Have all the things you longed for and expect in this life feel out of reach? Are you struggling to grasp your objective while others seem to reach success so easily? Does happiness seem elusive but achievable only for others? Does the burning of envy cause you to be angry? We will all feel this emotion more than once in our lives. It is called one of the seven deadly sins for a reason!
Seems like so many of us have an empty place inside which continually antagonizes us about failure. Where we "should be" in any particular season fills us with anxiety. We have high needs of expectation for our lives that want to be – or should be – filled with joy, success and the feeling of winning. The thing is, our lives are actually fine until we see something better or someone achieves "our" higher success. We feel the scarcity of being without. When we assume we should look or be a certain way, have more money, have the better job, be important and have value etc., expectation becomes such a burden that we can start to avoid our lives and who we were created to be. Avoidance can look like drugs, alcohol addictions, anger, bitterness, consistent illness and destructive behaviors with jealousy at the roots. Envy and expectation of who we should be can derail us into horrible downspirials of feeling the loss of value. Envy is miserable and everyone will experience this emotion more than once in their life. It's human nature!
"There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."
Most places that hold such high expectations are social categories that we put ourselves into. These places are filled with assumptions of social stigmas that surround us. It's no wonder we wear bandaids and masks to overcome the burden of who we feel we need to become. This evolves from a feeling of scarcity and being left behind. It's seeing only one available high prize and resenting the person who has it. Someone winning the lottery is a great example. Have you ever felt resentful of the undeserving person who just won millions? Your question might be, "Why not me?" I've seen so many young men who have a mid-life crisis at 30 years old. Society puts such pressure on success that when a young man can't reach his lofty expectations of what his life "should be" by 30, his personal comparisons lead him into an emotional crisis. We feel that if someone reaches "spectacular" before us, than somehow they are better.
Below is a quote written by Daniel Boorstin. He was a historian, professor, attorney and writer. He was appointed twelfth Librarian of the United States Congress from 1975 until 1987. In his quote about "Assumptions," you might find a piece of yourself woven between the lines
“When we pick up the newspaper at breakfast, we expect - we even demand - that it brings us momentous events since the night before...
We expect our two-week vacations to be romantic, exotic, cheap, and effortless.
We expect anything and everything.
We expect the contradictory and the impossible.
We expect compact cars which are spacious; luxurious cars which are economical.
We expect to be rich and charitable, powerful and merciful, active and reflective, kind
We expect to be inspired by mediocre appeals for excellence, to be made literate by illiterate appeals for literacy...
To go to 'a church of our choice' and yet feel its guiding power over us, to revere God and to be God.
Never have people been more the masters of their environment. Yet never has a people felt more deceived and disappointed. For never has a people expected so much more than the world could offer.”
Daniel J. Boorstin
Insecurity and scarcity
This is the belief that you're not going to get yours or that you should've already been above another person in your success. These are all the thought processes that go into our feelings. A thought process can be changed! That's good news. But maybe it sounds too simple? When you continually compare yourself to situations or experiences that put yourself down, the pattern of looking for evidence to make yourself feel badly causes disparity and then depression. Our minds are constantly scanning for the truth. When we find something that agrees with our past understandings within our history and experiences, we agree. Even if that is negative or false. What if you turned someone else's success into a positive and didn't turn it back on you? What If someone else's success became your encouragement and a possibility for your own life?
Matthew 6: 25-34
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?..."
Competition and being without
Consider social rankings. We make sense of our world through social comparisons. Even primates pay attention to social rankings. Every member is keenly aware of where they stand within their social status. Primates will produce extreme anxiety if they see another primate getting more than they are. Not only primates have social status but also a family of wolves, elephants, meerkats, a pack of dogs or a clutter of cats. The list goes on. Consider FaceBook. It can make us more competitive with others. We continually judge ourselves with the happiness others appear to have. Better and happier family events, sexier profile pictures, amazing vacation experiences that we feel may never be attainable to us. Another may seem to be engaged with a happier and more affluent lifestyle than we could ever experience. We constantly judge ourselves and our situations. This decreases our joy. The elevated social anxieties make it feel like we have less and are missing out on something we will never have or be part of. It author's feelings of being less valuable. If I have less value, than what is my life worth? What am I worth? I don't belong... and that spirals into a place of anger deep inside. This thought process is how we balance the world and how we fit in.
"Since Madonna is positioned as always 'cooler than thou,' we all are primed for schadenfreude if something in her fabulous life goes amiss."
A feeling of pleasure or satisfaction when something bad happens to someone else.
This type of envy is rampant within our society. It's a malicious envy. When this is aroused in us, it's an easy lead to schadenfreude. Competitive natures happen when your rival fails or someone on a rival team (let's say) gets injured. We applaud! It feels pleasurable! Sometimes hostility and desperate anger happen! When we see someone else's downfall we take pleasure in feeling satisfied that they are not above us anymore. Politics and celebrity gossip are great examples how one side or one person can bring another to shreds. Justice is served everyday in the political, Hollywood and religious arenas. People that are too greedy, too wealthy, too nice, sexy, intelligent, successful, have a nicer car, a bigger home, a perfect body, are arrogant or overly confident etc., can be brought down. We feel pleasure at their downfalls because they outperform us. It gives us pleasure to see our rivals fail especially when they maintain a higher status in our society.
The thing about envy or schadenfreude is an emotion that can easily be tucked away. There can be great shame in this kind of envy. We do a great job at hiding our pain. Who really wants to admit that their emotion can be this malicious? This is where we absorb ourselves with our anguish and run to emotional eating, drugs, alcohol, anger etc, to "avoid" our feelings of being devalued.
Consider this: Hitler's anger and vengeance rose up at a time in the 1930's when Jewish society came into great prosperity. It was also the time when German society was struggling financially. This trigger could've spawned a malicious envy against the Jews. It grew with discreetly manipulated Nazi propaganda. The destruction of the Jews was carefully engineered and heightened rapidly because there was a large group against them and not one person. Large rivalry groups can be the most destructive schadenfreude. If you have enough experiences of feeling good about pulling someone below you, then schadenfreude is extremely dangerous. If there is another person or group below you, then there is comfort knowing that you're not fully devalued and that gives you hope. It's justice in feeling you're not so bad.
"Many people feel so pressured by the expectations of others that it causes them to be frustrated, miserable and confused about what they should do. But there is a way to live a simple, joy-filled, peaceful life, and the key is learning how to be led by the Holy Spirit, not the traditions or expectations of man."
Envy and resentment = fear
If we obtain all the things we feel we should have, then we have great value. And if we are feeling scarcity then we suddenly have less value. When others have gain then we doubt ourselves. We may feel that God has blessed others more than us. You may feel a lack of love or worth from the Creator himself. God has told us that he knows how many hairs are on our heads. He tells us that he has created us inside our Mother's wombs and he has breathed our spirit into us. The fact that the Creator of the universe has thought about us before we were even created holds great value. Not just value but great value! And if he created us knowing what our thoughts would become, our yesterday and our tomorrows— how we will feel in all situations, our sin, our naivety, our wrong choices, our destructive anger—he still created us and then he supplied a way out. He brought Jesus to this earth so that his character could intervene and rescue us. And he would rescue us in all our mess. He did this for us because we have great value. He created a redemptive solution and he has also asked us to be accountable to that solution because he calls us diciples. The term "disciple" represents the Koine Greek word mathetes, which means a pupil (of a teacher) or an apprentice (to a master craftsman), coming to English by way of the Latin discipulus meaning a learner while the more common English word is student.
Envy doesn't serve us. So this vicious monster needs to be uprooted within the deepest part of our souls. Envy can prevent us from coming into our full potential. It can cause us to collapse inside of ourselves and avoid our lives with great anxiety. We may feel it's better to avoid doing anything than try to achieve the unachievable and become even more let down with who we are. The anguish of bitterness can lead us into physical health problems of infections, cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression, anxiety, insomnia, ingratitude and narcissism. Did you know Osteoporosis can come through the generational roots of envy? There is a reason that envy is one of the seven deadly sins. It harms us in almost every way.
Become more self focused. The negative thoughts that come to you are only thoughts. And thoughts can't hurt you. Look at yourself and your history. Look at how you've grown, what you've achieved, and what you have. Only you can do what you can do. Look at the things in your life that you've overcome. Those are great achievements and great survival tools. Stay focused on you and be careful of any negativity that wants to enter back in.
Be grateful. Focus on being grateful for the things that you do have in your life. You might consider making a list or writing in your journal so that you can remember and look back if negativity tries to slip in. Add daily to your list about what you see around you that makes you grateful! Consider reframing the power that others may seem to have. The larger the animal the more it takes to feed and maintain it. Be grateful that you don't have the problems that go along with the complications of a larger or more complicated responsibility. Understand your own capabilities.
An abundant life! Look around you at the opportunities that you have. Remember that star you have been reaching for? Think of new ways that you can touch that star again. Think about new chances, new tomorrows and how your past has trained you for what's next. Your history has happened for a reason. What have you learned? How have you survived? Your history is a gift to you and has prepared you for greater things. How can you use your history for a greater tomorrow? What's in all of this for you?
Make the decision. If you dwell consistently on your own scarcity, and it's causing you to build walls, then go around the wall. Did you know that walls are built to go around? So many people I've worked with get stuck when they hit a wall. It's such a release to know that you can actually go around your wall. If your wall is long, then scale the wall! If there is a problem making a decision to go forward, then go around the problem. The benefits of not allowing yourself to build a wall is not only an illness free life but a more peaceful and happier one.
Proverbs 14: 30
"A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot."
For tips on gaining more tools and overcoming the negativity in your life, please read my blog on "Learn How to Bring More Peace Into Your Life."
If all of this seems overwhelming and fearful to you, please contact me.