Love Does Not Envy
Kids believe weird stuff. For example, I have a friend who, when he was young, didn’t think girls pooped. I guess, for him, femininity and bodily functions couldn’t co-exist. (Little did he know.)
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love does not envy.” Envy is one of the biggest enemies of love, because it makes us believe weird stuff. In his book Living for God, theologian Frank Hasel defines envy as “a form of blindness in which I can no longer realistically see my own gifts, or the blessings God has given me. Instead, my perception is intensely focused on the achievements, possessions, or strengths of others.”1 In other words, when we’re envious, we’re looking at others through a “girls don’t poop” lens. Envy tells us they sit on a throne of only blessings.
…if I want someone’s blessing, would I take their story too?
I used to be jealous of a friend. I thought she was funnier, more popular, and a better writer. She had struggles, but my focus was on the gifts and talents I wanted. If I could talk to my younger self, I’d explain an idea I read about in Frank’s book. Let’s call it the chocolate box fallacy.
When we envy, we act like a person’s blessings are arbitrarily put together, like a box of chocolates. We fantasize about how much better off we’d be if only we could insert whatever they have into our own life. But people aren’t like boxes of chocolate. Everything in our lives is connected to something else. Every blessing has a story. When we see people, we see only what we envy, but, Frank writes, when God looks at us, He sees “the liabilities that come along with each blessing” (ibid, pg. 49).
The question to ask is, if I want someone’s blessing, would I take their story too? Would I take the depression that forged a friend’s ability to make people laugh? Would I take the loneliness that often comes from always having something intelligent to say but never knowing how to listen and make lasting friends?
If you struggle with envy, practice being grateful that you’re you. When we begin to accept ourselves—the blessings and flaws—we can begin to accept and love others without resentment, because, well, they poop too.
- Frank Hasel, Living for God: Reclaiming the Joy of Christian Virtue, Pacific Press, March 2020, pp. 47 and 49.