On the weekend I attended Equip - a Christians women's conference. As usual it was fantastic. One of the speakers in particular was very challenging. She spoke on the topic of envy - defined as "pain and ill will at another's success".
Now, I wouldn't have outed myself as an 'envier' before hearing this talk, but I have to admit...I ENVY.
The speaker went on to say how poisonous envy is - mainly to the envier - and also to relationships. What she said really struck a chord with me. I envy. And it is poisoning me. I have kidded myself that I am not bitter about Ashlea's disabilities. And in one sense I'm not. I'm not bitter. I don't think "Why me?" or 'Its not fair'. But do I envy other people? Too right I do. Do I sometimes hate them for their seemingly easy lives? Too right I do.
Its not just that I am sad for what I don't have (which I am), its that I intensely dislike some people who have what I don't have - the seemingly 'normal, easy life'. That is where the poisoning comes in. There are a group of women in my life who on the surface appear to have it all. In my mind I refer to them as 'those bitches'.
I don't want to end up bitter - that kind of attitude only poisons me and my ability to be friends with other people. People who seem to 'have it all'. Or even with people who have just a little more than me. Yes I know that you don't always know what goes on in a persons life, they may struggle in their marriage, finacially, whatever, but I have all those regular struggles AS WELL AS some pretty major ones like a medical condition of my own and a child with multiple medical conditions.
Envy. Why not them? Why is it so easy for them?
I even envy other sick kids. At the kidney parents group I am envious... 'they only have kidney issues to deal with...we have so much more'.
The flip side of being an envier is that as humans we also like to be envied. This is where it gets really ugly. Today at the hospital there were lots of other 'normal' children running around to be envied. But then a lady came in with a child much worse off than Ashlea. Phew - at least things aren't that bad. Told you its ugly. Relief that someone else's child is worse off, that mine isn't 'the worst'.
Envy. Its ugly.
I felt very challenged by the talk. I know that feeling sadness and grief over Ashlea's disabilities is valid. But the constant comparing to other people is so unhelfpul. I hate it. I hadn't realised that it is something I have done all my life. Compared myself - usually unfavourably - to others. Its got to stop.
One of the speaker's suggestions for combating envy included being thankful. I am thankful for Ashlea. I am thankful for her delightful nature, for the things that her disabilites teach me and the great people I have met as a result. Its only when I start to look around at others, and start comparing myself to them that I become envious and discontent.
'That's normal' I hear you say.
It may be, but its poisoning me.
I don't want to end up bitter from this experience. I want to enjoy Ashlea. I want to enjoy being a mum of 3 gorgeous girls. I want to live a full life, not one that is poisoned by envy and bitterness.
So, what is your strategy - seeing as it is clear that I don't exactly have one at this stage? How do you not let envy and bitterness creep in?