Turn Envy Upside Down

Envy is one of the seven deadly sins and not easy to conquer. Who hasn’t felt jealous over someone else’s success, especially when it doesn’t seem deserved? Seeing an outright enemy succeed is even worse.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Instead, take your feelings of envy and put them to good use. That is, make those feelings work for you so you can succeed.

Here’s how:

  • When someone in your sphere is successful, send unvarnished congratulations. No backhanded compliments or sarcasm permitted.
  • Once you are alone, see how you feel. Do you feel envious? Chances are, you feel you deserve what that person has. Acknowledge those feelings and move to step three.
  • Evaluate the person’s journey. Was the “overnight” success a reality? Or has this person worked for years to have a particular book published, or to be published at all?
  • If so, consider that effort. Resolve to increase your efforts.
  • If not, don’t credit that writer’s success to “luck” because that takes away from such accomplishment. After all, you wouldn’t want your accomplishments credited to luck. Instead, look at what the writer is doing. Why do you think that book speaks to readers? Resolve to make your own work more appealing.
  • Always, always pray for a pure heart. Then take a genuine interest in the writer you envy. Engage her on social media. See what you can learn. If you are already friends with the writer, perhaps she can become a mentor. That is a powerful place to be.
  • Sin takes power away from us. Those who practice love are victorious.

Your turn:

When was the last time you were envious? What did you do?

What other tips can you offer to conquer envy?

Do you have a story about how a successful person inspired you?


33 Responses to Turn Envy Upside Down

  1. Jackie Layton March 10, 2016 at 4:43 am #

    I think you said it best when you said, “Always, always pray for a pure heart.”

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Jeanne Takenaka March 10, 2016 at 7:00 am #

    Great ways of dealing with envy, Tamela. I sometimes pray for eyes to see the other person like Jesus does. I agree that being intentional about celebrating that person’s success with a pure heart is key!

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 10, 2016 at 4:14 pm #

      Jeanne, good advice. Only the Lord sees us as we truly are. With His help, we can be even more compassionate.

  3. Brennan S. McPherson March 10, 2016 at 7:10 am #

    Funny, I was just reading in the book of James this morning, which seems to speak directly to this topic in staggering detail. Below is James 3:13-4:17 (ESV):

    Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

    What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

    Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

    Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

  4. Karen Sargent March 10, 2016 at 7:28 am #

    Ms. Murray, you’ve addressed so much of what’s wrong in our society. How many relationships in every sphere of life–family, school, work, church–are damaged because of envy? I have two teen girls, and since they were little, I’ve been on a mission to help them recognize jealousy–when it’s affecting their attitudes or actions…and when they are victims of someone else’s jealousy. I want them to understand that taking the right actions can prevent damage–and even turn a negative into a positive. Our success at this comes in varying degrees (mine included) 🙂 but this topic is one I feel strongly about (hence, my soapbox! Stepping down now). 🙂 –Thanks for the reminder today. Oops…one more thing…isn’t it just the worst feeling in your heart when you know envy has captured you? I hate that feeling.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 10, 2016 at 3:42 pm #

      Karen, I’m so glad you are teaching your girls the right way to deal with these emotions, especially at such a tender time of life for them. As for the heart, I think envy is connected to the sins of pride (I’m just as good or better than that person), greed (I want more!), lust (for what the other person has), and gluttony (I want more than I need and then some), so it’s a major whammy. No wonder it’s so heartbreaking!

  5. Sarah Hamaker March 10, 2016 at 7:55 am #

    One way I’ve combated envy in my own life is to have a clear picture of my calling as writer. When each day I remind myself of what God has called me to write–and that His timing is perfect as to my success or failure in writing–I find that I can greet the success of other writers I know (or don’t know) with equity, peace and joy. And that frees me to rejoice with them, to encourage other writers to press on, and to stay secure in where I am on my own writing journey.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 10, 2016 at 4:14 pm #

      Yes, Sarah, we are all at a different place in every part of our lives. Good point. I wouldn’t even want to be like anyone else. 🙂

  6. Richard Mabry March 10, 2016 at 8:28 am #

    Tamela, when I first entered this road to writing, I was struck by the lack of envy among Christian writers. That has persisted, although I believe it’s diminished–maybe it’s just a mark of our society in general. Thanks for these excellent suggestions.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 10, 2016 at 3:43 pm #

      Richard, I think that’s true on the agent side as well. We are all blessed to be a part of the Christian community.

  7. Laurie Lucking March 10, 2016 at 8:29 am #

    Thanks for this post, Tamela! I certainly do feel envy sometimes, but when faced with the success of other writers I try to instead feel inspired – if it’s happening for them, hopefully it will happen for me someday, too. I think being part of the Christian writing community really helps with that because I get so many reminders that God is going along with me on my writing journey, and though I get impatient, it will all happen according to His timing.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 10, 2016 at 4:15 pm #

      Laurie, I have a feeling those you envied will celebrate your successes with you!

  8. Carol Ashby March 10, 2016 at 8:46 am #

    Envy is a danger in any competitive field, whether athletics, education, research, business…you name it. It’s even a danger when you are highly successful, because there will always be times when someone else is more successful than you.

    Thanks for posting the excerpt from James, Brennan. I need to reread it periodically.

    I used to joke that God was protecting me from the spiritual hazard of too much success when someone else received some recognition I would have liked. However, it wasn’t really a joke. When you are really good at something and everyone keeps telling you so, pride can so easily get out of control. Coming in second or sixth or even dead last occasionally is a healthy antidote to pride, which can be the deadliest sin of all. Pride and envy were enough to turn even an archangel into a devil. (Lucifer’s words in Milton’s Paradise Lost come to mind: “Better to Reign in Hell than Serve in Heaven.”)

    I always found a good way to deal with the disappointment that can breed envy is to send friendly congratulations to the person who received what I wanted.

    If it’s God’s will, your turn will come. If not, maybe He’s just protecting you from the spiritual hazard of too much success.

  9. Christine Henderson March 10, 2016 at 9:10 am #

    The problem with envy is too often we focus on a pinpoint of information. Here’s an example. A new member joined one of my writing groups and she told us how she just signed a book contract with the help of her agent. Thinking she had indeed “just written” her book, i felt a bit envious. I wished my writing came that easy.

    However, after talking to her I discovered she’s been working on this book for several years and had done 15 rewrites. Not the overnight success I thought she was! Now when I hear of the success of others, I praise them for their hard work and dedication which encourages me to try harder as well.

  10. Linda Riggs Mayfield March 10, 2016 at 9:24 am #

    That passage from James is powerful. Although often presented as synonyms, I don’t think envy and jealousy are the same thing. God is jealous–that is reiterated in those verses, but He is certainly not envious. Envy is resenting or wanting what someone else has. Jealousy is wanting what we believe legitimately already is ours. As a writer, envying the success of others would be a sin; jealously guarding my own talents, abilities, and opportunities to be used in His will and for His glory is part of my job as a follower of Jesus. Tall order sometimes!

  11. Patti Jo Moore March 10, 2016 at 9:37 am #

    Excellent post, Tamela.
    Especially loved your last line: THOSE WHO PRACTICE LOVE ARE VICTORIOUS. Wow! Powerful reminder – – thank you.

  12. Rachel E. Newman, Freelance Editor March 10, 2016 at 11:49 am #

    Great post, Tamela! I’ve found that when I’m content with what I have, when I’m excited about my future, and when I recognize I have been blessed far beyond what I could ever deserve, envy doesn’t enter the picture.

    When the green-eyed monster does rear its ugly head, I can return to these questions: Am I discontent with what I have? Have I lost hope for my future? Do I think I have in someway earned the many blessings God has given me?

    When I recenter on Jesus, His grace, His love, and His constant faithfulness, I can’t help but be happy for others who are experiencing His goodness!

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 10, 2016 at 4:16 pm #

      Rachel, you bring up a good point by asking what our feelings say about ourselves. Self-reflection is always a good idea.

  13. Sarah Bennett March 10, 2016 at 2:56 pm #

    Thank you for the honest and straightforward post. I have been envious before, even of a dear friend who received wonderful news. When I realized my attitude, it was embarrassing. Outwardly, I was being her cheerleader while my my insides were stomping and grumbling, laying waste to my heart. So I prayed. Over and over and over. Every time that spark of jealousy touched me, I prayed. It wasn’t a one-time-fix-all for me…it took weeks. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust the Lord or I wasn’t content with my own life, it was sin. And I am not immune to sinning.

    Need to remind myself to let go of the steering wheel sometimes – but I’m usually in the ditch by then.

  14. Peggy Booher March 10, 2016 at 6:45 pm #


    Thank you for this post. It’s such a good reminder for me.

    I remember being envious of a friend who did a lot of writing and had stories published in Sunday school papers and other places. Then I heard a sermon on the radio. I realized I didn’t need to be envious of my friend. God gives each one of us talent, and He never runs out of talents to give us. There is enough talent for me, too.

    Since then, I’ve been concentrating on my own efforts at writing. I’m trying to learn more and submit more. God is encouraging me in various ways, and I am enjoying life more as I “work my own field”.

    You said, “Sin takes power away from us.” Thanks for the reminder that I have power (when I’m not envious).

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 11, 2016 at 6:11 am #

      Peggy, I love your reminder that the “pie” is very large. I have noticed that people who seem to think the life “pie” is only so big, so if they don’t get “theirs” then the pie will run out. Not so! God’s love never runs out.

  15. J S Rogers March 11, 2016 at 6:44 am #

    Thank you for posting this Tamela. Great attitude and great thoughts. Sadly old man pride gets in our way too many times. We should be happy for our brothers and sisters achievements.

  16. Stephen W. Hiemstra March 12, 2016 at 6:25 am #

    Envy is a horrible thing. An important part of our witness as Christians to understand our emotions and place them in service to Christ.

    Thank you for taking time to post.

    Although there are many books on understanding and coping with our emotions, one of particular interest focuses on God’s emotions:

    Matthew A. Elliott. 2006. Faithful Feelings: Rethinking Emotion in the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic and Professional.

    I have written a two-part review: Elliott: God’s Emotions Inform Our Emotions, Part 1 (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-1dc).

    I have written reviews on other books dealing with emotions, but this is the one that I continue to cite and use in my writing.

  17. Tamela Hancock Murray March 14, 2016 at 7:38 am #

    Thanks for sharing, Stephen. Indeed, many Bible passages do instruct us to control our emotions. Not an easy task at times.

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