A while ago, history was made after the publication of Kitty Kelly’s unauthorised biography of Nancy Reagan, former USA first lady. The book sold over 950,000 copies in the first week of release. The author dug up all the dirt and scandals she could gather to discredit the First Lady. The question is not whether it is true or not, rather, it is why would this number of people in a week buy a book that is full of negative accounts of somebody?
Why is it that we enjoy reading such stuff and feel better about ourselves when other people’s faults, failures and goofs are broadcast? Even people closest to you are always awaiting bad news about you, why? It is because of envy - which provides the mud that failures throw at success. You can bet that when you make a mark in your generation, someone is going to follow you around to erase it.
The Bible records that; where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice. Those who practice envy, murder, drunkenness and revelries will not inherit the kingdom of God. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, he gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting. They are filled with all unrighteousness, maliciousness, covetousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and evil-mindedness.
Envy is a feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others. It is to want something which belongs to another. It can be the emotion of a child throwing a temper tantrum when they see their sibling with something they want or a woman who sees another in a clothing shop fitting clothes three sizes smaller than hers.
“A heart at peace gives life to the body but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30). Envy is different from jealousy. Jealousy says I want what you have. Envy says I not only want what you have but I want you to lose what you have. It says that not only do I want your Green grass but I want yours to dry up. Envy can manifest between siblings, workplace, professionals, pastors, etc.
How does envy ruin relationships? First, it causes conflicts. “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires that war in your members?” (James 4:1-2)
Second, it kindles resentment. Envy causes bitterness - one to recent others because of their wealth, promotion, and success. Envy leads to gossip, stealing, adultery and murder. “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). Joseph’s brothers envied him to a point of selling him off to the Egyptian slave merchants.
Third, it makes people miserable. “A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones” (Proverbs 14:30). Envy is to your soul what Cancer is to the body. It torments, consumes and grows bigger over time until you get so obsessed with your rivals to the point of depression.
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Fourth, it robs one of contentment. The heart of envy is the belief that we deserve better than we have. One does not realise that they are the only ones who think they deserve it and therefore can do anything to get what they want; even if this means destroying friendships, jobs or families.
To eliminate envy from your life you need to not try to change your circumstances. If you are motivated by envy, you’ll burn out because there will always be someone on a higher level, richer, happier or more educated than you. Do not try to change your feelings. You deal with envy not by forcing yourself not to feel envy, but rather by changing your perspective of how you view situations.
To overcome envy in relationships you need to first, resist comparing yourself to others. The Bible advises us not to class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves; because by measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. It is foolish and stupid to compare yourself with others because we are all different. Secondly, recognise your uniqueness. Envy is an expression of an inferiority complex or low self-esteem. It makes one feel threatened by those who are more beautiful, charismatic, educated, successful, better dressed or have a higher social status.
Thirdly, rejoice in what you have. Instead of focusing on what you do not have, be grateful for what you have. One of the amazing facts about envy is that when we envy other people, we project our problems onto them as though it is their fault.
Finally, respond to others in love. Why? Because, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, it is not puffed up” (1st Corinthians 13:4). Love is being happy when others are blessed and want the best for them. Love is being excited when others succeed - a wedding, job, promotion, birth of a child, graduation from college, receiving awards and accolades, etc.
Envy is rejoicing when other people have a bad time and weeping when others get blessed. The Bible admonishes us to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep/mourn with those who weep/mourn.
We should set our minds on things above and not on earthly things. And to look at things from God’s perspective by recognizing that materials are temporary. God created us all unique and has a divine plan for each one of us; there is no need to compete or be envious of others.