Everyone is special… or so we’re told.
From infancy, coddled and adored by our parents and families, incessantly told how exceptional we all are. But what then happens when we go out into the big bad world and encounter the vast jungle of humanity’s stern gaze? How do we cope in a world filled with people that are far more exceptional, or at least appear so on the surface? What do we do when our “specialness” is outranked and outmatched by others who excel beyond us in skill and/or ability? As people, the gut reaction is often this little thing called Envy.
Envy — a deep-rooted feeling of unrest borne from our desire to have something possessed by someone else.
Envy is such an integral part of humanity’s imperfection, that it manifests itself in infancy, even before we’re able to form language. Some would go as far as to argue that Envy was the First Sin, because Eve ate the proverbial Forbidden Fruit to be like God — to see the world as God sees it, to possess God-like knowledge… to be, more.
As Christians, we too are not impervious to the sickness that is envy. As a matter of fact, if anything, we’re more susceptible to it. Doesn’t it just feel like everyone in “the world” seems to have it much better than those who follow Christ? Easier? When we spend our lives following God’s commands and His Word, shouldn’t we inherit the earth as promised? If we’re to be completely honest, every Believer has, at some point, fallen victim to envy.
Have you ever caught yourself staring at someone’s social media for inordinate amounts of time and craving their life? Have you envied someone’s accomplishments so much that you stopped being proud of yours? The reality of humanity is that we’re so quick to notice the things we don’t have, or don’t realize that we do. Kids often display this behaviour with little or no inhibition — “I want HER dress!” “I want HIS toy!”… As adults, we’ve developed some very effective ways to conceal these feelings, but that doesn’t make them any less prominent. If you’ve ever felt like your life was not commensurate with all the dreams and amazing ideas you have in your mind, then you know exactly what I mean. The million-dollar question then becomes… “How do we navigate the intricacies of a volatile existence marred by the constantly-emphasized achievements of others, in lieu of our own?”
Timeline - a graphical representation of a period of time, on which important events are marked.
In life, we all have our timeline, and because everyone’s timeline is unique, some people have timelines that appear to be more eventful and run more smoothly/effortlessly… especially in comparison to the otherwise modest lives that the vast majority of us seem to lead — lives awash with trials and turmoil. Instead of obsessing over everything going “great” in other peoples’ lives, we should focus on our own lives, respecting our own timelines, and embracing ourselves and the (sometimes tumultuous) journey that God has designed for us.
Social Media has made it so easy to feel like less. Everyone seems to have the perfect life when viewed through a 4.7 inch screen and myriad Insta-filters. The locations are ultra-exotic. The food appears so tasty. The outfits, supremely elegant… all wrapped in a beautifully deceptive ribbon, and served up at the forefront of our cyber lives with the ever-present “#Blessed”. And when we unconsciously compare our lives with the ones we see on those little screens in our pockets/purses, or to the lives of people around us, we inevitably fall short, and it hurts. This hurt then gives way to unbridled Envy, which slowly propagates jealousy, depression, low self esteem, discontentment, or even hate.
“I have also learnt why people work so hard to succeed: it is because they envy their neighbours. But it is useless. It is like chasing the wind.” — Ecclesiastes 4:4 (GNB)
When we measure ourselves using others as a yardstick and fall short, the natural next step in the envy flow chart is Competition. We all want to be the best, or at least be on the same level as whoever holds that title in our minds, so we subconsciously begin to evaluate our lives by their standards. We begin to do everything necessary to match up with, or be better than them. We get distracted, stop focusing on our own journeys, and expend valuable time and effort competing with someone else, instead of growing at God’s desired pace for our lives. We begin to pray for, and chase after, things that are not meant for us, which as Solomon rightly stated, is useless.
“Envy of another man’s calling can work havoc in our own” - Anonymous.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with ambition. What we should all ask ourselves however, is Why? Why do we want what we want? What’s the true source of these desires? Are our motives God-centric, or just to make others feel like we’re “better”? Are we trying to fulfil our purpose, or simply trying to measure up? Answering these questions can help us realize when we’re straying off our path, and help us realign ourselves to God’s plan for our lives.
However, regardless of how vigilant we are or how hard we try, we’re all still human, and the truth is that we will all experience envy again at some point in our lives. So, when next you’re feeling inadequate in comparison to someone else, simply remember that you are… enough. Take comfort in the knowledge that you indeed ARE special, that you were molded limb from limb by a Father whose love for you will confound even your wildest imagination. Understand that you’re only human, and give yourself some much-needed Grace. Count your blessings and take stock of all the amazing gifts and qualities that you possess. You are a child of God, a position for which there is no rivalry. Renew your mind with your Father’s Word, and His promises regarding you — not all that seems “good” is God. Not all that seems good is good for YOU.
So, wake up, pray, grind and slay.
You may not be perfect, but by His Grace, you are Enough.