Know Your Worth (No. 4): The Pains of Envy
This article is part of The Melanin Series’ “Know Your Worth” short-read miniseries. This series addresses the varying elements of knowing one’s value and self-worth.
Everyone has come into contact with envy at some point in their lives.
Perhaps at one point, you’ve been envious of another person. Maybe someone has been envious of you. It’s even possible that you’ve experienced some ramifications of envy without even knowing it.
Envy is a nasty and terrible emotion. It is like an infection. It starts at one point in the body, and if left untreated, it can spread throughout your body. Ultimately, it leaves you extremely sick. Like an infection, envy alters your way of thinking, which then affects your actions and the way that you interact with others. In the end, envy destroys your self-worth, your self-esteem, your integrity, and your relationships.
We want to give you an anti-envy prescription.
Envy is dangerous. We want to give you the tools that you may need to remove envy from your life. Feel free to share your thoughts below in the comment section. We respond to all comments.
The first trick to removing envy from your life is knowing what it looks like.
Psychologists describe envy as “a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to someone’s advantages, possessions, or traits such as beauty, success, or talent. It’s also a common defense to shame, when we feel less than another in some respect”. This definition is similar to the one found in the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
“painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage”
Envy is not jealousy, but rather it can be experienced alongside jealousy.
Like envy, jealousy is rooted within feelings of insecurity or incompetence, but this feeling is more noticeable. Psychologists say that envy is about wanting something that we do not have, whereas “jealousy is the fear of losing what we have”.
The Bible describes envy as a demon and a source of evil. James 3:16 says “for where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice”. Christian counsellor Michael Linn describes envy as the “resentment” that one may feel when they see someone who has the things that they want. He also believes that what we identify as envy differs from how we identify jealousy. In contrast to the definition of envy, Linn says that jealousy stems from wanting things that you do not have.
Overall, we can see being envious diminishes our self-worth.
Envious feelings come from believing that other’s assets or possessions are better than ours. If we are secure and content in what we have, how can we be envious of others? If we place our trust in God and are thankful to Him for what He has given us, why would we be envious of others? Being envious is a sign that (1) we have low feelings of self-esteem and self-worth, and (2) we do not have a strong relationship with God.
In being envious, we disregard our health and well-being. We begin comparing ourselves with others. We diminish our value while unrealistically increasing someone else’s. Envy has the power to reduce our sense of reason. In some cases, individuals try to sabotage the person that they are envious of, whether it be their work, their image, or their reputation. When envy blinds our sense of judgement, self-worth, and self-esteem, we desire attention and affirmation from the world. How many of us have spent hours scrolling down our social media feeds, wondering why we don’t have as many followers as the next person? How many times have we tried to rectify that by changing our profile picture or compromising our integrity to gain more attention?
For some, low self-esteem comes from not knowing or understanding who you are.
This affects your self-worth by engaging in practices that continue to harm your self-esteem and worth, such as comparison. When you factor in faith, low self-esteem is caused by a lack of identity within God. When you realize that He loves you beyond comparable measure, then you do not need to be envious of others, because you know who you are. With a consistent intimacy with God, you become aware of His blessings. When you are aware, you can find yourself being more thankful to Him. Before you know it, you are so full of Him, you do not need the things of your neighbour or the things of the World to satisfy you.
Here’s your prescription to fight that disease out of your life for good!
- Avoid activities that persuade you to compare yourself to others. If you find that being on social media influences you to compare yourself to others, then minimize your time on social media. If you are envious of your peers or coworkers, then shift your attitudes when talking to them. Limit gossip, bragging, or other conversations that arouse feelings of envy. What you take in is what you will distribute. Make sure you are taking in positive practices that keep you from distributing poor habits.
- Pray about it. Prayer and reading the Bible are two practices that you should engage in every day. Through prayer and reading the Bible, you have the opportunity to reflect on your life and your blessings. Remember: all of the negative thoughts and practices that come from envy arise when you do not have a consistent relationship with God. Thanking Him daily for the things that you have is a good place to start building that relationship if you don’t have it. Stuck on where to read first? Try here.
- Talk about it. You may not be comfortable speaking about your envy with someone else, and that’s okay. But you do need to address it with yourself. Ask yourself why you feel the way that you do. Trace your feelings of envy to the place it first began. Becoming aware of the problem is the best place to start combating it.
- Understand that what is meant for you, will come to you. I heard a great analogy the other day. If you go to the store to by a shirt and it’s not in your size, what would you do? Be mad about it or move on? Are we going to be envious about the person who does have the shirt we want? That won’t place the shirt in our hands, right? Again, envy stems from feelings of discontent. Rather than looking at what you don’t have, recognize what you do have.
- Humble yourself. Sometimes our envy comes from feelings of deservedness and pride. In these cases, we feel the need to place our lives back in our control, rather than allowing God to exercise His authority and control. We go into humility deeper into this article; however, in these cases, we must recognize our place and reassess our views of ourselves.
Remember, you are loved and valued.
Your purpose lies way beyond the things you may be envious of. Never lose sight of it.
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