Have you ever scrolled through your Facebook feed and find yourself experiencing envy of other people’s seemingly perfect lives?
(No? Just me then huh?)
Social Media is a fun tool for keeping up with friends and family that you don’t get to see or talk to often, but it also is a huge culprit for the feeling of dissatisfaction. It can create feelings of inferiority, insignificance, and insecurity.
These negative emotions usually cause us to feel envious of others advertised superiority, significance, and confidence. Instead of Social Media being a tool for connecting with one another it becomes a measuring stick that leaves us feeling envious of other’s projected fullness in life.
This happened to me this past week as I scrolled through my Facebook feed. I came upon someone important to me and photos of a new possession they purchased. It was an extravagant item I wouldn’t personally want, yet I found myself hurt and envious of this possession.
The Dangers of Envy
Envy ruins your peace and often ends relationships. Allowing envy to go unchecked will infect not just your relationship with your friends, family and spouse, but also your relationship with God. When your peace and fellowship with God is affected you become disconnected from your true life’s source.
Envy affects the health of your body. It affects the chemicals found in your brain, which affects how the rest of your body acts and reacts. This can cause both major physical and emotional health issues, from depression to heart health.
Envy affects your behavior. When you leave your envy unchecked you will begin to treat the person you are envious of differently. You may become more negative in general with how and what you say. You also may begin to unhealthily strive toward attaining that which the person you are envious of has causing them to become jealous.
Ungratefulness for what you have will grow and you will ignore those blessings for MORE and BETTER. Ungratefulness that becomes unchecked is rampant with envy. Envy that becomes uncontrolled can manifest into regretful actions, some of which can never be taken back. Thus is the story of Cain and Abel. (Genesis 4:1-16)
Benefits of Envy
I wouldn’t say there are many positive benefits to envy, but experiencing it can be a signal that it’s time to make a change. Rather than letting envy (or jealousy) infect a relationship, use its presence as a motive to better understand yourself.
When made aware of envy toward you from others, it highlights the need to draw clear boundaries in those particular relationships to prevent them from stumbling. Providing boundaries might include limiting yourself in what or how you share. Limiting your own liberties is a way you are showing love to the one who is in danger of stumbling into envy or jealousy. (1 Cor 8:9-13)
Practical Ways to Handle Envy
When you have recognized the emotion of envy or jealousy, realize it is a complex emotion that involves several others; fear, resentment, sorrow, betrayal, uncertainty, etc…Envy or jealousy might be the emotion you observe first or feel the strongest.
Spending time evaluating your emotions will help you to discern between each feeling. Writing out, or other visual practice such as drawing or charting, how you feel can be a useful practice in discerning the difference between the strong emotions you are experiencing.
When you are evaluating your emotions try to notice how your body reacts to your emotions. For me, fear feels like a falling or seizing sensation in my stomach. This differs from anger for me, which feels like a hot burning sensation in my face and temples. Recognizing the difference between these physical responses helps me to know which emotion I am truly experiencing.
Dissect Your Feelings
Make it a practice to question your envy upon its first appearance. Ask why you are feeling angry, sad, frustrated, etc… in your jealousy toward someone or envy of something. Questioning the emotion you have in a moment of jealous envy helps you dissect the feelings constructively to get to the origin of your jealousy.
It can be embarrassing to admit jealousy of another person or envy of a possession. Sometimes the shame we feel for being jealous can mistakenly develop into unfair criticism of another. Instead of blaming someone else for our feelings it is best to investigate the origin of our own feelings and emotions.
When I experienced envy for the possession my Facebook friend just acquired, I had to look deep within myself to discover the source that was causing the strife I felt. I had to recognize the feeling of fear and get to the origin of my fear.
Identifying this negative feeling caused by fear revealed it for what it was; a lie.
A lie I’m not good enough. A lie their life is better than mine. A lie they are valued more. A lie God loves them more. A lie that I am missing out…and many more lies that attacked my heart.
Choose to Believe and Trust
Once I recognized my envy was based on a lie, due to the evidence of fear I was experiencing, I had a decision to make. Would I choose to trust God’s promises that say I am valuable and worthy; loved by him more than the birds of the air? (Matthew 10:31)
I also had to evaluate how I would respond to my Facebook Friend’s new possession. Would I be gracious and congratulate them, ignore it completely, or deal in some other way?
Becoming aware of your own insecurities allow you to improve and believe the best about how God sees you and another person or situation, removing jealous envy from the equation. Being aware of insecurities also allow you to take steps in asking for forgiveness if you have treated someone unfairly because of your own feelings.
Approaching envy and jealousy with grace benefits all involved and can be handled in a mature and beneficial way. Next time Social Media tries to steal your joy and replace it with jealous envy remind yourself to answer it with grace and gratitude for what you already possess.
Questions to ask yourself:
Do I become envious (or jealous) easily from what I see on Social Media?
Do I trust the Lord?
Have I lost all control in an overwhelming response to envy or jealousy? Is there someone whom I need to ask for forgiveness?