As a child growing up in the woods of Canada, it wasn’t bears or wolves that we were told to look out for – although that would have been prudent. It was the equally terrifying yet silent enemy known as Poison Ivy. The dangerous plant, that if you touched it would spread to your ENTIRE body and cause you to itch in agony for the rest of your life. Or at least a week. The only help would be dousing your body in calamine lotion which would harden and make you feel like your skin was shrinking. Good times! Every child lived in fear of touching this plant on a hike or camping trip, and every parent would give their ominous warning. (Side note: I still don’t know what it looks like.)
I’ve noticed an equally, yet not so physical enemy that has recently been surfacing. This toxin creates a similar condition. More internal, yet with the same spreading potential.
Now let me be clear. I’m a content person. I have a lot to be thankful for in my life and nothing at all to complain about. Warm home, quirky and loving family, great community, fulfilling work – the list goes on. But once and awhile while walking down the path in front of me, I come across poison envy.
This poison tries to sneak into my already weak and insecure areas and blend in innocently with my thoughts. I study the flawless appearances of others, successful writers with book deals who work on the beach and exotic locations, outgoing people who always fit in, and in the summer – pools and beach vacations (that’s only a seasonal envy, it passes when the snow comes!) Soon, I’ve been taken off my path and suddenly feel very discontented with my life.
It doesn’t take much to be sidelined by those living out the life that we wish we had. If we aren’t careful soon we can be perpetually living in dissatisfaction. Infected and miserable, wondering how to make it stop. Looking for that lotion to pour on and numb us of our feelings of unhappiness.
The good news is that we don’t have to be infected by the poison of envy. We can learn to identify it, and keep it away. We can make sure we don’t let it spread right through our mind and soul.
If poison envy starts to shut you down, here are the best antidotes:
Shut it off at the source. So much of envy is fuelled by what we see visually. If spending hours on social media looking at the “perfectly” filtered lives of others is something that causes the poison of envy to spread, then shut it down. Nothing causes discontent more quickly than comparing your life to others. Learn to focus on what you have and be grateful for it, live the life in front of you and don’t imagine yourself in the lives of people you don’t even know. There’s a button called unfollow, use as needed.
Celebrate others. Envy can set in when we look at the accomplishments of others and want that for ourselves. Have you ever heard someone get torn down for being successful? A great job promotion? New exciting relationship? Don’t participate in the tear down. Learn to celebrate those around you. Living a life of encouragement can transform you. Speak life and blessing to those that succeed. Cheer, encourage and support. Don’t just celebrate yourself, generously celebrate others.
Love where you are. In a culture that is always telling us to go for more, pursue more, be more, do more – we forget its ok to have purpose where we are. It doesn’t mean we don’t move forward it means that we are content in the present. Your current moments matter, don’t waste them by envying someone else’s life. Where you are right now, affects where you are going. Every current seasons prepare for the future journey.
As you’re trekking down your path, look out for poison envy. Don’t touch it, don’t engage. Stomp on it with your boots and just walk right by. Let contentment, celebration and purpose spread through you in good seasons, hard seasons, growing seasons and learning seasons.
Shut the poison down.
A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.