The Antidote to the Venom of the Deadly Anaconda of Envy

The Antidote to the Venom of the Deadly Anaconda of Envy

I sense it moving before I see it. Its belly moves against the stone path in front of me silently and somewhat innocuously. I disregard it at first because in some respects it is unassuming and appears benign. But then the creature’s lithe and slithery tail brushes against my cheek. I don’t recoil because it feels good. The soft touch may be deceitful but it is pleasant; stroking my ego, provoking my pride, and then shamefully, lulling me into passivity. But then the Anaconda of Envy rises up to its full height. Its fangs drip with venomous lies. Its muscles flex and bulge. And I, the pathetic weakling that I am, just lay there while it sinks its fangs into my tender flesh. Slowly and painfully it begins the process of swallowing me whole while I consider with horror how it ever got a hold of me in the first place.

If you have never wanted something you couldn’t have, you may want to read another blog. If you have never seethed with anger over the good fortune of your neighbor or cried into your cucumbers while your friend ate French fries, believe me, you do not want to keep reading. But if you would like a potent anti-venom for this insidious serpent, feel free to continue. Even if you have never considered how toxic envy is and are puzzled by my words, I entreat you to read on. This offering is specifically for you.

I was sitting in a meeting recently when I inadvertently overheard a conversation between two co-workers. The first was describing to the second about the wonderful weekend he spent at a friend’s house in The Hampton’s. And while I’ve never really thought about making a trip to The Hampton’s, I suddenly wondered what it’s like there. Even worse, the way he described it made it sound so luxurious. Considering how many of my friends are taking beach vacations while I was forced to settle for a hot and muggy camping trip, I started to sense the green-eyed monster rise up and prepare to strike.

It’s hard enough to manage the emotions surrounding envy when the item is a vacation we can’t afford, but what about when we envy something we truly need? This past weekend we incurred the wrath of Mother Nature by way of strong winds and a toppled tree. My tree fell on my neighbor’s shed and in the process pulled down our power lines. Did I mention it was a balmy 97 degrees with 70% humidity in St. Louis? Still, I wasn’t particularly upset until later that afternoon when I returned from my personal favorite cooling station, Schnucks Supermarket (free wifi AND comfort food!). As I drove into the neighborhood I saw that most of the lights in the homes were back on. All, it seemed, except mine (and the neighbor who was attacked by my downed tree). I went from calm and collected to stark raving furious nearly as fast as it takes electricity to bypass my house for everyone else. If one combines frustration with anger, sweaty boobs and a cantankerous eight-year-old boy, one has a fairly good recipe for Self-Pity Soup. Which is exactly what I stewed in for the mostly sleepless night I endured thereafter. I had not realized how entitled I felt to air conditioning and how willing I was to murder someone at the electric company to get it.

While I was fuming, I thought about the dehydrated and hungry children in Africa and the many millions of people who live without air conditioning every day of their lives. But that did not comfort me. All I knew was that I was hot and I wanted to not be hot. I looked out of the window into which no breeze was blowing and stared at the tree on top of the withered power lines. I felt a blackness mushroom inside of me as I considered that God had thrown that tree on the power lines. Candidly, I was incensed. Some words that I cannot repeat here were uttered as I turned away from the tangled mess, collected my unruly child, and drove straight to Menchie’s. I was sickened by my behavior (salving my hurt feelings with food), but I could not stop the venom from consuming me. I was so completely consumed with anger to the point that I became anger. Let the Menchie’s employee testify to how ugly and mean the hot mother of a diabetic child can be when not provided with a carb count for a cup of yogurt.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

The poison of envy is not unlike zombification. Envy consumes and destroys all that is lovely and good in a human being and then moves on to consume and destroy everything in its path. One might try to justify the wanting of what others have but one thing they will never know is peace. Envy gobbles but never satisfies. The more one wants, the more one wants. So how does one slay the Anaconda of Envy?

De-escalation is important but doesn’t go far enough. I-want-itis, like arthritis, inflames. Therefore our anti-venom must act like Advil, the most beautiful and wonderful of all anti-inflammatory medication.

Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude

Sometimes the darkness is so dark that it’s difficult to find even one thing to be grateful for. The toilet is backed up, the kitchen sink begins to clog, and suddenly that slow drain in the basement is oozing smelly goo. If you have never encountered a collapsed sewer main, consider yourself extremely fortunate. I have a friend at work that encountered just such an issue last year and was completely overwhelmed with the mess that ensued. She was forced to dispose of beloved personal items, allow construction workers to invade her finished basement in order to jack-hammer up the floor (thereby destroying everything) and then endure hours spent vacuuming up layer after layer of dry-wall dust. She considered it simply incredible that one little pipe could wreak so much havoc on ones abode for so long. But as we discussed the horror of undergoing such an unwanted project, I remember her distinctive thankfulness for the portable potty she rented for the duration of construction. She emphasized to me how nice it was to be able to go out to the garage, take care of her business, and move along with the day. It was a small thing in comparison to the magnitude of that disaster, but one that gave her immense joy in the heat of her suffering.

Recognize the Lie and Seek to Determine the Truth

We want what others have because we think the thing they possess makes them happy. When we start to believe that if we had that thing, then we would be happy, we believe a lie. I am a recovering morbidly obese woman. I’ll be candid, my thighs still rub together. I have stretch marks and loose skin, but those aren’t a big deal. It’s the thigh thing that disturbs me. This morning I saw a young woman jogging. She was tan and bopping along in shorts and an athletic bra. Her belly did not jiggle because it was flat. My belly will never not jiggle. I’ve come to terms with that. But I had so hoped that one day my thighs would not rub together so that I too could run in shorts and a sports bra. It’s bad enough that I lost my breast fat when I lost weight, but to live with eternally rubbing thighs seems too high a price to pay. This morning I saw that young girl and was tempted to despair but then I realized that having the perfect body does not make one perfectly happy. Thin people are not happier than thick people simply because of their size. Also, I bet that woman will never know the joy of Silkies Control Top Pantyhose. They are bliss in a bag! I put them on and I feel like Wonder Woman. Seriously. I can almost fly. Also, I would venture to guess that if I asked that young woman how she felt about her body she would list at least half a dozen things she didn’t like about it. There is no such thing as the perfect body. It’s time we recognize the lies and determine the truth.

Accept that Life Isn’t Usually Fair, but Love Conquers All

The Anaconda of Envy can be easily annihilated when we accept our circumstances (and limitations and various injustices) and know that nobody can take away the greatest gift of all, God’s love for us. Death, the most horrible circumstance and affront to all of life, looms large in our lives. The newspapers shriek at us about it, our friends and family members succumb to it, and we try like crazy to ward it off with creams and pills and Menchie’s frozen yogurt. But the cure for death has come. He is big enough to cover over the little deaths (envy, anger and their ilk) and He will also satisfy our hungers and thirsts with the fountain of his most satisfying love.

Now maybe you are saying that you don’t want this love. Maybe you blame God for taking that which was most precious to you. Maybe that is the reason you look with envy on those around you. Maybe you are single and want a spouse. Maybe you are childless and want a baby. Maybe you are homesick and in need of a home. Maybe you are even hungry and without the means to buy food. Maybe you see that the pain in your life is like my tree lying on top of the power lines, a most unfair circumstance that is making you very, very hot. But what if you knew that God desired to make you dissatisfied with the things in this world so that you would find satisfaction in Him?

CS Lewis famously said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Sunday morning, July 23rd I woke up at 5:30am to a text from my next door neighbor, Valerie. The text simply read, “Don’t let your dogs out back. The power line is down. I’ve already notified Ameren.” She didn’t mention that my tree had fallen on her shed, nor how significant was the damage to her own house (I had no damage to my house at all). When I went outside to survey the carnage I saw her mother, Lori. Lori ran over to me with her cell phone. She was excited. She said, “Look! The siding came off the back of our house in the shape of a cross!” Then she showed me picture after picture of the most poignant reminder in this life of God’s grace to us; death is dead. Christ smothered death once and for all on Calvary two thousand years ago.

And maybe, if I hadn’t been so worried about the stupid air conditioning, I would have had the presence of mind to thank God for the gift of wonderful neighbors. If not for them, my dogs—and quite possibly myself—might have been electrocuted when we stepped outside at 5:30am because we didn’t know there had been a storm.

Today if you are being swallowed alive by the Anaconda of Envy, take heart. You have hope in the person of Jesus, and if you are ready to take your anti-inflammatory, consider thanking Him for loving you and for shattering the lies our culture so blatantly hurls at us. He is the perfect cure for all that ails us.

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