Dealing With the Green Eyed Monster

Rachelle Gardner

Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

“How rare, men with the character to praise a friend’s success without a trace of envy.”   -Aeschylus

Recently when I was reading a Publishers Marketplace update, I saw that a friend of mine, an agent, had just completed a really great deal. I simultaneously felt a few different things… amazement, happy for my friend… and yes, a touch of envy. Why couldn’t that have been me?

I’m sure you know what I mean.

The writing/pubishing business is difficult in many ways, and one of them is that we are challenged when we see others around us experiencing exactly the same success we want for ourselves. In our hearts we truly celebrate with them. But how often can we say there is not a trace of envy mixed in? Such a level of spiritual maturity takes a long time to develop. I know I’ve improved by leaps and bounds over the years, but I’m not “there” yet.

biting keyboardIn publishing, thousands of writers struggle daily… and everyday, there are more stories of writers reaching milestones. They got an agent; they got their first publishing contract. Their book hit the bestseller list. No matter how successful you are, the success of others can sometimes be difficult to deal with.

I have friends who’ve published numerous books and are considered quite successful. Yet there is always someone who is more successful. Someone selling more copies or getting better reviews. Even those who’ve achieved remarkable success can be tempted to look at others and wish for more.

How do we avoid being bitten by the jealousy bug?

For me, it seems to hinge on a few things.

Gratitude:

I am grateful for where I am, for the unique path God has given me. Focusing on my own gifts and the opportunities God gives me to cultivate them keeps me centered. I have to trust I’m where I’m supposed to be, regardless of where anyone else is.

Self-assessment:

I can ask myself what the envy is trying to tell me. Do I need to work harder? Do I need to do anything differently? When I experience envy, it’s usually about accomplishments, not things. So if I want to accomplish something that someone else has achieved, am I doing everything I can to get there? Sometimes the answer is yes, and I’m just not there yet. But sometimes I can uncover ways I need to change my approach.

Inspiration:

I can choose to turn the envy to inspiration. Lately I’ve been able to do this when I’m at the gym. Someone I’ve been seeing at the gym for years appears noticeably more fit, and I think, “Wow. Good for her! If she can do it, I can too.” I feel more inspired than envious.

Acceptance:

Acknowledge the truth that if I begin to compare, I’ll always find a way to come out a loser. It’s easy to find someone smarter, prettier, kinder, skinnier, more generous, more godly and more successful than me. Oh yeah, taller too. So it doesn’t make sense to compare. My path is my path, my life is my life, and it doesn’t have anything to do with anyone else’s.

Gratitude is key. But it’s easy to discuss intellectually, harder to make a reality in life. I think it’s one of those things we have to develop over time, as we gain more life experience and grow more mature.

“Our envy of others devours us most of all.”  -Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Do you have a story about envy? What things tend to bring up the envy in you? How have you dealt with it?

 

 

34 Responses

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  1. I have no problem with envy; I’m in my element at last, in a doomed duel with death, and would trade places with no one, because…well, honestly, no one else could hack it. I’m arrogant as heck, and I’ve earned it.
    – I eat pain for breakfast, and spit out strength.
    – I devour despair, and turn it into hope.
    – I use the shattered shards of doubt to build a cathedral of faith.
    – And the devil himself quails at my passage.
    * This is my job, and belongs to no other. You may, if you dare, envy ME.

  2. In 2016, I met this fellow writer who was getting all the audience I wanted. What made the envy worse was the fact that my brother introduced him, believed we were both good, and didn’t see anything wrong with the readership ratio.
    Even more, the writer was a namesake. Michael.
    Now in 2017, I met him. He’s months younger than me, taller than me, and is only partly concerned with audience.
    I’m learning to appreciate the things I have, and trust the Master. Besides, my present location doesn’t afford envy. One would be overfull if he attempted such.
    The time to write is something I thank God for now. And about namesake, we are becoming friends.

  3. The enemy whispers, “she’s got more, there’s less for you.” He lies (no surprise there: “When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” – John 8:44).
    * Her success does not limit mine. Success is my obedience to God’s plan. Envy eats my success before it has an opportunity to grow (“The hands of compassionate women have boiled their own children” – Lamentations 4:10).
    * The enemy delights in my envy and its trail of destruction (“Be gone, Satan!” – Matthew 4:10).

  4. God warns us about envy, and I think you’ve picked the perfect tool to battle envy. Gratitude. It helps me to start my day with God. If I start by spending time with Him and praise Him, I do much better.

    I like how you turn envy to inspiration. What a great challenge for us. Thanks for sharing, Rachelle.

  5. There’s so much truth in your post, Rachelle. I’ve definitely dealt with envy, in life and in writing. In life, envy hit hard as many friends became pregnant, and we couldn’t. I had to bring that to God, confessing and asking for His help. He did help me, and we learned that certain times, my hubs and I just needed to get away for a few days to talk and avoid painful situations (Like Mother’s Day).
    *In writing, I’ve had a number of friends find their agent, get contracts and share about their book release parties. I’ve been genuinely happy for them. In dealing with envy in some of those situations, I’ve remembered that they’ve done the work and this was God’s timing for their journey. I’m right where God planned for my journey. Doing the work. He’s helped me to keep trusting His timing for my journey. When I keep my eyes on Him and hold His truths close, I can rejoice with others without the envy taking center stage in my thoughts.
    *I love your suggestions for dealing with envy, Rachelle. You’re so good about changing the way you think about something. I love that.

  6. Rachelle, I’ve found that the green-eyed monster strikes most often when I see a post of some success or other by a fellow author on one of the social media sites. Yet I don’t have the courage to cut myself off from seeing those. That’s where your last point comes in. I have to accept that we’re all different, so I just do the best I can. Thanks for this very appropriate post.

    • Rick Barry says:

      Richard, I can relate. Even seeing an FB post that declares, “Yay, I just wrote 13,200 words today!” makes me think “What? How is that possible?” Of course, we don’t know the quality of that prose, but that doesn’t stop the twinge that makes me wish I had managed to achieve more, too. 🙂

      • Thanks, Rick. I think jealousy affects most of us at some time or another (and the others are probably lying about it).

      • Uh, Richard…have to disagree, here. I don’t envy, and I’m not lying about it. If I’m envying another’s accomplishments or life, I’m implicitly wishing myself and my life away. It seems not only a disloyalty to those by whom I’ve done good, but also an affront to God.
        * One does what one can with the tools and materials at hand, and when the final bell rings our legacies are not our oeuvre, but the individual hearts and lives we’ve touched, as could only be touched by such as we were made to be.

  7. Rick Barry says:

    What an honest and refreshing post about an age-old topic, Rachelle. In a way, each person’s choice of career is like a ladder. Those who pursue it will be approaching the ladder, or on Rung #1, or Rung #3, or maybe 30 rungs up. Looking upward with envy is easy to do, but it’s as inappropriate as looking at down as those on lower rungs with smugness. Your Inspiration and Acceptance are good examples of how to deal with the monster. Blessings to you!

  8. One of the troubling things about envy is that it doesn’t recognize a hard truth – that some have to fall in order for others to rise.
    * Case in point – when I became too ill to continue as an academic, Barbara had to re-enter the workforce (she had been my strong right arm for several years, helping me teach). I had hoped that I might make a breakthrough as a writer, but that was not to be.
    * But if I HAD succeeded, my wife would not have rediscovered those abilities and that diligence which had lain dormant since our marriage. She would have fallen, again, into a supporting role.
    * But now she’s a star in her own right, and for me to envy those who found the success I missed would tarnish that brilliance she has found, and so richly deserves.

  9. Carol Ashby says:

    I’ve found something that’s a good anti-envy tool. When you know someone who’s just won an award or had a great success, send them a congratulatory email. I used to do that with colleagues in my tech career. I’d get the loveliest thank you’s back, probably because it was unusual. When I got awards, usually fewer than 10 of my colleagues would do that, even including the ones who were real friends, not just friendly acquaintances.

    *There’s something about telling someone congratulations that helps make you genuinely glad for them rather than being eaten with envy.

  10. Great article! Thank you!

  11. A friend of mine and I started our blogs around the same time – within a couple months of one another. We followed a lot of the same blogging “rules” and at first my audience seemed to grow a little faster than hers. But after about a year or so, her blog took off like a rocket. She now makes a full time income for herself AND her husband, and has over a million followers and is turning in her first manuscript to the editor at a major publishing company this month. At first I really struggled with envy. But then I realized I was craving the attention for ME, rather than for God. He has brought her these successes because that’s His timing for her. Now I’m fully supportive of her and no trace of envy becuase I’ve seen God’s hand in my journey and I don’t want to settle for anything less than His best – even if that means only a few “followers” and no book deal. Though I’d really love a book deal. LOL

    • Jerusha Agen says:

      Amen, Jennifer! What a struggle it is not to be envious in that situation with your writing friend. I love the work God did in you to see His hand in your journey and to trust He has the best for you. Thanks for sharing this!

  12. I try to watch writers ahead of me … ones I can’t reasonably compare myself to, ones that should be ahead of me … and I try to learn from them. I enjoy reading their works and trying to promote them. This helps to take the focus off myself, and I’ve gained friends, favorite authors, favorite books.

  13. When gazing over the fence, admiring your neighbour’s lawn, remember that the greener the grass, the smellier the fertilizer.

  14. Thank you, Rachelle, for the transparency you’ve shown in this post. After 20+ years in the industry, I’ve learned the green-eyed-monster is ever-ready to pounce and the battle is ongoing. The thing that helps me most is focusing on who God is. He is able to put me on any list, in any circle of “winners,” and provide any amount of book sales at any time. What He has chosen to provide is what is best for me. I’m not “there” yet in terms of daily winning that battle, but reminding myself of who God is does help.

  15. I met one of my writing friends back in 2004 at a conference where we were both pitching our first books. She now has an agent and has published many books with a well-known Christian publisher. I have yet to accomplish any of that. Believe me, the green-eyed monster has whispered to me many, many times! What I did (in addition to confessing my envy to the Lord) was I messaged her on Facebook, congratulating her on her latest accomplishment and then confessing the envy I’d been feeling toward her. She was very gracious and told me that she herself still faces that hurdle sometimes. She told me to follow my own path and to remember that accomplishments can be accompanied by new challenges and trials. In other words, one’s life is never as rose-colored as it seems to others.

  16. I used to swim in the deep end of the envy pool, and years ago when someone I knew got the big blessing of signing with an agent, I struggled a lot. I confessed my envy to a dear and wise, and pubbed, friend. She said something that whacked me sideways. “Someday, this is how some people will feel about you.”
    “ME?”
    Yes, me.
    And she was entirely correct.
    I came into this gig YEARS after some of my new writer friends did, and was offered representation long before some of those same friends. I quickly learned, and it was always spoken in kindness and love, just how how short, compared to some, that my wait for an agent actually was. I was blessed, and I knew it. And it hurt to see the sadness in the eyes of a few friends who had been waiting much longer than I had.
    I’ve pretty much given up most bouts of professional envy, because frankly, not many people write what I write. It’s hard to be envious of something or someone that is nothing like me or mine. Also, I’m big on the whole “this is my path thing.
    As long as I stay close to God in all this, I won’t act like the old me.

  17. Jerusha Agen says:

    Yes, the green-eyed monster does indeed rear his ugly head when I hear of other writers’ successes. As you say, Rachelle, I’m also genuinely happy for them, but not without a trace of envy. I agree, gratitude and trusting God that we are right where He wants us, are the keys to pummeling the monster. Thanks for this reminder today to put those virtues into practice and to work harder to reach my goals.

  18. There is something to be said for being indifferent to success and indifferent to failure and then learning from both of them. I’ve noticed the whine in authors considered successful…they have twenty, thirty or more books published.
    Rachelle, envy is one of those areas that can defeat us when we forget who we are and what we’re about. I struggle with it, yet I know it should let it go before it gives me those well worn messages of “if only,” or “I wish,” or “not good enough.” Envy must not be allowed to influence our days. The “Who” is God’s messengers, the “what” is our message and audience. It’s wonderful when you think about it. Our jobs as agents and writers is to glorify God. That’s pretty special.

  19. Jean Wise says:

    Your steps, Rachelle, reminded me of the grieving process steps. Gratitude does help and I think acceptance is the hardest

  20. Carol Ashby says:

    When things are not going quite as well as we’d hoped, perhaps this is the question to ask ourselves.

    Is God protecting me from the spiritual hazard of too much success under the wrong conditions?

    • Peggy Booher says:

      Wow, Carol, that’s a good way to consider it. We want success, but success can bring problems we don’t foresee. If it took us away from God or distracted from serving Him, we might have success in the world’s eyes, but not in God’s.

  21. Years ago I’d had a few articles published, but worried that if other members of my critique group got books published before I did I would be jealous. But when that happened and the book won a Christie Award I felt like a proud mama and was glowing with pride. Yes, I’d love to make more money as a writer, but when I learn something I wrote changed a reader’s life for the better, that makes writing more than worthwhile.