How to spot and stop envy

Bitterness. Judgement. Envy.

Mark and I consider ourselves to be part of the FIRE (Financial Independence Early Retirement) community. Our goal is to cut as many expenses as possible in order to invest as much as our income as possible, so that we can enjoy a financially independent lifestyle while we’re still young. We want the freedom to invest our energy on the things that are most important to us and not on pursuing a paycheck alone.

But with freedom comes sacrifice. We don’t eat out unless we have gift cards. We buy used instead of new whenever possible. We find ways to entertain ourselves that are either free or cheap. The only store we regularly shop at is the grocery store, and we do that with a list and a budget.

Envy. Spot it and stop it.

We are not paupers by any means, and most people would never know the financial path we’re on based on our home or appearances, but I notice the difference. I notice when someone’s home is beautifully decorated and they dress stylishly. I would love a monthly massage and unlimited macchiatos from Dunkin Donuts. Because even though I desire this freedom-based lifestyle and I genuinely enjoy it, I still struggle with envy. I desire financial freedom plus all the fun stuff other people have.

In my experience, envy and pride are two sides of the same coin. Your pride wants to be fed by the good opinion and praises of other people, and you become envious when someone else has what you want or gets the glory you crave. It is a destructive cycle that leads to bitterness and resentment. It’s a way of thinking that needs to be purged.

Early last year God started working in my heart to reveal the sins of pride and envy. He made it clear that I was not loving people well due to my own pride. Now he is helping me realize that there is envy in my heart. The lesson that I shared then I will repeat today:

I discovered that when I struggle to love someone, it is usually because I’m judging them. I’m comparing myself to them and determining whether or not they are worthy of my time, or whether they would think I’m worthy of theirs. In his book, Chip (Ingram)* talks about comparison. He says that comparing yourself to others either leads to envy (comparing up) or arrogance and judgmentalism (comparing down). Both build walls around your heart.

So the only way to stop being filled with envy is to stop comparing. But how do I do that!? It’s counter-cultural. It’s unnatural. It’s hard! The only solution I have found is gratitude. It seems overly simplified but it’s true. Asking myself a few questions helps me get back to a place of thankfulness.

  1. Do I need this or do I want it? (Envy spotted)

    A friend posts a picture of a stylish new bag and I instantly want one and start browsing Amazon. Just for fun (or so I tell myself). I would love a stylish bag to carry my laptop around in. But I already have one that works and I rarely, if ever, leave my house with my laptop. So, I don’t need a new bag, I just desire the compliments I’d get from showing off said bag. Or the sense of being accomplished that I think owning the bag would give me.

  2. Am I willing to give up something else to have it? (Envy stopped)

    If I look at my friend with the new bag, would I be willing to live their life in order to have the stuff she has? My family of five lives on one income. Am I willing to find child care for my kids so I can go back to work in order to afford a new bag? No, I’m not. Am I willing to spend less time with my husband so he can spend more time at work in order to afford my new bag? No, I’m not.

It doesn’t always work out this way. Sometimes there may be a change or sacrifice I’m willing to make and that is fine! I can do something about it. But if I’m not willing to change or make a sacrifice, I remind myself of all the reasons I do what I do and have what I have. Soon, I remember how thankful I am for this blessed life. My gratitude is restored.

“But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.” Psalm 50:23

Are you willing to change or sacrifice something?

*If you’re interested in reading more about this particular issue, I recommend reading Spiritual Simplicity: Doing Less, Loving More by Chip Ingram. This book is what helped me to recognize the pattern of judging others that I was living by. Recognizing

3 thoughts on “How to spot and stop envy

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