Love…does not envy. Have you ever thought about what it means to not envy? Envy is one of the most subtle and destructive attitudes that can undermine your marriage.
Envy is “resenting what someone else has and wanting it for yourself.” It can take root in our heart and mind in a variety of subtle ways.
For example, envy can take hold when we see our spouse getting more or nicer gifts than us at holidays. When our spouse has more intimate family relationships than our family of origin and we resent those relationships because our family was never close . We can envy that they get to go out on business meals or trips while we stay home. We can envy our spouse’s spiritual gifts. We can envy the number of friends they have compared to us. Envy can slide in when our spouse has a closer relationship with one of our children and we resent that intimacy
Once envy takes hold in your heart, the Bible says it yields “disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:16) Here are three questions to ask to discern if envy has taken hold in your heart.
1. Do I complain or affirm when my spouse is blessed?
Being happy for your spouse is an attitude to be cultivated. When they get to go out for a nice dinner while you are home with the kids…again…do you complain at them about how you wish you could do that sometime? Does resentment well up in you because you aren’t afforded those opportunities?
Or do you still affirm your spouse and express how glad you are that they were blessed like that? You may not feel like affirming them, but actions trump feelings and often the feelings will follow. Choose to reject complaining and instead affirm your spouse’s blessings.
2. Am I content or am I comparing?
Comparing what we have or don’t have with someone else sets the environment for envy to settle in our heart. We can compare:
- How our friend’s spouse helps at home vs. our spouse’s helpfulness
- Frequency of our sex with that of others we know or know about
- Gift and flower giving in others’ marriages compared to ours
- The financial freedom other couples have compared to our day-by-day survival
Contentment is a choice. It’s a choice to affirm others’ blessings. It’s a choice to say, “God is good—all the time.” Contentment doesn’t rule out talking about some of these issues with our spouse (i.e. sexual frequency, gift giving, etc.) where it may be constructive. But ultimately contentment is about trusting God and his provision. Comparison can breed resentment and envy.
3. Am I thankful or ungrateful?
Ungratefulness is fertile soil in our hearts for envy to take root and grow. Thankfulness is a powerful tool for weeding envy from our hearts. Here are a few places you can start right now. Be specific as you think, write, or pray through each of these:
- Be thankful for who God has made you to be
- Be thankful for what you have
- Be thankful for the spouse God has given you
- Be thankful for your spouse’s abilities, personality, positive traits
- Be thankful for opportunities God has placed before you
Find 5-10 tangible things about which you can be thankful each day. Thankfulness is cultivated.
How else have you seen envy slip into marriages? What ideas do you have for combating envy? Make the necessary steps today to get rid of envy as you build your marriage!