Envy or Admiration?
“I wish I was more like _________. She’s so _________. I’ll never be as ___________ as she is.”
Have these words ever come to your mind? Most of us, if we’re honest, will say yes, and we could fill in the blanks with many names and attributes that we have admired or envied over the years. I am no exception to that rule. There are several women in my life that I truly admire, and would like to emulate. I don’t think there is anything wrong with aspiring to be more joyful like one friend, or more disciplined like another friend, but how can we know when we’ve crossed the line from admiration to envy, and what can we do about it? Today I’d like to share three red flags to look for, and then we’ll talk about the cure.
Like any good biblical counselor, I’ll ask you some questions. Your answers will determine whether you are admiring or envying, but the questions have more to do with your relationship with God than your relationship with your friend. First, does this your friends’s good quality cause you to have discontented thoughts? When you see her talent or skill displayed, do you think that God has somehow short changed you? Do you believe that if you had what she had you would be happier? If so, then you may be envying her.
Secondly, are you a grateful person? Do you often thank God for the skills, abilities and talents He has given to you, and seek to glorify Him exactly the way you are? Or do you think that you’re just not capable of the things your friends can do; you’re somehow different or not as good, and so you stay in the background, fearing failure? If you are ungrateful because you’re dissatisfied with who God made you to be, then there could be some sinful thinking going on.
Finally, do you rejoice in the blessings God has given your friend? Do you encourage her, speak highly of her to others, and praise God for the ways that her unique personality benefits the body of Christ? Or do you look for faults or weaknesses in her, to minimize in your mind the strengths she displays, and to build yourself up?
That last question is the hardest one for most people, but it is also the surest sign of envy. If you can’t be happy for your friend that God has equipped her with certain things for building up the body, then your issue is not with your friend. It is with God. Though this looks like envy and resentment on the outside, in your heart it is rooted in pride and discontentment with God’s work in your life. If you are envying your friend, then you are really telling God that He missed the mark in making you.
If you have discovered that you are envying your friend, then I have one more question for you, as we talk about the heart change that will need to happen: In whose image are you made? Are you just a failed image-bearer of your friend? No, dear reader. You are made in the image of God. He made you perfectly, exactly as He wanted you to be made (Psalm 139: 13-15), for His glory. As your creator said to Job, in chapter 40, verse two, “Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?” If you are envying your friend, you are telling God that He made a mistake. Dear reader, this is a perilous place to be! Your loving Father will not tolerate such sinful thinking, but will discipline and correct it!
Perhaps even now he is doing just that. If so, stop what you’re doing and confess to the Lord. As you repent and change, you will grow in godliness, glorifying God in your heart and life. Do you desire to have the godly character qualities that you have been envying in your friend? Perhaps the very path to developing those things lies in this discovery today. Begin to pray, and ask the Lord to reveal any envy or resentment in your relationships. He is faithful, and will do it. The payoff for humbling yourself is two-fold: You will deepen and strengthen your relationship with the Lord, and you will have a stronger, more loving relationship with your friend.