I have to tell you an ugly, “green-eyed monster” story about my own struggle with envy. I was so consumed with it I even began to pull away from the family members I envied. Long story short-my husband interviewed for a job in Vegas at a fabulous church that we both really wanted to be a part of. In the end, it just wasn’t the right fit for his gifted-ness, so we turned it down. A few months later, per our reference, my sister-in-law and her husband took a job at this fabulous church and moved to Vegas. I felt like God had ripped the rug out from under us. I let myself get excited and then instead of ME getting what I thought I wanted, THEY got what I wanted. Let me tell you, my claws were out and my green eyes were a’shining! One day I was so consumed with jealousy and envy that I was actually had bad feelings toward them, as if they took this job FROM me out of spite. Ridiculous, but that’s how envy works. Luckily, I have a few tools from AL-Anon that I occasionally remember to use, so I pulled them out. I looked up a reading on envy and boy, did it put me in my place. Ya ready? “To envy someone else because I want what I think they have is a waste of time. We are on different paths. They have what they need, I have what I need. Resentment will only put a wedge between me and another human being. I am no one’s victim. I am where I belong. (Now listen up…) ENVY IS NOTHING MORE THAN A HOSTILE FORM OF SELF-PITY. I will not succumb to it today.” Hostile. Yikes. I could see my attitude, toward my very own special family, changing from celebration to self-pity. I wanted what they had and felt like I’d been cheated. I shaped up a bit that day. But let me tell you when it really hit home-when I got Leukemia. God knew that was coming. What if I had been in Vegas without the support system of friends who have known us for 20 years? In a hospital where the CEO wasn’t my friend? At a school where my kids couldn’t get a ride from their friend’s parent’s who I know and trust and who would do anything for me? I know God would have arranged it somehow if I had been in Vegas, but let me tell you, I am exceedingly grateful that I did not get what I wanted so badly that it was turning me into a monster.
What’s the solution? It’s pretty simple. Hard to live out, but not complicated. The answer is gratitude. The reading I looked up said this, “I will be grateful for the many gifts, talents, and opportunities I have been give. When I appreciate what I have instead of dwelling on what I lack, I feel good about my life. This allows me to be happy for another person’s abundance.” I was reminded of this again as I read something this morning: “Occasional flickers of envy are human and inevitable, but a chronic sense of being cheated is a sign of spiritual disorder, a sign that there’s work to be done. Acceptance and gratitude are the antidotes to the misery machine of envy.” And who is miserable? Not the person I am envying. It’s me. My own misery that I bring on myself when I stop trusting that God’s plan for my life is unique and special. It won’t, and shouldn’t, look like someone else’s plan. Are you unhappy and sporting a green-eyed monster costume? Shed it, my friend. Celebrate and be gracious and think no more about how the good fortune and blessings that comes to others effects you. Live in gratitude for the path God has designed specifically for you.
Great quote from Arthur J. Rehrat:
“Envy’s a coal comes hissing hot from hell.”