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Envy and the Big Lie

Insights Blog, Church of the Resurrection

Exodus 20:17: The spiritual hazard of envying others’ lives

For some of us, envy is a constant companion, a set of lenses through which we see each experience, each person. It compels us to compare ourselves, our lives, our partners, children and jobs, with others and always come up short.

Envy plants seeds of dissatisfaction that take root and grow into resentments. It fuels our insecurities that we are not enough and feeds our fears that we have missed out on the good things that everyone else seems to have. It can lead us to hide our real lives behind carefully crafted versions of ourselves on Facebook and social media. And it turns our hearts against other people as envy takes the form of gossip or criticism.

The big lie that envy tells is that we don’t have enough, we don’t do enough, and we are not enough.

The spiritual danger here is clear: envy is corrosive to our souls, destroying our sense of our sacred worth as children of God, created in the image of God. It distorts community, too, skewing our ability to see the sacred worth of others as also children of God.

How can we guard against this spiritual hazard? One very effective practice from our spiritual tradition comes to mind: gratitude -- regular, focused attention to concrete things, experiences or people for which we are grateful. These are usually small, ordinary pieces of daily life: a majestic tree that catches the eye, that first, sharp taste of morning coffee, the comfort of a pet.

To start, pick something you already do every day like put on your pajamas or listen to a podcast. Set that as the time for your gratitude moment to pause and make a mental note of 3 or 4 things you’re grateful for that day. Keep it simple as you begin and watch it grow. Gratitude will start to infuse other moments of daily life unbidden. The more we train our awareness toward gratitude, the more we see our lives anew. It is a self-reinforcing practice that protects us against envy.

Today, right now: name one thing you are grateful for today. You’ve already started!

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