Warning: it is the intention of this series to deal head-on with the crippling effects of selfishness, envy and depression. If you yourself are more consistently prone to selflessness, joy and optimism, you may want to just move on.
Today I want to take on envy, and I want you to join me.
Do you not just hate the way it makes you feel?
Wouldn’t you rather be at peace with the gifts of others? Happy for them and content with what you’ve got?
Whew. That’s a hard one.
But with grace and a good discussion, all things are possible.
Here is a description of envy (not that we need it):
Envy is a capital sin. It refers to the sadness at the sight of another’s goods and the immoderate desire to acquire them for oneself, even unjustly (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2539).
Envy represents a form of sadness and therefore a refusal of charity; the baptized person should struggle against it by exercising good will. Envy often comes from pride; the baptized person should train himself to live in humility (CCC, 2540).
I have to say, we women in particular are prone to envy. Wouldn’t you agree? It is part of who we ARE to want the best for our families— to be beautiful for our husband, to create a beautiful home for our children, and to pay close attention to the beauty around us.
More often than not, it’s that last one that gets us in trouble.
Here is but a partial list of the some of the sources of our envy:
–Envy over another woman’s cooking, clothing, or well-behaved children
–Envy over another homeschooler’s methods
–Envy over the fact that other people have a blog (and you don’t); or that they can scrapbook, sew, or assemble crafts to beat the band (and you can’t)
–Envy over the number of comments a fellow blogger may be getting
–Envy over someone’s comment being more clever than the one you left
–Envy over the number of another’s Bloglines subscriptions
–Envy over everything! (Okay, so this is no longer a partial list with the inclusion of that one.)
Heaven help us! What’s a good Christian woman to do?
Sing along with me: let there be on earth…and let it begin with me!
This is where that honesty thing comes in.
Yesterday, I mentioned Jane’s comment as being embarrassing. In response to my having been an illustrator, she exclaimed, “Is there anything you can’t do?” I wanted to immediately craft another 10-item meme in response!
If you are ever tempted to envy me, keep in mind the following information: I am tremendously insecure about everything! I am a people-pleaser and a perfectionist. I am disorganized and a dreamer. My kitchen cupboards are a mess.
Does that help?
Yes, I have been mildly gifted when it comes to the Arts. It would be an insult to God the Father to say otherwise. However, when it comes to logical, left-brain processing…hello? click! click! Is there anybody there?
Did I mention I’m a dreamer? Here are a couple of stories that ought to last you.
On my way home from Paris after completing my student teaching, (this was in ’94), I was so distracted that I didn’t even notice that the cab driver kept one of my suitcases! He was angry because I wasn’t taking his taxi all the way to the airport, and told me so on the way to the shuttle in no uncertain terms.
Consequently, when the driver of the shuttle dropped me off at the airport, I realized—after it was much too late—that I only had one of my suitcases. Dang it! The one the cab driver kept was packed to the gills and super heavy—full of souvenirs and all my resources from the classroom.
Nothing of worth to him, in any case, but to this day I am aching for that suitcase.
Or how about this example, one that will either hit you close to home or leave you shaking your head at me in dismay (which, I guess, is the goal of these examples): I recently turned into the oncoming traffic lane because I was thinking about my blog! Thanks be to God that there weren’t any cars approaching! (See the second item on my list of Ten Things—the one about always needing the intercession of the Angels.)
The fact is we all have strengths and weaknesses. We need to acknowledge our weaknesses—combat them if necessary—and then move on. However, we must not discredit our good God by denying our talents! They may not be everythig that we want them to be…but I assure you, with grace most things are possible!
“But I don’t have any gifts,” you protest.
To which I say, “No offense, my dear, but that’s nonsense. Are you not the apple of God’s eye? Have you not gone to Him with all your wishes? He wants to bless you! Indeed, He already has.”
Take a look around you. Are there not one or two little people close at hand? They are your greatest asset and your greatest achievement. Furthermore, you’re their hero. They love you and look up to you. They are hanging on your every word!
For a beautiful example of the choices that we make as a mother, by the way, please read this touching post by Genevieve at The Good Within.
It is hard to be about God’s business; it’s laborious. And when the going gets tough and the kids are fighting; when the kitchen’s a mess and the laundry needs folding; and when the vestiges of Christmas are still everywhere…well, to heck with it. We throw up hands and feel like a failure.
Even worse, we begrudge our friends all their ambition.
Well, I refuse to resign myself to such envy! It is so not what God wants for us!
Now granted, a little competition between friends is healthy—it inspires us and gets us moving. And believe me, I have some very competitive friends! ; ) I think we know the difference, though, between simply trying to be better in our endeavors and actively resenting our friends when they succeed.
May I share with you a few pointers on how I (attempt to) ward off the ills of the great green monster?
Here is what I do:
First, I try to be very up-front about my weaknesses. This often results in my not taking a compliment very well, I’m afraid! I am trying to be better about giving glory to God when I am asked, for example, “How do you do it?” (This is usually a reference to my having five children—and one on the way—or to the fact that we homeschool.)
Grace. Everything is grace.
And the fact of the matter is that at times, you can’t avoid being the subject of another’s envy. Sometimes doing your best means doing your best, and well, that’s going be annoying to some people. That’s not our fault and we certainly shouldn’t be proud about it, but rather, to God give all the glory!
Second, when I am feeling extra weak and even more insecure than normal, I take a break from blogging (which, as of late, is the major source of my insecurity). It is just not fair to me to blame another lady for being ambitious when I don’t feel like it! At that point I need to go off and recharge my battery. I cuddle up with my husband or the children. I take a bath. I turn to prayer.
Finally, I keep in mind that the feeling of envy is in itself not sinful—rather, it’s what we do with it! You know what drives the devil crazy? Slather on the love and up the ante on your prayer time. Offer up a decade for the person that’s making you feel sad. Or do something extra special for someone in your family.
Turn the tables on the dark one and he’ll retreat. I promise.
You know, I’m no psychologist, but I think at the heart of all our envy is a profound loneliness and a deep-seated need for intimacy: divine intimacy. “Our hearts are restless, Oh Lord” said St. Augustine, “Until they rest in Thee.”
Envy is the antithesis of divine intimacy; insecurity, the love of God.
Humility and trust are the answer.
In a perfect world, my friend, we would love each other and have mutual admiration but would never be envious of each other’s strengths.
And you know, come to think of it, that perfect world does exist!
I would like to end with the following quote. It’s a long one, but (in my opinion) well worth the reading:
There will true glory be, where no one will be praised by mistake or flattery; true honor will not be refused to the worthy, nor granted to the unworthy; likewise, no one unworthy will pretend to be worthy, where only those who are worthy will be admitted. There true peace will reign, were no one will experience opposition either from self or others. God himself will be virtue’s reward; he gives virtue and has promised to give himself as the best and greatest reward that could exist…” I shall be their god and they will be my people…” This is also the meaning of the Apostle’s words: “So that God may be all in all.” God himself will be the goal of our desires; we shall contemplate him without end, love him without surfeit, praise him without weariness. This gift, this state, this act, like eternal life itself, will assuredly be common to all” (St. Augustine, City of God, 22, 30).
Goodbye for now and have a blessed day! And cheer up, for tomorrow we talk depression! 🙂
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