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When the Monster Attacks

At a dinner party a few years ago, I encountered an acquaintance whose job involved planning parties and events. She'd lost a lot of weight and looked incredible in her sleek black dress. She didn't have to do any of the actual work at the party; she had "people" for that.

That's when the green-eyed monster—envy—attacked. I don't have "people," I thought. I don't even own a black dress.

The more I thought about her, the more I hated her. Even though I know all the biblical admonitions against it, I couldn't stop envying this woman. The harder I tried, the more envy I felt.

I kept dwelling on how I should be the one looking that good. I stayed across the room from her, avoided her attempts at conversation, growled under my breath, and wished that she'd gain all her weight back or maybe ruin her black dress at the cleaners. And that I'd lose more weight than she had, get my own black dress, and look even better than she did.

At that same dinner, I met another woman. Back then my secret, silent goal was to be the funniest person wherever I went. That meant you could be funny, but, if we were seated at the same table, you couldn't be funnier than I was.

However, no one informed the funny woman of that. So, as all the guests at the table clutched their sides from laughter at her quips, I sat stone-faced and stone-hearted, filled with envy and venom. I hated her hair; I hated her outfit; I hated her voice and every word coming out of her mouth because those words should have been mine. How dare she usurp my role!

I knew I had a choice: Either I could acknowledge the table was big enough for two funny people, or I could be a jerk. The jerk gene being dominant, every time she cracked a joke, I added a zinger of my own.

Soon we both had everyone at the table laughing, but only I knew she and I were at war. Afterward, she graciously told me she enjoyed meeting me and hoped to meet again. That's when I knew how a snake felt: I faked my response with a firm handshake and a full-toothed smile. Then I hastily slithered off.

On the ride home, I thought about how envy had thoroughly corrupted my heart. I was ashamed and disgusted, and I cried for forgiveness. I saw my envy, at its core, as an affront to God's goodness: that all he'd done for me and given me wasn't enough. Envy poisoned my thinking about and affections for the people God tells me to love—like the woman in the black dress, or the funny woman at my table.

The writer of Hebrews said, "Be content with what you have" (Hebrews 13:5). As I ponder being content with what I have, I realize I have exactly what God wants me to have—not just material things, but talents and gifts and abilities, too. Therefore, to want anything more than what I have actually is to want less.

When I believe that, the monster goes away.

Has envy been monstrous in your life? How has envy affected you and your relationships with others? How have you dealt with it?

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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