It never fails. You buy a brand new car, house, boat, phone, coat, and then you notice the neighbor next door has a better version of it than you have. That wonderful feeling of pride you experienced owning that new item suddenly plummets to anger.
There is a way, though, to avoid these feelings of despair.
1. Never compare ourselves with others.
Comparing ourselves with others is a losing game. Everyone is different. We all have different tastes, different styles and different goals in life. When we look to others, and compare what we have, let alone, what we do not have, and wish our lives were different, we set ourselves up for failure.
We need to appreciate our own circumstances in order to appreciate our own value.
That is hard to do when society does nothing more than compare people with people all the time. Disengaging is not an option either. We cannot go a day without having contact with another person.
Yet, when we look into the mirror, we ought to see how wonderful a creation we truly are, and that there is no one else like us in this entire world.
2. Forget about coveting what others have.
The bible is quite clear when it talks about coveting:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Ex. 20:17 ESV).
The idea that God knew what we would be like before issuing the tenth commandment should inspire a pause. Envy has a way of eating at our hearts, promoting fear, and lingering long after we come to the realization of its futility.
Coveting does one thing well. It convinces us we are inferior to those of whom we covet. We ought to know better. We ought to toss covetousness aside. God believes we are better than the things we desire that are not ours.
God wants us to be strong in spirit and strong in character.
Envy cannot grow in a person who avoids comparing oneself with others.
3. Engage in activities that will build self-esteem.
Ultimately, the cause of envy is low self-esteem. Being secure with who we are and what we do raises our satisfaction with ourselves and with what we have. If we do not like who we are, then logically, we would want to be someone else. What better way to be someone else than to want what others have.
Purging the need for validation is the first step to building self-esteem. Finding activities that will allow us to grow in that direction is the second step.
As someone who aids others with the direction of their lives, I tend to ask questions that promote discussion. One of the questions I ask is this: what makes you happy? Many of the people of whom I speak with do not know what makes them happy. Some cite money. Some say a beautiful house and car. But no one really talks about satisfaction with their lives. There is always something missing, which they believe is something material in nature they need to possess.
Possessions do not make people happy.
Money makes life easier, but it does not make people happy.
However, the simple activity of flying a kite, or walking a dog, or stomping our feet in the rain may bring incredible joy that cannot be compared with anything else.
Simple activities such as these are what define happiness for us, and we would not need to succumb to envy to build our self-esteem.
What more is there?
Perhaps it is time to see things from a different perspective. Perhaps it is time to love others rather than want to become them. Only then would we feel compelled not to envy them.
Only then would we become whole.