the sour taste of envy

“Envy is a form of sadness provoked by another’s prosperity.” (Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, 95)

Love is not jealous  (1 Corinthians 13:4)

Tell that to the green-eyed monster claiming life-long squatter’s rights in my brain! Every time I try to evict the little bugger, he raises another example of someone’s superior achievements compared to my own meagre efforts.

  • Mothers who managed to raise families AND have a career AND find time and energy to complete post-grad degrees AND look beautiful while doing it!
  • Bloggers who never miss a beat in their writing, consistently producing brilliant pieces that I wish I wrote. (Don’t they know about writer’s block???)
  • Anyone with a blog or any social media account (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) who obviously has more “friends” than I have.
  • Friends who have written and published one or more books while I keep dreaming of starting one.
  • Women my age who will proudly bare their gym-toned arms or Zoomba fit legs now that the summer sun is around the corner.

Why, oh why do we torture ourselves with this soul-sucking competition? Why can’t we focus more on our own goals without feeling we are being left in the dust by others? Why can’t we feel pride in every step we take on our life’s journey, without mentally measuring the leaps and bounds of those on a similar path?

Pope Francis writes in Amoris Laetitia,

“Whereas love makes us rise above ourselves, envy closes us in on ourselves. True love values the other person’s achievements. It does not see him or her as a threat. It frees us from the sour taste of envy.” AL, 95

Envy certainly produces a sour taste in families. Competition seems wired into our human nature. Siblings are quick to accuse parents of favouring one child over another. Families judge themselves and each other based on the size of their homes or the success of their children. Parents feel slighted if adult children give affection and time more readily to the in-laws than to them. Envy sours the love needed for peace within and among families.

Francis goes on to remind us that love always respects diversity,

“It recognizes that everyone has different gifts and a unique path in life. So it strives to discover its own road to happiness, while allowing others to find theirs.” AL 95

Ah, there it is. A reminder to stop and acknowledge our differences, without mentally placing them in a hierarchy of achievement. We not only have different gifts and talents, but different life circumstances, joys and challenges.

Difference viewed side by side, not as one automatically better than the other. Difference that is a cause for celebration, not envy.

5 thoughts on “the sour taste of envy

  1. I was very lucky, many years ago, to have a friend who told me that she did not envy my going to grad school (at a time when I was getting serious grief about it from various corners), but that she was glad to be able to rejoice in my success. She truly believed that the success of others enhanced her, as well. She believed that we are all members of the community, to which we contribute different gifts. Although I no longer have regular communication with that friend, she remains with me always, and her lesson re envy has remained with me as well. It’s so much better to be able to rejoice in the successes and the joys of others. and although I sometimes slip, my friend’s voice reminds me to do better.
    And, just for the record, from my perspective, you are the person who manages to get much done and look beautiful doing it. From your photo, I would bet that you have very well-toned arms! 🙂

  2. “She truly believed that the success of others enhanced her, as well.” Your friend sounds like a truly beautiful person, Alexandra! What a gift it is to be affirmed in your talents, to be encouraged to let your light shine instead of keeping it under the proverbial bushel. I think this is especially so for women. Sadly, sometimes we are our own worst enemies….to ourselves, and each other.

    And mega thanks for your kind words. They made my day! 🙂

  3. There is something that has been coming to me for several days: Embrace your own story.

    To me, that means trusting my own perspectives and being the lead character (along with Jesus) in my own fairytale. But, upon reading your post, I think that it can also be applied to envy. I get very frustrated with myself because I can’t do many things that most people don’t even have to think about. By “embracing my own story”, I can remember that the fairytale that Jesus and I are creating together isn’t supposed to read like anyone else’s fairytale, and that they are all valid.

  4. I’m so sorry for the late response! “Embracing my own story”…what beautiful words of wisdom. I find this nudge many times during the day. Often, it happens when I am trying to do “grand” things and am being reminded that God is calling me to be fully present to the ordinary tasks of the everyday. Thank you for this! 🙂

    1. Fully present…mindfulness…living in the present moment…
      These things keep coming up in our culture. Isabella, do you know which Myers-Briggs Personality Type you are? I have been reading so much about it lately. Sensors live in the present, place great importance on their senses, and tend to honour tradition. iNtuitives are more future-oriented and thrive in the realms of possibilities — they are more interested in what could be instead of in what is.
      So, if you are a Sensor, living in the present moment might be where you most naturally encounter God. If you are an iNtuitive, be energized by knowing the God can just as easily meet you in your musings and in your imaginings. 🙂
      I am an INFP. My husband who is a deacon is an ENFP.

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