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Be Thankful for Your Envy

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So my three-year-old has this adorable phrase she uses when she has asked for something, but has been told she won’t receive it: “but I want it.” Okay, maybe “adorable” isn’t the correct term. Perhaps “annoying” is more appropriate.

She whines those four words as if, because of her proclamation, her father and I will change our minds. Because she has whined her injustice, we will permit her to bring home every stuffed animal she sees at the store. Or, we will shower down marshmallows upon her as if she is one of those bear things in “The Lorax.” Or, maybe, just maybe, if she puts enough emphasis on the word “want,” we will let her adopt every kitten she sees, encouraging her towards a future as a crazy cat lady.

As frustrating as it can be to hear her declare those words, that phrase has taught me something: she only envies what she is passionate about. She doesn’t ask to consume massive amounts of kale. She doesn’t request to stockpile lizards. She breaks out that phrase when it is something she really enjoys.

Be thankful for your envy.

Now envy might not be something that we typically encourage, but it can actually be a good thing. Hear me out; recently I was talking with a mom who is tired. She is exhausted from life. She wants more, but she feels pulled in so many directions. She wants to live well and with passion and purpose, but she doesn’t know exactly what that means or looks like.

When we are kids, passion seems much easier to define. But as we get older, passion often takes a backseat to every day life, to paying bills, making dinner, changing diapers and carpooling. After a while, it can be hard to remember what it is that we really want other than to take a nap. That’s where envy comes in.

I once heard a mom say, “Envy might be admiration that is bottled up.” Think about it this way; you don’t envy what you don’t like. For instance, Alaska may be a beautiful state, but I don’t envy anyone who vacations or lives there. I prefer distance between myself and snow. Now, Hawaii is a different story. Sand, beaches, sunsets and palm trees calm and center me. Throw in a hammock and you have my perfect happy-place scenario. So, if I’m scrolling through Instagram, while I might appreciate a picture from an Alaskan cruise, I won’t feel the same sense of longing to be there as I would from a sunset landscape of Pacific waves cresting and breaking.

While we are not meant to live from a place of desiring what others have, being tuned in to what causes that envy to build might just be our ticket to finding our passion. We don’t long for what we have no desire for. We want what makes our heart beat faster.

So maybe that twinge you feel as you scroll through social media can be useful. It’s not a reason to feel disgruntled or inferior. It’s a way of finding that deeper sense of who you are. Maybe it means you want to be a stay-at-home mom or you long to go back to work. Maybe you wish you could run a 5K or take a barre class. Perhaps you always wished to be a teacher, a writer, a musician or a world changer.

Envy can show you a truth that has perhaps been long hidden. So give thanks when you feel it. Make friends with that sense of frustration, but then move on, gather your courage and resolve to not live from that state of discontent. It’s not enough to whine, “But I want it!” It’s time to take action and live out that purpose. Because to live from that state of envy will only bring frustration, but to learn from it could open up the life you’ve been longing for.


Have you connected with me on social media? Find me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook @mchurchwriter.

{This article first appeared in The Family Magazine of Michiana. Photo credit: ©kurapatka –}


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