Elder Holland states, “It has been said that envy is the one sin to which no one readily confesses, but just how widespread that tendency can be is suggested in the old Danish proverb, “If envy were a fever, all the world would be ill.”
Really? I don’t feel like a jealous person. But if I quietly reflect on the critiques I make of people it is often rooted in jealousy. It is not an easy thing to see but when my mind is quiet and I develop ideas back to their origin I can see that I am human and there is jealousy.
A friend taught me that she told her daughter, “If your joy is only for yourself than your joy can only be as big as yourself. And that’s not a lot of joy. But if you can sincerely have joy for others than your joy can have an infinite capacity to grow.”
So how do we avoid this universal trait? I believe the first step toward change is always rooted in recognition. I wasn’t jealous as much of people’s possessions but I looked longingly at people’s family situations, partner relationships, and opportunities. Sometimes when a friend tells me some particularly good news I will respond, “I’m 96% super happy for you and I am four percent jealous, but I am going to focus on the 96%!” Just even admitting that out loud seems to diffuse it.
Why is there so much jealousy even when we want to avoid it? Elder Holland offers this as a suggestion, “I think one of the reasons is that every day we see allurements of one kind or another that tell us what we have is not enough. Someone or something is forever telling us we need to be more handsome or more wealthy, more applauded or more admired than we see ourselves as being. We are told we haven’t collected enough possessions or gone to enough fun places. We are bombarded with the message that on the world’s scale of things we have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.6“
But this has never been nor will be the way of God. Our Father does not mercilessly measure us against our neighbors. He does not even compare us with others. “His gestures of compassion toward one do not require a withdrawal or denial of love for the other. He is divinely generous to all. Toward all of his children he extends charity.” (Holland, 2002).
That is a beautiful thought but it is so far from the message that screams in our ears daily. But could it really be true that “his gestures toward on do not require of withdrawal or denial of love for the other?” Of course it is! But I need to constantly remind myself of this basic truth. Someone else succeeding is not about me failing.
I have enjoyed taking Yoga classes over the years. One of the truths that the instructor would repeat is there is no competition. As I opened my eyes and looked around the yoga class I would want to lunge deeper or reach higher. But as I closed my eyes and centered myself, I wanted to listen to my own body and move to where I could comfortably challenge myself. I was not longer concerned with keeping up to the class but could celebrate everyone accomplishment in attending. Someone else succeeding is not about me failing.
I know that God is not a respecter of persons. I know that “no one of us is less treasured or cherished of God than another… He loves each of us—insecurities, anxieties, self-image, and all. He doesn’t measure our talents or our looks; He doesn’t measure our professions or our possessions. He cheers on every runner, calling out that the race is against sin, not against each other”(Holland, 2002). May we always encourage, love, and have true joy for each other.
Lots of my thoughts were pulled from Elder Hollands talk, The Other Prodigal, in spring 2002. Here is the link: