When comparison leads to envy
There is a healthy dose of comparison when it comes to improving oneself. We can aspire to be like someone in a healthy manner, as in be in physical good shape, pursue an education or career, or seek recovery for a certain bad dependency. Sometimes we need that wake up call. But comparing yourself to the things that you can't change, comparing yourself to the point where you begin to dislike yourself is not a good thing. Even the other way around, comparing yourself in which you put yourself above another person is literally evil, which is against God's word and hope for us.
What is it that draws you to compare yourself to others? Is it the status that they have reached? Is it that they have what you want? Is it that they're in a place you want to be?
Comparing ourselves to others is something we naturally do as people. We compare and can unintentionally compete with one another. We can compete to get the last or first words in, compete to finish a task first, compete for a promotion, or compete to be the first to hear good or bad news.
Comparison leads to competition. Competition leads to envy. And envy is a sin. It's a sneaky sin that comes fully from seeds of coveting. We begin to look at ourselves and realize we aren't in the same place as others, and we become envious.
When these feelings take root in your heart and rule your heart to take certain actions based on those covetous feelings, it leads to bad behavior which then causes division and bitterness. It's important to first of all understand what it is you are feeling towards a person. Are you jealous, meaning insecure that someone will take what you have? Or do you deeply desire what they have? Quick definition of both:
"Envy is most often used to refer to a covetous feeling toward another person’s attributes, possessions, or stature in life." (source)
"Jealousy is when you worry someone will take what you have." (source)
When we were going through financial hardship it was sometimes difficult for me to see others thriving, enjoying what the world has to offer, and seeing them so carefree with their money and eating at the finest places, taking vacation trips in exotic places, buying a home, and financially blessing others. My heart leaked with envy, even though I was happy for them, I couldn't help but covet what they had.
I was honest with the people that I envied about how it was hard for me to hear and see how they were thriving, that it made me feel bad about myself and our situation, how it made me feel like I was doing something wrong to not have what they have. They were so empathetic towards me, I was grateful that they didn't judge my feelings but they comforted me and told me that our circumstance was not our fault and that better things are coming. I asked God to help my ungrateful heart, to help me see what He sees as beautiful. I then started to focus on what we did have, I would look around our home and say out loud the things I was thankful to have: a home, a dining table, a clean home, art on the walls, a computer, a phone, food in the fridge, friends and family I could call.
During that time, my husband would see my grieving face and simply say, "Enjoy life, Kathy." He's right, life should be enjoyed. It is a gift to have another day to live, and I don't want to waste it being ungrateful or unhappy with life's circumstances. Focusing on lack is just a distraction from seeing God's blessings. Focus on the blessings, the ones you can have and hold and believe in the ones that are coming.
Re-focusing your attention can also mean taking a break from others. Whether that looks like taking a break from certain people's accounts on social media or having some space from them for a while as you allow God to work in your heart; breaks are healthy. Time away with the Lord is good for the soul. During that time ask God for clarity, ask for forgiveness, pray to be thankful for what you have and to bless others. Spend time in God's word to see what a blessing it is to bless others and to celebrate them. Spend time with the people you are grateful to have in your life and appreciate them, look around your home and your life and see the beauty that's been there all along. It just takes a daily practice, a daily sacrifice of our own wants and praying for opened eyes to see what's in front of you.
"Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding." 2 Corinthians 10:12
"Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another." Galatians 5:26
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