Saturday, June 4, 2011

To Be Less Envious

My New Year's Resolution this month is taken from Alma 5:29 - to be less envious.  The actual verse reads:

Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy? I say unto you that such an one is not prepared; and I would that he should prepare quickly, for the hour is close at hand, and he knoweth not when the time shall come; for such an one is not found guiltless.  

Obviously, if I am to be less envious at the end of this month than I am now, I need to understand exactly what that means.  I am planning on addressing various aspects of this verse throughout the month, but, as generally is the case with my resolutions, I turned to the dictionary first to see what "envy" actually means:

a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another's advantages, success, possessions, etc. 
Based on this definition, it appears that being less envious involves being more content with my own life and avoiding assigning a value to that life (and individual elements of it) in comparison to others' lives.  It appears that envy is based on over-emphasizing those areas where I have less than someone else and under-appreciating those areas where I have sufficient for my own needs - or, in some cases, perhaps even more than someone else.  

What struck me is that envy seems to be a by-product of ingratitude - as well as the belief that my life would be better and I would be satisfied "if only" I had more (fill in the blank).  It is placing a need for comparative, outward success ahead of personal, inner contentment.  It appears to be a manifestation of an internal lack of peace - and indication that someone believes happiness and contentment and peace and assurance and self-worth are attainable through the acquisition of material things - or social status - or any other aspect of life that is measured in comparison to someone else.  

Finally, it hit me that envy can apply to anything in any area of our lives - including our church lives.  Someone can envy others whose children appear to be happier, more docile, more independent, more spiritual, more active, more whatever than mine - or a couple who both are active and believing, if one's spouse is not a member or is inactive - or a local leader simply because he or she is a leader - or a parent if someone is single or married with no children - or any other part of belonging to a community.  
Ironically, envy also might be manifested in surprising and counter-intuitive ways.  Someone with seven kids might envy someone else with two their apparent peace and simplicity of life; someone with lots of money who is never home might envy someone with much less money but more time to spend with family; etc.  Envy is personally defined, perhaps more than any other characteristic I have considered as a New Year's Resolution, so the biggest part of my resolution this month will be self-reflection and introspection to determine in what ways I truly am envious. 


Dallas, Dad, Big D & I said...

In addition to envy being ingratitude, envy over-values whatever others have. In reality our challenges make us who we are, indluding developing strengths that would not be needed without our current weaknesses or challenging circumstances. Thus envy is a dissatisfaction with who we are and wanting to be something different, possibly a dissatisfaction with our place in the Lord's plan. Envy can go quite deep in our lives to create dissatisfaction. I appreciate your study here. Thanks.

SimplyMe said...

This is good. It is a common element throughout my life. As I read I reflected on the things that I envied as a young adult returning home from my mission (ie/ RMs who got good jobs, went to school right away, found a member spouse...). Now I am educated, I have a good non-LDS husband, and I have the same envy thread but for different things. Envy is envy and can stay with me for as long as I allow it. Thanks for the study as well. It's great for pondering and then doing something about!!