The Greek proverb is correct, “Envy slays itself by its own arrows.” Envy is deadly because it will not let us live happily. It robs us of joy. It will not let us be satisfied with what we have or be grateful for our talents and personal qualities. It becomes a barrier to the celebration of who we are. It cheats us from blessings.
What can we do to slay the green monster? The next time envy creeps into your heart and mind do the following.
Acknowledge envy as sin.
Many people struggle with envy for years, yet never acknowledge its true character. Envy is sin. The envious person is not just a victim; he or she bears responsibility. The Scripture says, “For where you have envy . . . there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:16 NIV). The failure to confess envy will only lead to more sin. Envy causes conflict with others, it travels with its cousin anger, it leads to depression, it manifests itself in gossiping, and it can even pull the trigger on murder.
Resist comparing yourself to others.
“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves . . . [it] is not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12 NIV). Envious people are always comparing themselves to others. One way to bolster their own poor self-esteem is by finding fault with others. But when we compare ourselves with others two things happen and both are destructive. One, when we compare our strength to another person’s weakness we become prideful. Two, when we compare our weakness to another person’s strength we become envious. Either way we lose.
Recognize God’s goodness.
In other words, we need to be grateful for what we already have. A myth has circulated since the beginning of time: I must have more than you to be happy. And, you must have more than me to be happy. This is simply not true. Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, we need to remind ourselves what we do have, giving thanks for God’s graciousness in our lives. Do you have life? Health? A job? A house? Clothes? Friends? When we understand God’s goodness in our lives, comparisons are meaningless.
Respond to others in love.
“Love does not envy” (1 Cor. 13:4 NIV). When we love other people, we appreciate their strengths and their gifts. We acknowledge that God loves them like God loves us—no more, no less. And when we choose to love, envy is eradicated from our lives.
Refocus on God.
“Don’t be envious of sinful people; let reverence for the Lord be the concern of your life. If it is, you have a bright future” (Prov. 23:17 GN). There are only three things that will last for eternity—God, his Word, and his people. Not houses, or cars, or jobs, or vacations, or clothes. When we look at people and their achievement and possessions, we need to look at the long haul not the short term. When I focus on God, my neighbor’s achievements and advancements don’t matter.
One of my most popular books, The 7 Sins of Highly Defective People, takes a twenty-first century look at the seven deadly sins, including envy, and offers advice on how, through Christ, we can overcome them. The book is a repair guide that will take you from highly defective to highly effective in your Christian walk. Click here to claim your copy.