EnvyA young person today has more opportunity for envy than young people have ever had in years past.
When I was a teenager, what I wanted most in the world was to be a jazz singer. I listened to Frank Sinatra and Billie Holliday while others my age were listening to Hansen and Britney Spears. At 15, I recorded a CD of cover tunes.
Unfortunately, I was a nervous performer and was never quite sure how to pursue the career further. I went off to college soon afterwards and became distracted and busy.
Imagine my surprise when two of my younger sisters, both teens, suddenly revealed the music that they’d been writing and working on in the privacy of their room. My whole family went to a coffee shop one night to hear them play for the first time, and when they stood up with ukulele and guitar and burst into a beautiful harmony of folk magic, I sat in the back in shock.
And you know what? Instead of joy and pride at what my sisters were doing, I felt another much stronger, much more painful emotion: envy.
As the years went by and the girls formed a band, went on the road, wrote, worked, got better and better, and recorded, I sank further into the secretive, destructive, and painful sin of envy. Envy is not motivational, and it blinds you to the good things that God places in your own life. Envy makes you angry that God could be so cruel as to give the thing you wanted to someone else.
In my case, the thing He’d given to someone else was the glory of music.
I watched them on Facebook and sat quietly in their concerts, and hated every minute of it. Slowly, as the years went by, I became more and more distant from them. I couldn’t bear the glory, so I simply avoided witnessing it. As a result, I lost my sisters for many years.
Envy Is Harder Than It’s Ever Been
A young person today has more opportunity for envy than young people have ever had in years past. Social media gives us the opportunity to endlessly, mindlessly fill our hearts with images of other people’s lives. We can now witness more of what other people are enjoying than any previous generation. Our grandfathers could only compare themselves to those in their neighborhood, church, and school. They could only see images of their friends and enemies in real life, in real time.
No doubt our grandfathers were not immune to envy, but now we have to do battle with envy on a totally new level. We aren’t just dealing with envy of the other guys on the basketball team or the girls sitting three rows back in Biology class. We’re dealing with envy of total strangers, acquaintances, and close friends, all of whom have a vivid online life to present to our eyes, a life that may or may not even be real.
“A young person today has more opportunity for envy than young people have ever had in years past. Social media gives us the opportunity to fill our hearts endlessly and mindlessly with images of other people’s lives. We can now witness more of what other people are enjoying than any previous generation.”
Envy isn’t going to go away on its own. My feelings toward my sisters went unconfessed and ignored for a long time. Finally, the year we were all getting married, we were going to be bridesmaids in each others’ weddings—and we hardly knew each other. And I knew it was my fault.
So I had to address the envy in my heart, and then I had to go to my sisters and tell them what was going on. I had to start dealing with the envious thoughts as often as they cropped up—calling them sin, like the Bible does, and confessing them to God.
I also had to start practicing loving my sisters, because I read in 1 Corinthians 13 that “love doesn’t envy.” I needed to learn to love my sisters. I started practicing love by listening to their music again and telling them how good it was. I bought their records and donated to their Kickstarter campaign. I told friends how good they were. And I started praying for them, even praying that God would give them further success.
Eventually, all this acting out the emotions of love started to produce feelings in me toward them that I never thought I’d have again. I started to really love them. I started rooting for them. We became friends again.
Envy doesn’t go away on its own—but it can be defeated. And it’s worth the fight.
For further study:
To find out where envy might be hiding in your own life, take the Seven Shades of Envy Quiz at www.SeeingGreenBook.com. Do you envy someone’s physical body? Their intelligence? Their personality? Their money? Their family? Their talent? Take the quiz to find out!
Find Seeing Green: Don’t Let Envy Color Your Joy by Tilly Dillehay on Amazon. To find out more about Tilly (or to see if your church or college group wants to host The Green Workshop), visit www.JustinandTilly.com/the-green-workshop.