Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Green-eyed Monster (and I don't mean Shrek)

This year I have discovered a new weakness in myself. It is the sin of envy. I hadn’t dealt with it much before, because I am comfortably well-off and have enough for my needs and lots of my wants. But this year I lost something that I wish I still had (my health) and it has made me have some very uncharitable feelings towards others.

Which others? People who look like they don’t take care of themselves (sure, add “judging by appearances” to my list of sins), people who are out jogging looking healthy and happy. People who seem to take it for granted that they feel great. People whose biggest problems are emotional and not physical (I’m starting to sound nasty now). I am consumed by envy.
I’ve started to believe that my envy of healthy people is my greater problem (greater than being sick, I mean). I have got to get to a point where I can get over this. Because who knows how long I’ll be sick? This could be the rest of my life. And I don’t want to spend it feeling so ornery towards other people. And towards God for letting them have something I don’t have.

I’ve tried to analyze the root of envy. Do I really think that God is being unfair? No, of course not. Because there are lots and lots of people sicker than I or more miserable than I am in other ways. Of course it’s not unfair for me to have a little trial all my own. Believe it or not, there have even been times in the past when I have been envious of other people who had bigger trials than I did! “When are you going to send mine?” I’d wonder. “Don’t I get a chance to grow, too?” I really did feel that way sometimes.

So if it’s not that I think it’s unfair—what then? Do I think God loves them more than He loves me? (Particularly the people who USED to be sick but who got miraculously healed.) No, of course not. If there’s one thing I have a testimony of, it’s that the worth of a soul is great. I am as precious to God as you are, or as the lady down the street is. I know He cares about me.

I’ve come to the conclusion that my envy comes from a lack of faith in God’s wisdom that all these things shall work together for my good. Because if I truly, truly believed that, I really think I could let go of this tension about what I don’t have.

So what do I need to do to get that testimony? I know that God COULD remove this burden if it were right to do so. I have not lacked faith in that at all. So, since He is all-powerful, and I have faith that He CAN do it, the fact that He has not must mean that there is a purpose in it. How can I improve my faith in this, and rejoice that I am being cared for and carried to where I need to be?


Jennifer B. said...

I once heard someone explain that the root of jealousy (closely related to envy, right?) was fear. Fear that you would never have what it was that you were jealous about. I got thinking about that and decided that for me, it was true. I was afraid that I would not have the things/qualities that I was jealous of--so did that mean that I didn't think I could be truly happy without them? It seems to be the same idea of trusting that God's plan for us is truly for US and that he knows how we can grow and how we can find joy.

It reminds me of a time when I had really been struggling. As I talked to a friend, I heard myself say that I knew there was something I had to learn from the experience that I couldn't learn any other way. I hadn't had the thought previously, but as I said it, I was struck with an overwhelming feeling that it was true. Even though the realization did not deliver me from the trial, that thought comforted me. I wasn't suffering for nothing.

Interesting thoughts, Darlene.

Anonymous said...

I struggle with envy, too, which sometimes turns to anger or defensiveness. If I struggle with infertility, should I judge those who can't control the children they have just because I don't have any? Am I that proud that I think I could do a better job of raising those particular children?

If my marriage is suffering, should I begrudge those who are blissfully fulfilled in their relationship? Or judge those who choose to divorce rather than stick it out (or vice versa). I know people who struggle with emotional issues, and feel anger toward those who's trials are "only physical." Why is the grass (or trial) always greener for someone else?

I agree with Jennifer; I believe God knows us enough to cater our trials to our specific needs & weaknesses. Sometimes we can't learn certain things any other way. For me, the most difficult part of a trial is focusing on what I need to learn rather than envying those who aren't struggling with that particular issue. I also waste much time & energy "solving" others problems in my head. ("Well, if it were me, I would....") It's not my trial, so it's none of my business.

Thanks for sharing.

Darlene said...

Good comments, both of you. I had the exact same experience with infertility, anonymous. So full of irritation at people who drive down the street with their kids on their laps!

I agree that it's important to think about what it is I can be learning through this trial. But when I do that, I start thinking, "OK, OK, as soon as I learn this then the trial will be taken away, right? So hurry up, hurry up! Learn it!" I've got to learn to BE in the trial, in a timeless way, as if I knew that it would always be with me. (That's probably the lesson I'm supposed to be learning right there.) Imagine the powerful person I'd be if I could manage to live in peace and joy in the midst of whatever without counting time . . .

Ang said...

Good post. I remember a time when I was going through some challenges that lent themselves to "why me" thinking, and I did a lot of scripture reading and praying and had a number of deep thoughts about the connection between faith and hope and charity. That's the blessing of trials: the make truth so much clearer. I don't want to take up too much room on your blog with my ruminations; needless to say I find it very interesting how faith and hope and charity build on one another--you can't have hope without faith, and you can't have charity without hope, etc. Each successive trait is more difficult to live than the last, too. Which is why charity is the "greatest of all." I'm still stuck on mastering hope, myself (and even find myself floundering around with faith every once in a while)--but I do consider a lack of envy one of the cornerstones of charity. It's a noble thing to aim for, and I'm certainly not there yet.