Everyone feels jealous at times. We may envy our neighbor’s home, our coworker’s promotion, or our sibling’s happy family.
Sometimes envy is strongest among siblings. Attuned parents can often help mitigate sibling rivalry, but sometimes these divisions can continue into adulthood. What happens if parents are unable to recognize unhealthy competition among children? When we do not become aware of envy and eliminate it, it grows.
Envy Grows Like Weeds
In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novella The Little Prince, the young boy is constantly uprooting baobab trees from the soil on his tiny planet. The baobabs grow extremely fast, and if they’re not removed quickly enough when they are still small, they will grow into huge trees with thick roots. You can imagine what happens when these trees multiply.
The same thing happens when envy grows in our minds. Its roots take up all the space for positive thoughts, and because they are strong, they are hard to dig out.
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Envy is Destructive
The longer we cultivate envy, the more it grows. At its worst, it doesn’t stop with siblings, neighbors, coworkers, or even partners. At its deepest level, it can bring an unstoppable desire to succeed at the expense of others.
In the media, we encounter political scandals and scandals on a daily basis, which are the result of an unhealthy struggle for power.
Yes, envy can be so destructive.
Two Ways to Successfully Manage Envy
It is up to us whether we will give our envy the conditions for growth or eradicate it. It’s difficult to get rid of envy completely, but it can be done.
1. The first step to eradicating envy is to recognize it in ourselves.
Sometimes this is the hardest part, because envy is hidden. One way to root out envy in ourselves by examining our conscience. When we take an honest look at our good and bad actions, we may find we regularly repeat the same mistakes.
If you notice this, ask yourself what’s causing it. Some people check their conscience on a daily basis. If you haven’t done this before, aim for once per week.
Through self-observation, we can identify the qualities we want to change in ourselves. When we perceive envy in ourselves, we become more attentive to it and can prevent it from growing freely.
2. Envious people also struggle with excessive self-criticism.
In the Book of Genesis, the brothers Cain and Abel both bring offerings to the Lord. God favors Abel’s offering rather than Cain’s, and Cain is so consumed by jealousy that he actually kills his brother.
Clearly, this is an extreme case. But if envy is left to grow unchecked, it can become dangerous and toxic. As God cautions Cain:
“But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”Genesis 4:4–7
God invites us to be proud of ourselves when we have a clear conscience. From this, we can draw strength to resist sin. But when we allow envy to become a stronghold in our thoughts, it will eventually turn against us.
Even though Cain has committed the worst of sins, however, God is merciful:
“But the Lord said to him, ‘Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.’ Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.Genesis 4:15
Even if we give in to our envy, it is important that we get up again and try to improve.
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God Tells Us We Are Enough
In cases of extreme self-criticism, seeing a therapist can help. We may have been criticized in the past or told that we weren’t enough. But once we start removing those labels, we may be surprised by what is hiding under them.
In God’s eyes, we are fine the way we are. He created us. We can give ourselves compassion even if no one gives it to us, and begin to heal our wounded self-image.
Once we accept ourselves the way we are and stop competing with others to raise ourselves up, we will be able to cast off envy and feel inner peace.