By Lindsay Steele
I love watching HGTV. I love watching the quirky-but-lovable Chip and Joanna Gaines fix up dreary old Texas homes and turn them into gorgeous living spaces custom-made for the client. I love seeing the dynamic of twins Drew and Jonathan Scott as they do the same for clients on the east coast.
I also see homeowners complaining about drawer pulls in their million-dollar houses or complaining that their tropical vacation homes are simply too far away from the beach. They call a kitchen that I could only dream of “hideous,” “completely unusable” and in desperate need of “being redone.”
It’s hard not to feel resentful of such people. My husband and I own a reliable two-bedroom ranch, but it pales in comparison to anything I see on HGTV. While these homeowners complain about trivial details in their luxury homes, I’d be happy just to be able to replace the stained linoleum in my kitchen!
It’s classic envy. It’s human nature to assume the grass will be greener on the other side. Jealousy made it into the Ten Commandments, after all. Pope Francis said in an address at St. Peter’s Square last year, “A jealous heart is a bitter heart, a heart that instead of blood seems to have vinegar, eh! It is a heart that is never happy…”
Envy is tricky, though. It assumes that the other person is happier or better off than you are. It assumes that if you just had what they had, you’d have the perfect life.
Of course, it’s pointless to compare ourselves to other people, especially when we don’t know their stories. We don’t know what these families’ lives are like, aside from their preferences for open-concept living spaces and custom built-ins. There are probably aspects of life that cause them distress or that they wish were different. They probably find themselves feeling dissatisfied sometimes, too. No one has a perfect life. And when we feel jealous of the things people have that we do not, it makes it hard to fully love them.
But the problem goes beyond just resenting other people or feeling unsatisfied. By focusing so much on what others have, it makes it difficult to consider the blessings we do have. It makes it hard to be thankful. How can I think about my happy marriage, my positive family relationships and the gift of my college education when I’m comparing myself to millionaires?
Jealousy also takes our focus away from the needs of others. One shouldn’t be looking in someone else’s bowl to see what they have; they should look into someone else’s bowl to see that they have enough. I may not have as much as some people, but I also have a lot more than others. God prefers us to focus on love and charity, not acquiring more stuff.
Fighting the urge to compare ourselves to others may be easier in theory than in practice, but it certainly is a worthy goal.
How to ‘SLAPP’ the envy
Mary Bielski, founder of ALL4HIM Ministries, a national ministry focused on evangelization of the Gospel message to Catholic teens, offers steps on how to “SLAPP the envy” in our lives.
S: Stop and recognize the competition and jealousy in your heart.
L: Look to Love. Remind yourself that God calls us to love our neighbors and be happy for their blessings. “Love is not boastful. Love is kind. Love is not jealous” (1 Corinthians 13).
A: Ask for God to change your heart, remove jealousy, and give you the ability to love.
P: Praise God for today’s blessing. Give thanks for his blessing on your friend.
P: Praise God for tomorrow’s promises still to come! Boldly claim in faith that today you may not have everything you desire, but you trust in his love — that he knows you and loves you and has great plans for you.