I did it AGAIN. I gave in and had a heaping helping of jealousy with some envy sprinkled over-generously on top for bad measure. Within minutes I felt sick. And I know better. I know exactly how rotten my insides will feel just moments after I reach for jealousy and gulp it down. And I always gulp it down, because there is no savoring jealousy.
I inhale it urgently, giving myself no chance to change my mind. After I’ve had my fill of jealousy and envy, my energy and concentration wane in the wake of the nausea they induce. Any joy I had is completely masked by the extreme discomfort that ensues and it takes me most of the day to get right again.
Today, I focused for too long on some writers I admire and the success they’re having. Success that I measure via the lives they’re touching and the inspiration they’re providing. I focused on how well they’re doing for so long that it warped my vision of my own life. My own skills and gifts went all wavy and miragey in the distance and all but disappeared when only seconds prior they had been right in front of me, tangible and real. And I came away feeling lacking and like giving up a little. And by a little, I mean a lot.
I know exactly why I sometimes still choose jealousy over the satisfaction sitting right next to it. Over contentment or confidence as well, both of which are also available. Because of fear. Bad ol’ untrustworthy fear. Powerful and dominating fear.
Mostly, I am an appreciator. I appreciate talent and wisdom, giftedness and goodness. I soak them up like a desert-dwelling sponge. When I encounter any of the above I’m better for it. These things, all of God, enhance my existence on this planet, in my home, in my workplace, in my relationships, in my body, in my brain. Unless they don’t. Unless I let fear worm its way into the mix and then all of a sudden, I’m shriveling in the shadow of the amazing things other people are doing instead of feeling appreciative of them. And when I’m fearful I feel small, inadequate and needy. In that state, I become rash and reach for things like jealousy and resentment even though I know they are poison.
A fear trigger for me is when I notice people nailing the very same actions my heartsong aligns with. When I read a delicious story or an honest to the bones and inspirational piece of writing, I can get a little antsy. When I see a mom rockin’ her relationship with her child, I can become kind of anxious. When I notice a special friendship or a rock-solid marriage, I can begin to worry. These fears are all fueled by the same thing, the premise of scarcity. The thought that success and achievement and joy are all in limited supply, a supply not nearly abundant enough for all.
Scarcity convinces me that she sparkles as a mom and so I pale in comparison. Those two are great friends so they won’t like me as much. Their marriage is steel-wall strong so mine is third world scaffolding. Scarcity pushes us into a corner and demands we stay there until it says we can move. It commands us not to participate, accomplish, or think well of ourselves. And if we listen to what scarcity says, we’ll sit in that corner forever because it’s NEVER going to say we can move.
Scarcity is a sociopath and a dictator that rides roughshod over the range of our souls so that it won’t lose its grip on us. It needs us to believe in its doctrine so that it can sap us of every bit of hard-won confidence and self-esteem we’ve ever fought for. It will tower over us and bellow, like an oft-passed over for promotion drill sergeant, that others are already out there doing the work of our heartsongs and doing it so very well. Scarcity will make sure to rub our noses in how people we admire are making meaningful impacts and creating gloriously important masterpieces and lasting legacies. Scarcity will bully and shriek, “You measly little things? Puh-lease. Don’t even bother. Quit!”
Succumbing to the fears that encourage a belief in scarcity is what sends me on a bender towards a bellyful of jealousy and envy. There’s an antidote though, an alkaline solution to the dangerous acidity of jealousy. It’s the belief that just because someone else’s light is shining brightly does not mean our own lights must dim. The ability to shine belongs to everyone. And light? It’s in infinite supply.
Talent and wisdom, giftedness and goodness, they don’t behave like see-saws. They don’t hoist her up and so then thrust us down. They behave like the flame of a candle. When we admire someone for their craft, their skill, their gift or their successes therein, the beauty, inspiration and hope they provide can work to ignite our own flame; without diminishing any of that person’s wattage. In fact, their flame, it burns even brighter during the ignition of another. And in turn, our flame can then do the same for others. For when she shines, so do I. When I shine, so do you. Each of us shining the way we were meant to only enhances the brilliance of us all.
Miraculously, when we effort alongside one another and in appreciation of each other to make the world a better place by using our gifts the way God intended each of us to, when we’re able to stay focused on His purpose for our lives, more and more flames are lit and the world becomes brighter, livelier, more delightful. Believing we all share in and wield the same infinite supply of light is the countermeasure to fear, scarcity, resentment, and jealousy and paves the way for a deeper appreciation of others as well. Belief in a neverending reservoir of light and an unfettered ability to illuminate is what I’m going to reach for and fill up on from now on. It just tastes so much better.
This piece was originally published in the incomparable online magazine, Her View From Home.