Seven Deadly Sins for Writers: #3 – Envy
Osteoporosis and emerald iris pigmentation.
These are the conditions that await me if I embrace this third Deadly Sin for Writers.
A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot. Proverbs 14:30
O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on. – Shakespeare’s Othello
It’s not that I welcome this trait into my repertoire, but it can easily move in and take up residence in my heart if I’m not careful. At first, it’s a simple desire for something. “It would be so exciting to be a published author!” Then, it’s something I see other people attain. “She got published. Good for her.” Lastly, it becomes a bitter root of jealousy that I don’t have what they have. “Why should she be published? I’m just as good. Better even! I want her success, her life, her connections. And I want it NOW!” At this point envy takes over and consumes. As we are gobbled up by this monster, all proper perspective of the blessings God has bestowed on us is lost, and we are left gazing on others with longing for what’s on their side of the fence.
This battle is certainly not new with me, you, or the New York Times Best Seller authors. Cain and Abel were the first to demonstrate how deadly this sin can be. Fast forward from fruit and fat offerings to possessions, popularity, or publications, and we find ourselves still fighting the same green-eyed ghoul.
While I’ve read that green eyes are rather rare and considered very attractive, I don’t believe the view through them is as alluring. We see a world of things we want and can’t have. We see people who have the things we want. We see ourselves as deprived, get distressed over what others have, and become depressed as our envy sucks away the joy we could otherwise know.
Travel down this road far enough, and our actions can spiral out of control.
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. James 3:16
I’m a bit more passive aggressive than Cain. This means, while my sister does not need to fear for her life, a friend who gets her name in print might be in danger of my unjustified judgment, “What’s so great about her writing?” Or, she may experience a lack of enthusiasm that I should have for her success but simply can’t muster because I’m too wrapped up in “What about me?” My envy may manifest as frustration, “I’ve been trying for years and a book deal just lands in his lap? How is that right?” Or, my jealousy that another writer has produced more than me will encourage negative thoughts about myself. “Look what he accomplished this week. Why can’t I do that? I’m a failure.”
Why is it disturbing to see others receive what we want? Why can’t we be happy for them instead of jealous? A few words come to mind: pride, insecurity, competitiveness, fear, comparison, discontentment, lies. These swarm around us and through us until we are enveloped in envy. Never content with what we have, we constantly look to what others possess. The good news is we don’t have to surrender to this swarm. There are truths we can remind ourselves of that will lose the lies and snuff the sin.
♦ If someone else experiences success, it doesn’t mean I’m not a good writer too.
I am so quick to come down hard on myself if I see another writer craft an incredible piece. I begin to entertain such thoughts as “I could never write something like that.” “What I have to offer doesn’t compare to what others can do.” “I will never get published.” Lies. The truth: Their ability does not diminish mine.
♦ If someone else gets published, it doesn’t mean I can’t get published too.
They didn’t just take the last slot, print the last paper, fill the very last shelf. God’s world of blessings and uses for us is greater than I can imagine. There’s room for both of us. We are not sharing some small slice of pie with a worry there might not be enough to go around. That other writer did not take the last piece. The world of writing is a growing library, not a consumable dessert. Like the sweet analogy? Here’s another: I don’t have to worry if another writer gets her hand in the cookie jar before me. God just keeps baking more cookies.
♦ If someone else has a life that I envy, I can trust that God has my life in His hands.
He will provide for me – where I am, what I need, what is best for me – which may look different than someone else’s path, blessings, abilities, and results. I don’t need to worry about what others have, or seem to have. God has me. God loves me. His love for me is not diminished by His love for others. It’s ok – celebrate with them, rejoice for them, knowing we are only adding to our joy by doing so, rather than removing joy with jealousy.
♦ If someone else seems to have more than me, I can look at myself as God sees me.
Forgiven beloved, Hidden in Christ, Made in the image of the Giver of Life, Righteous and holy, Reborn and remade, Accepted and worthy, this is our new name. – Jason Gray’s I Am New. In Christ, we lack nothing. There is no need to be concerned we are lacking anything, that we are being cheated, short-changed, or slighted, that some other wordsmith is smithing more words than we are. We are whole. We are His child. This is how He sees us. This can fill us to the brim to allow no room for envy. We can shake it off as we put on our identity in the Lord.
We can lose Jealous as we choose Jesus.
Up next – Deadly Sin #4 – LUST – if my desire is strong enough to write it.