Steps to Take When Envy Rears Its Ugly Head

how to overcome envy

Envy has been popping up a lot in my life. I think this is partly because, as a new mother, it is so easy to compare myself to other mothers, wondering if what they are doing is better. And when it looks like it is, envy sneaks in slyly to steal my joy.

However, if there is one thing I know, it is that envy does not discriminate. Whether you’re a mother or not, male or female, young or old … envy mounts an attack on all human persons. And in our world that is now so saturated with social media—which normally distorts the reality of everyday life—envy has an easy time playing around with the emotions and minds of many.

What to Do When Faced with Envy

So, what’s a girl to do? Here are some steps that I’ve been taking to help kick the green-eyed monster of envy in the butt.

1. Let God remind you of who you are.

So many times, envy controls us because we forget about our worth. We forget that we are wonderfully and fearfully made in the image and likeness of God. It’s easy to forget that He knit us together in our mother’s wombs. In this process of knitting, He gifted us with unique talents, traits, and temperaments.

We imagine that because we have less (talent, skill, or things), we are less than someone else. This is perfect soil for envy to take root. However, if we can simply remember that our worth doesn’t lie in what we can or cannot do or on what we have or do not have, envy has less of a hold on us.

Remember, the devil likes to make us think we are useless, worthless, and good for nothing. He wants us to believe that all those around us are better and that we will never amount to anything. And this is precisely why envy is one of his favorite tools. It not only makes us feel low, but also fuels a need in us to knock other people down so that we don’t feel low alone.

However, if we let God remind us of our worth, our dignity, and our beauty each and every day, the enemy’s tactics are less effective. When we better appreciate ourselves, it makes appreciating the beauty and wonder of others easier as well.

2. Say your thank you’s.

My mom used to have a sign in her house that said, “It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy.”

Vice, like envy, makes us unhappy, and thanksgiving is our biggest tool against vice. Thanksgiving gives us a reality check. It helps us to realize that all great things in life come from God, and that He truly is a generous God. It guides us to see how much He has entrusted us with and what little time we have to waste worrying about what others are given.

So everyday, make sure to lift some praise to God for His goodness and the great gifts that He gives, big and small. This can be thanking Him for the unnoticed things such as the air that you breathe, or really big things like getting the job promotion you wanted. When envy comes to steal your happiness, remember to give thanks and stay happy.

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3. Cultivate humility.

In most things that I have read, kindness is thought to be the opposite of envy. And I can see why that is.

However, I still think humility is the biggest defense against envy, and thus the best virtue to cultivate in retaliation of envy. One of my favorite definitions of humility is: “the awareness that all one’s gifts come from God and the appreciation for the gifts of others.”

So how do we cultivate humility? How we should cultivate any other virtue. By practicing it. Here are a few suggestions for practicing and growing in humility:

  • Pray the litany of humility
  • Make up your own litany of humility to pray
  • Let others talk about themselves more than you talk about yourself
  • Foster an openness to being taught and learning new things
  • Don’t become defensive when under criticism
  • Open yourself to feedback
  • Do not seek out admiration
  • Take a break from social media

4. Identify your fears and give them to God.

As the litany of humility suggests, many times envy comes from fear. Fear of being forgotten. Of being unwanted. Of not having enough. These fears, when left unchecked, make the perfect foundation for envy to build its bricks upon. We begin to covet our neighbor’s talents or goods with the idea that these things would take away the problem causing our fear.

However, that’s rarely the case. Our fears are much better in the hands of Lord, who can heal us from them and remind us that He will provide. When we let Him take our fears, envy has no place to twist them into thoughts or actions that can hurt us and our relationships with others.

5. Be satisfied.

That’s easier said than done, thus the reason you are probably reading this post. However, take time to rest in God’s presence, especially when you are feeling particularly envious. Let Him fill you up with His grace, peace, and joy so you can continue on with the mission He has specifically given you and no one else.

We are only satisfied by God, yet we seek to be satisfied by all these worldy things. Stop. Let God satisfy you and you will notice envy lessen it’ s grip.

An awesome prayer to pray while resting is St. Anthony’s “Be Satisfied” Prayer. It’s a good reminder that what we truly seek in life is God and God alone. When we keep our eyes on the prize—Heaven and union with our Creator—it’s harder to get distracted and caught up with envy of others.

6. Build others up.

Envy tells us that we need to break others down. If we are not successful, they should not be successful either. So actively seek out opportunities to build others up. Share their work over your own. Compliment someone daily. Pray for others to use their gifts and goods for a greater cause: the extension of God’s kingdom. Envious of someone’s talents? Tell them how awesome you think their work is!

7. Keep doing what you’re doing.

Not only does envy want us to break others down, but it also wants to break us down. We want to quit when we feel inadequate and envious of others. We want to stay depressed and feel like we have a bad deck of cards. Envy makes us want to throw in the towel.

Don’t. Don’t stop. Push through. God sent you on a mission. We must trust that He has equipped us to carry the cross He has given us and to succeed in this mission. Stay close to Him and keep doing what you’re doing. Even when it seems futile. Even when it seems like we are failing. He sees the struggle. And while you may not see any reward in this life, God will reward you.

8. Find joy!

Do the things you love to do. Again, envy wants to bring us down. Do something that you know will lift your spirits up.

Go out with a good girl friend. Attend bible study. Go for a run. Paint a picture.

Doing what you love and finding joy in it will help clear your mind and put into perspective all the good in your life. Revel in the things that bring you joy. Keep joy present by your side, and the devil has a harder time taking you down with negative thoughts of envy.

What do you when you’re finding yourself particularly jealous of another and their circumstances? Let us know below!

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Jennifer Vilcan is a new wife and mother who blogs about prayer and temperament. She’s hoping to release her first book, Into the Darkness, sometime in the beginning of 2020. You can find out more about her here.

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  • Reply
    February 12, 2019 at 11:32 am

    Good article! I hate to be one of these people, but it should be “You’re” in the “Keep doing what your doing” step.

    • Reply
      Lindsay Durrenberger
      February 12, 2019 at 2:13 pm

      Good catch — thanks!

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