Do you consider envy a friend or foe? The choice is yours.
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines envy as:
Painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/envy)
Envy is your foe when you let “painful or resentful awareness” paralyze you. Instead of making changes in your life, you decide to remain in the pain … sometimes for years, or even a lifetime.
Get clear on what you envy, on who you envy. What is it about others that you envy? Is it their appearance … finances … friends … job … connections … skills … health … attitude … family … privileges … freedoms, etc.
First get clear on who you envy, and on what it is about them that you envy … and then do what you can to change yourself to become the person you want to be.
Granted, there are some things you cannot change … and may God grant you the serenity to accept the things you cannot change. For example, I envy professional golfers. I just think it would be so cool to be able to hit a golf ball the way professional golfers do. But at age 48, I just don’t see that there is any way I will ever have enough time, money, or desire to make the sacrifices, and practice enough, to become a professional golfer. At this point in my life I would have to give up too much I enjoy to make it even worthwhile to seek that goal. Nonetheless, I still envy professional golfers.
However, there are some things about others that you envy which are within your reach, and if only you took action and changed your life you could put yourself on paths toward some of your innermost desires.
For example, I have always envied accomplished drummers. I held that envy for many years and did nothing about it. I would feel upset in my heart at my parents for never giving me drum lessons as a child, I would think to myself that if only they would have done that for me as a child it would have been so easy to learn the drums. Finally, at the age of 37 I decided to let that envy be my friend and motivate me to do something about it, and I asked the drummer in our church band if ever considered giving drum lessons. Well, as it turns out, that is how he made a living. Next thing I know I am buying drum sticks, and I started drumming lessons the next week. The end result is that I discovered that extensive drum practicing was causing an old injury “tennis elbow” to emerge, and that I could keep drumming if I also maintained regular physical therapy. Ultimately, though I enjoyed my time drumming, I decided not to continue so that I could give my elbow a rest and pursue other goals.
Another example from my life is that I have always envied people who are bilingual. For many, many years I have watched people move effortlessly between two languages, and regretted the fact that I did not stick with the language study I began in high school. And for many, many years I would tell myself that I am too old to learn another language now. I just assumed that I would hold this envy for the rest of my life.
Until a few months ago. It became clear to me that I could be envious of bilingual people for the rest of my life, or I can let that envy motivate me to make a change in my life. So at the age 48, I began Beginner Spanish Class through the local adult education system. I have bought at least 3 books on learning Spanish, I bought flash cards to learn Spanish vocabulary, I bought a computer program to help me learn (which I am faithfully using), and I am already committed to finding a private tutor as soon as I reach a certain level of competency.
I don’t care that I might not reach Spanish fluency until I am in my 50’s … Lord willing, I will be that same age in a few years if I don’t study Spanish.
I don’t want to spend the rest of my life being envious of the bilingual, and so I am going to do what I can now to overcome this envy and move down a path where I believe I will find a blessing.