Monday, April 23, 2012

Envy Sucks

My sister-in-law came to visit and brought with her Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung's book Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies. In describing the subject matter, my sis-in-law flipped to the first vice in the list, envy, and began to read aloud. Never before had I heard a more accurate description of much that ails me. I was so engrossed that she left the book in my hands and went back to Missouri empty-handed.

The bottom line for the envious is how they stack up against others, because they measure their self-worth comparatively.

Based on the description, envy has always been my vice of choice. It stems from a sense of powerlessness and inferiority that sees anyone else's good attributes as a threat to one's own worth. It's mode of operation is by comparison. And that I can do on an Olympic scale.

I think most females are rather good at comparing. We do this from an early age, comparing looks, friends, popularity. Then boyfriends. Some girls are high strung and driven and compare grades (I never did that until I was 47, after I had mastered comparing in all other venues). Then we have houses and babies. Or babies and houses, depending on how you order things, and the comparing moves from an amateur to a professional level. How many of us have visited a neat and tidy home of a mother of 5 and gone back to our own cribs of chaos with the dog hair and the sticky counter tops and the mountains of laundry and the smell of rotting broccoli coming from... from... somewhere and felt terribly inferior by comparison? Even James Dobson has said that the worst thing that one mother can do to another is to clean up before the other mother comes over for a visit. The mighty Dr. Dobson knows that we will compare with one another. It's what we do.

Envy has always been a huge and driving force in my life. From my earliest years when I was painstakingly shy, to when I was so aware of another's popularity or beauty, to the years as an awkward, hormonal teen with a grill of metal in my mouth and the coordination of a herd of cattle. Everyone else was pretty. Everyone else was popular. Others got into the good clubs. Others got elected positions. I "trailed and failed" at pretty much everything. Envy went deeper.

College brought much of the same, with possibly the inklings of understanding that there was a God who created me. I was given respite for a few years as I made my way into adulthood and marriage. Then came motherhood and it was all over.

There is nothing... NOTHING... like becoming a mother to dig up every insecurity known to man... or woman. Motherhood is the comparison game on steroids. From pregnancy weight gain to birth stories to feeding choices to sleeping styles to schedules vs. non-schedules to discipline styles to education choices. It can be a wretched, wretched world, motherhood, and some are so very competent at it while others are so very pale in comparison.

I could go on and on with descriptions of my insecurities but I won't because the point is that, no matter what stage of life I'm in, I will find myself comparing myself with others and always, always come up lacking in some way. And envy, taken root and blossoming, produces a hideous fruit. I see that. I see that in myself. And I go to the Master Gardener and beg him to remove the weed that is choking the life out of me, choking out my ability to love others and embrace life because my eyes are on myself and not on the one who made me—for it is he who has made me.

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