|I sit on her couch, our children playing around us. I can’t believe I have to do this again. I’ve confessed my envy to a handful of people, but each time feels like the first. Each time, it is just so … embarrassing. It means I must look someone in the eye, then confess I’ve resented the good things God gave them.
“So what did you want to talk about?” she asks.
Her sweetness, openness and utter ease with these mechanics of female friendship disarm and annoy me once again. I see why everyone wants to be her friend.
I take a deep breath, sigh, and begin:
“Rachel, I have a confession. I’ve been envying how charming and relational you are …”
With that, I burst into tears. Graciously, she listens with expressions of surprise and then forgiveness. An hour later, I leave her house reflecting on how immediately the teeth of my resentment have been removed over the course of one conversation.
And so it is, when you obey God’s call to confess sin. Sometimes the confession is itself one of God’s mercies to you.
Envy is no fun at all. Aristotle called it “pain at the sight of others’ good fortune.” Envy writhes and seethes because the quality or possession most valued has been given to another. This kind of resentment, besides being no fun, is shameful and generally not talked about. Nobody wants to admit this thought to someone else: “I’ve been wishing your life would not be so great.”
When we confess envy, this is exactly what we are admitting. All of the sister-sins Peter warns us to flee from are sins that show up alongside envy: “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (1 Peter 2:1).
Envy runs in a pack, alongside sins of social rivalry: malice, deceit, hypocrisy and slander. When we put away envy, we turn from a certain kind of heart attitude — envy and her friends — and toward the only thing that can change us.
“Like newborn infants,” Peter continues in 1 Peter 2, “long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (v. 2-3).
We are needy babies who want everything we see. Peter says, So? Be needy! The trick is to incline your heart to need the right thing. Taste the Lord. See that He is good.
Nourish yourself on the more substantive “milk” of the gospel, which teaches that you have already been given far and away more than anyone could have expected. Life! Spiritual rebirth! The promise of eternal life! Jesus Himself, friend and companion! The Holy Spirit, sent to guide and change you! (And here I am, grinding my teeth because a sister bought her dream house.)
As we flee envy through confession, we remember a broken love for our own importance can only be replaced by a nourishing, wholesome love. If we aren’t looking to Christ to teach us what satisfaction tastes like, we will continue to pursue the things we think we deserve — growing resentful when we spot them in others.
Envy is tireless and demanding, but Jesus gives rest. Envy is hungry and miserly, but Jesus fills up and pours over. Envy is watchful and ready to compare, but Jesus is beyond all comparison.
Lord, help me see and taste You! Help me confess envy as often as it crops up, naming it for what it is. Give me discernment when it interferes with a relationship and needs to be confessed. Grow my gratitude for Your gifts and a love for others until there is no room in my heart for envy. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.