We all have the sins that give us the most grief. You all know what your particular Achilles heels are – they are the sins that you say in confession over and over and over again. Unfortunately, envy has always been one of mine. It waxes and wanes, but every now and then it feels the need to rear its ugly head (and it is always ugly).
When I was a child, there was a particular relative who seemed to have everything I didn’t. We were close in age, and she was smarter, prettier, and more athletic. When I was fifteen, I made a list of things I want to accomplish by the time I was twenty-five. Getting over my jealousy of her was on the list. I’m happy to say that I succeeded. By that time, there were other people to be envious of – the friends with nicer homes and better jobs and who had been blessed with children (which I was having difficulty conceiving). Yes, thankfully, I moved beyond that as well. Of course, then I was envious of the mothers who had it all together. Nine years into mothering later, I realize that was actually all an illusion and that none of us really have it all together – we all just do the best we can.
The purpose of this article isn’t to share with you my personal list of sins. Rather, it is to discuss something I am certain I can’t be the only one struggling with – envy brought on by social networking. Social networking can bring many benefits. It is a wonderful way to connect with friends and relatives. We can laugh, share, encourage, and mourn with each other. It can be a way to evangelize and the largest prayer chain ever.
With the good comes the bad, however. In the old days, one did not have to face other people’s accomplishments on a daily basis. Most people do not go around announcing everything wonderful that has happened to them and their children recently when you meet them in the grocery store. You simply exchange a few pleasantries and move on. Alumni newsletters came maybe twice a year. One could read through the list of great deeds accomplished, promotions gained, and children had in one fell swoop, be happy for them, experience the slight wave of envy, and move on.
Today, it is a constant. I have a wonderful group of on-line and in-person friends. They are talented and successful. I am blessed to have these people in my life. Every day, someone is doing something amazing and they share it, which is totally understandable. They are happy, or they are promoting some new project and want others to share their joy or help in their efforts. If I was a better person, I would always be happy for them. Truly, most of the time I am happy for them, even when the green monster feels the need to raise its ugly head. The two aren’t necessarily mutually incompatible. But I do wish I could have one without the other. I wish I could get at a place in my life where this would not be an issue – where I could be happy for all the good that is going on in other people’s lives without feeling bad about my own. I realize that this has nothing to do with them. This is my problem, my cross, and my sin.
So, then, what to do about it? How do people like me (once again I am certain I am not the only one suffering from this) get beyond the envy to just be happy for others? I have found that there are a few sure-fire cures for envy. Top on the list is to pray for the person you are envious of. Pray for all the success and blessings they should have to come to them. This is a particularly good tactic when there is one person in particular you are envious of. It will eventually, with God’s help, change your heart. Another good thing to do is to try to do something good for that person to celebrate or add to their good fortune. Lastly, the best cure for envy is to realize all the good things you have been blessed with. Envy is basically being unhappy with what you have. It is a sin of selfishness. The antidote is gratitude. Be thankful. Make a list of all the blessings in your own life and repeat them until you get to a true place of gratitude to God.
Social networking is part of life today. It is a great blessing, and I truly do enjoy being part of that larger world and hearing what everyone is up to. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a list of things to be thankful for to get working on . . .
Copyright 2010 Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur