5 Ways to Stop Envy
Written By Edna Ho, Malaysia
I believe that all of us, at one point or another, will compare our lives with others. I too have done this numerous times. As a member of the worship team in my church, I used to compare my singing ability with those of other singers, and based my self-worth on my ability to sing better than others.
The problem with comparison is that it will result in either of these two outcomes: 1) You realize you fall short (which leads to envy), or 2) you come out feeling superior (which leads to pride).
The Bible has strong words about these feelings:
“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”—Proverbs 14:30
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”—Proverbs 16:18
Personally, I struggle a lot more with the former. But over the years, God has taught me five lessons about how to deal with envy.
1. Remember that everything we own is given by God
When I was struggling with my singing ability, I compared myself with other sisters in the worship team who could not only sing, but also play musical instruments. I thought to myself, “Why can’t I play the piano or guitar?”
One day, when I was especially bogged down by feelings of insecurity, God reminded me that He gives us gifts according to His sovereign will—and that with greater gifts come greater responsibility.
James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” All that we have in life comes from God. To those who are given more, much is expected from them (Luke 12:48). We are to be good stewards of the gifts God has bestowed in our lives. I rest in the fact that whatever He has given me is enough for me to achieve my purpose here on earth.
2. Accept the fact that we will never be like someone else
Realizing this truth earlier can save us from much pain. God has made each one of us unique. I remember being envious of a sister in church who was skinny. Although I was well aware that genetics probably had a big part to do with her frame, I refused to accept the fact. I tried all means—dieting and exercising—just to become as skinny as she was.
Despite my efforts, I did not succeed. Even at my skinniest, I was still chubbier than her. But God comforted me by reminding me that He had made me just the way He wanted me to be (Psalm 139:14). If I was meant to be skinnier or taller, He would have made me that way. Slowly, my perspective started to change. I used to think only skinny girls look beautiful—now I’m starting to see that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.
If you face a similar struggle, I urge you to consider this fact: you’ll never be satisfied in this chase for perfection. Appearances, material possessions and achievements are all temporal. As 1 John 2:15-17 says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
When we reach the end of our lives, we’ll realize that nothing brings more satisfaction than being content with who we are in God and living the life He has given us to the fullest.
3. Take time to reflect on God’s goodness
I keep a journal of all the encouragement I’ve received from people and words God has spoken to me. Whenever I feel discouraged, I flip through my journal to be strengthened once again.
If we take time to reflect, we’d realize that what we have today is a result of God’s provision and answer to our prayers. All that we have now is because of God’s grace, goodness, kindness and mercy in our lives. Let thanksgiving be on our lips as we go about our daily life. That will help us stop envying what others have, because our eyes will be on God and not others.
4. Be intentionally nice towards the person we envy
This may sound counter-intuitive, but let’s do it anyway. How about treating the people we envy to a nice meal, sending them encouraging text messages, calling them up, or better still, praying for them? As Christians, we called to show sincere love to each other as well as to “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9) Even if our feelings tell us otherwise, let’s strive to do what is good for the other.
When I put this into practice, I realized that the negative feelings I held against the other person started to diminish. Let’s follow the principle laid out in Matthew 5:43-48, in which we are called to emulate the love of the Father, even towards people we may not like that much.
5. Seek to grow in God
Instead of always asking God to bless us with things, why not ask God to bless us in our understanding of Him? Pray for a deeper revelation of who He is, His glory and power.
1 Tim 6:6-11 tells us that godliness with contentment is great gain. Only when we find true contentment in Him, will we no longer desire those fleeting pleasures. After all, nothing can compare to the Lord himself.
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