Live Loved: Choosing Joy Not Envy

Written by Ann Burns

May 23, 2024

When the Villains are Beautiful

It must be said that social media has certainly made assumptions and rash judgment exceptionally popular. It’s easy to log onto our accounts and note that our friends have:

  1. met the man of their dreams
  2. gotten pregnant
  3. traveled all over while enjoying copious amounts of fun
  4. bought their dream house
  5. lost the baby weight
  6. achieved their dreams
  7. and all the other celebratory news that pepper our feeds 

I can’t help but notice that in the midst of merriment, there is a growing trend to express contempt, pain, or self-deprecation when we can’t relate –when we can’t read ourselves into their joy. 

Somehow, the inability to connect with another’s victories seems to breed conflict. 

Comments like “well, it’s easy for you…” or other such isolating statements appear to be cropping up at an alarming rate.  Of course, this phenomenon isn’t new, it’s age-old envy; the only difference is that social media has made envy en vogue

It’s considered acceptable to express feelings of distress over another’s joy because somewhere along the way we’ve been told that it’s the genuine, real thing to do.  Plus, aren’t we just admonishing our online sisters by reminding them that, while they’re happy, they should be a little less resplendent. After all, we’re carrying big crosses and they should be a little more compassionate. 

But this misses the mark in a number of ways. 

First, we are all carrying our crosses. Yes, the woman who seems to have everything you lack, is also fighting a battle you know nothing about. 

 Our crosses have been uniquely allowed by Divine Love.  Chances are, we have no idea what cross our online sister is carrying.  The woman who got pregnant may be celebrating after a series of losses.  The woman who achieved her dreams may also be undergoing deep doubt and isolation. The point is, the litany of sorrows that we hold in our hearts are heavy, but we are not the only ones we experience this. We live in a vale of tears.  Social media is not therapy or spiritual direction, it’s not the place to unburden our hearts and expose every ache;  more often than not, it’s a highlight reel.  An opportunity to share the good moments. 

So, why are the good moments offensive?

I would conjecture that it stems from a lack of belief regarding God’s own love for us. 

God is abundant, and in His abundance there is more than enough room for the joy of others as well as our own.  Someone’s happiness doesn’t steal ours.  It’s not like there is some big happy-pie with oh-so-many slices, and therefore anytime we see someone else receive something good we need to worry and believe we won’t get a slice. 

Because that’s not how God works.  And that’s not how our relationships flourish.  At the end of the day, the crosses we are carrying, the joys we encounter– everything– is all about growing closer to God.  It’s all about our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  It’s between you and God.  

God intimately knows and understands our worries. He is a good, loving Father who made you in love and made you for love. He cares about the things that concern you. He enters into your joys and pains And He loves you abundantly.

Envy is a lie that tricks us into believing that the good experiences of others mean they’re bereft of suffering or that somehow they are stealing what could have been ours.  But this is completely insidious.  It corrodes charity, damages our relationships with others, and gives us reason to doubt God. 

That’s not to say we have to feel perfectly happy when someone’s joy reminds us of our own hurt, or even that our pains are invalid.  

Rather, when we experience another’s joy, even a joy that uniquely highlights our own pain, we can confidently remember that God is with us. He is abundant, and if we choose to lean into joy and delight in our sister’s good news, only more love will grow. 

God, on our best and worst days, has not abandoned us.  We can take ourselves to the foot of the Cross.  We can reflect on the swords that pierced Our Blessed Mother’s heart. But whatever we do, let us come back to the words that Christ spoke to St. Teresa of Avila: “I would create the whole world again just to hear you say ‘I love You.” 

It may take a lot of discipline to not jump to rash conclusions or believe that everyone else has it so easy. It may mean logging of social media, or receiving the sacraments more. But we need to cultivate these habits.  Love that is shared only grows, never diminishes. 

The sisters in our lives –online or in-person– are our sisters in Christ, not our competition. And it’s up to us to decide to be a friend rather than just seek friends. The first comes from a place of abundant love, the second is from a place looking for love.  

We must remember that God’s love for us is so intense it’s as if we were the only one in existence.  

There is no competition.  We can rejoice in our sister.  We can give up making assumptions.  And we can put down our defensiveness. 

When we do those things, we can live loved, and greet our sister’s joys with true delight. 


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