The problem with envy is that it never really comes out and announces itself. It sneaks up on us. It leaks out in phrases that turn in the mind, or it masquerades like low self-esteem.
“I could never do that.”
“It wouldn’t work like that for me because I’m not like them. I’m (too much, too small, too big, not enough, lacking).”
Or, it hides behind, “I’ve just accepted that I’m never going to be like that.”
Accepting ‘I’ll never be like that’ may be a healthy thing on some occasions and a mark of mature humility, except for the times when it’s not. The difference is tricky, but the road of envy is almost always a matter of unconfessed dreams and half-hearted defeats—all mixed with some idea that the thing we envy is what would fix everything if only it were ours. Envy is driven by fear of what not having the thing says about us, and it leads us to sit alone, look the other way, try too hard, over-extend, and cower in the corner. It fears and never risks. It turns the mouth sour and our words to ash. Envy takes our eyes off of gratitude. It enlarges what ‘we don’t’ and forgets what ‘we do.’ Envy makes a loved child forget he has a home.
But the balm for the soul is the knowledge of God, of the sureness of the Father’s love, and the perfect satisfaction that is found in no external thing but in Christ alone. Vulnerability is the enemy of envy, and trust is its conqueror. To help avoid envy, I have to take my focus off of the thing, and place it on the only one that can break the fear of not having it. Perfect love—from Christ and for Christ—casts out all fear. And when we are made perfect in Christ, what else is there to want?
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” -1 John 4:18 (ESV)