This week’s topic of envy comes at just the right time for me. Sunday night, at a time when I should have been readying for bed and the early wake-up to drive into work, I instead wandered onto my Facebook feed. An acquaintance of mine posted about how [Conspicuously Male Name] made her dinner, did the washing up, watched Gilmore Girls with her, and even prepared her snacks for the week. My thoughts were 1) When did she get a boyfriend? 2) Who is this guy? 3) Do I really want to know that she met him through one of the groups—the groups I left (for good reasons) and maybe should join up again because it appears to be the boyfriendàfianceàhusband store?
Upon clicking through her friend list (I am that person—admit it, you can be one of them too sometimes), I didn’t find him, but I found a friend of hers who I learned was recently married…and she and her new husband were in one of the most romantic wedding pictures I’d ever seen. Upon seeing that and this feeling creeping up. I blasted Fort Atlantic videos on Youtube until it was time for bed.
Don’t get me wrong—I am THRILLED for Catholic marriages and THRILLED that some lovely women are meeting amazing men. But why not me too?
I think envy is one of the hardest sins to overcome. It is so naturally…human to want things for yourself and be disappointed when you don’t get them—especially when you’re dependent on another person (the potential boyfriend) to provide them. And let’s be honest with each other, it’s also human to think it is HARD and FRUSTRATING and SAD to just watch as others are blessed when we feel we are not. So our thoughts turn inwards and go to scary places…maybe to the point that we feel unworthy or that there’s something wrong with us or that we’ve made the wrong choices (even though they were right at the time). Contributing to this angst are some well-meaning advice givers who counsel us to focus on ourselves, because somehow that’s the humble or charitable thing to do…I have no idea why. Lovely, faithful women who are great friends and are upset that they are single do not need to add anxiety that they need to fix themselves to be dateable. Uh uh.
Because the absolute worst part about envy is when people presume these feelings don’t come from a place of genuine hurt but somehow malice, so they refuse to sit with you in your pain, or even acknowledge it. But I like to be different. I’ll do it. You’re right, honey. It isn’t fair. There is nothing wrong with you, and there must have been something wrong with the guys at the groups who never saw what you see in yourself most of the time. You are worthy of a sweet, tender guy who dotes on you. You’ve made the right choices, and it’s the men in your life who’ve disappointed you who have made the wrong ones. And you know what, you’re not horrible for being envious. It just means you’re human, a daughter of Eve. If you are envious of good things like marriage and babies, then all that that means is your heart is in the right place, but your head is not, and just needs to catch up.
To try to overcome the ugly parts of envy (snarky comments or despair), I try to draw upon my resources or find comforting, affirming music. I try try try to pray for the grace to accept that everything is in God’s time. If on the rare occasion my envy was made public (very, very rare), I make social amends. But during those times it’s private, I find a way to rejoice in those couples’ happiness.
Here’s some other tips I’ve found helpful—at least for me:
– Refusing to add an un-wedding.me or un-baby.me (thought I don’t think the former exists) thing to my Facebook. Yes, it’s hard to see four engagement announcements posted in just one month, or annoying to click through three wedding albums from the same weekend (this past Fourth of July). But, like a vaccine, exposure to the dormant form of the “disease” may inoculate you to it..or at least make it less severe.
– Refusing to go onto Facebook all together. Yes, I also support this, especially if there are really painful circumstances that would make you just absolutely lose it if you saw someone’s relational happiness all over your feed.
– Treat yo’self to the things you want and can have. Especially those things you goofily fear will make people judge you. Savoring a fine whiskey. Yelling at the ref at a football game (Apparently I know too many traditional men who I fear are horrified by this “unladylike” spirit.). A pretty new dress. Pajama night with pedicures with the roomie. That way, when you get an attack of the envies, you can draw upon these sweet memories.
– Remind yourself that just a week, day, hour, hell—minute ago—you were quite content with your life and had no real complaints (this was me Sunday).
– Try to own the idea that right now you are being who God calls you to be, and those women—from close friends and family to strangers on public transit—are simply doing the same thing. If you look at like you’re both on the same plane, just making different connections in Atlanta, then it will start to feel silly to be envious of the other passenger. You’re both going somewhere; it’s just that your destination is a surprise. And if there’s a longer layover for you, well, at least there are snacks.