Table of Contents
- Gratitude is learned behavior
- Choose to be grateful.
- Use your manners
- A gratitude journal
- A bonus
Envy and dissatisfaction can take the joy out of anyone’s life and make one miserable.
Monday, I posted pictures of my cabin and she-shed and gave an example of how envy struck when I saw something bigger and better. Even as I write today, I am embarrassed to admit that. I have been truly blessed to have this get-away and I am well aware of it. When I think of the living conditions of so many in this world, I am humbled to think that I fell off the wagon for even a moment.
But, like everyone, I am very human. Envy and dissatisfaction strike everyone at some time or another. Why do you think the tenth commandment says “Don’t covet what isn’t yours”? Duh. God knew it would be a problem. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address it and manage it. So, how do we do that?
Here’s how we don’t do it. We don’t point a finger and tell someone, “You should be grateful!” When did anyone tell you how to fee? How did that work? We can’t make anyone (nor can they, us) feel anything. But we can perhaps offer some ideas to get us all there.
Gratitude is learned behavior
My personal story
I am the granddaughter of sharecroppers which means my parents were children of sharecroppers. Not all sharecroppers were black. My grandparents never owned a piece of property right up until the day they died. My grandmother was the hardest working person I have or will ever meet. From before dawn to well after dark, she milked cows, slaughtered chickens, picked cotton for the landlord while growing her own immense vegetable garden, sew clothes and blankets with whatever fabric she could get from the rag bags at church. She quilted, canned, and preserved meat. All of this while raising a family of four in one shack after another.
For the last years of her life, she lived in low-income housing and her yard was neater than all the yards around although the other residents were more than half her age. I take after my grandmother in some ways because I can’t abide laziness at all. I’m working on it.
My dad’s background was the same although his parents were definitely on the lazy side. My dad did not inherit those genes though.
I never once heard my mother or father say, “I would really like to have that.” Not once, not ever. They worked hard and had a lovely home. When they bought something, it was meant to last.
My mom and loved to go shopping. But guess who didn’t buy very often? And guess, who she did buy for me? You don’t have to ask. I am the offspring of two of the most generous people I ever knew. I never heard a word of jealousy from either of them.
So, I had a good example. And yet, even I struggle. Here’s what I do.
Read a Psalm every day
I do this because gratitude needs to become learned behavior for me. When I read a Psalm, I always come away feeling grateful. Almost every Psalm, no matter if it’s a lament Psalm or not, the author always comes back to acknowledging and praising God for who he is.
For me, it’s like medicine and keeps me grateful.
Choose to be grateful.
On a daily basis.
I’m careful to maintain a daily attitude of gratefulness because down deep I am very grateful for everyone and everything in my life. My envy of the beautiful house was very short-lived. Would I like it if it were mine? I think so. But do I still love our little red cabin? Absolutely!
Our teeny-tiny red cabin still brings me more contentment than anywhere else on earth. Yes. Am I grateful beyond belief? Yes. Was my sudden envy something to be ashamed of? NO!
I’m just human, that’s all.
Speak to your soul about your envy and dissatisfaction
Just like all behaviors, we have to deliberately choose to act and speak a certain way. Ever since Adam and Even screwed up, we have to choose right over wrong. In my book, Depression Has a Big Voice. Makes Yours Bigger, (expanded edition), I devote a chapter to this subject. In that chapter I liken gratitude to a vitamin, vitamin G. We need to take one every day. If we miss a day, we might well succumb to envy just like I did.
Envy and dissatisfaction are a waste of emotion and time.Tweet
Choose to speak to your soul, like King David, when you find yourself feeling jealous. Give it a good talking-to. No one else probably will and why not beat them to the punch anyway.
“Why are you downcast, o, my soul, and why are so you perturbed? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my savior and my God.” Psalm 42:5
No, this verse doesn’t address envy or jealousy but the point is it addresses negative attitudes. We would say, “Why are you so jealous, o, my soul?”
Pretend” you live in a museum
I once read that one of the ways to avoid purchasing things we don’t need is to look at the things we see in stores as if they were in a museum. Beautiful to look at but not to buy. That’s what the house around the corner has become for me. Beautiful to look at, but not mine to have.
Know the source of envy
Satan tried to use envy against Jesus in the wilderness temptation. “Bow down and worship me and I will give you all this” was the basic message. Jesus had none of it.
Jesus had no home. He was misunderstood. Sometimes, he was hated. He could have had it all. He chose not to. And He used Scripture as a sword against Satan.
If Satan tried this approach on the Son of God, who do you think is the source of your envy? It certainly isn’t God. So we fight envy and dissatisfaction in the same way.
Use Scripture to combat
Do just what Jesus did. Use the word of God to combat these feelings. I would suggest Job, 38-41. Why these chapters? For me, it’s simple. The more we understand who God is, his majesty, his power, and the fact that he holds the world and everything in it in his hand, the more we are satisfied.
Grasp the awesomeness of God.
I suggest you read Job 38-41. Why Job? Because in these chapters, God has a conversation, well, no, he performs a soliloquy that is unmatched anywhere else in scripture. He reminds Job who he is.
I believe when we truly embrace the majesty of God, not just in relationship to us, but to the world, it is almost impossible to be anything but grateful. Our God is beyond description. His majesty is displayed every day right in front of our eyes. How then can we be envious of anyone?
I am fortunate that I have been able to travel to a lot of countries outside the United States. (That’s another story. But briefly, it involves my husband’s employer being bought out, his position on the chopping block, God’s intervention, and subsequently hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer miles that paid for my airfare, his hotel room with breakfast paid for, and me only having to pay for dinner and I eat cheaply anyway. Whew! It’s quite a story and no one was more surprised than us. Now, that I’ve mentioned it, I will write about it next week.) Because of that travel, I saw a lot of poverty, poverty that exceeds anything in the United States.
It was hard not to feel guilty which is kind of the other side of envy and dissatisfaction. When you feel you are too blessed and know you don’t deserve any of it. That’s another subject.
If you can’t travel, read about third-world countries. Read about countries that don’t have clean drinking water or enough food to eat. Expose yourself to what goes on in the rest of the world.
Write out a prayer
Write out a few prayers that you can use as a go-to when you need to reframe your feelings of jealousy. But keep it real. Don’t write something that isn’t you. Keep it honest.
“Lord, here I go again. Would you please snap me back and remind me of my blessings?”
“Lord, I’m doing it again and I’m embarrassing myself. What am I doing envying anyone when I am blessed beyond all measure.”
Use your manners
I know. Seems kind of strange, doesn’t it?
Believe it or don’t, using manners is a way of showing gratitude. Saying “thank you” is showing gratitude. The more you use your manners, the more you will feel grateful. Try it if you don’t believe me.
A gratitude journal
I keep a Bullet Journal and I have a section on each day where I list FGA, and FBA, translated, as “felt good about”, and “felt bad about”. It keeps me aware of my blessings.
There are hundreds of ideas online, and all you need is a cheap notebook and a pen to get started. Fill it in whenever and however it works for you.
“Counting our blessings and naming them one by one” is a really good strategy.
I have chosen to include the link here to a mini-pdf that addresses some of the ideas I’ve purposed here. Ordinarily, this is Password protected but I am making an exception. I hope you find it useful.
God bless and have a blessed day.
(I see that I accidentally posted Monday, which I never do. These two posts were to be back to back but I must have hit publish without realizing it. It was scheduled for yesterday but because of the school shooting I postponed it till today. With the holiday weekend coming up, you’ll probably be busy anyway. Whatever you do, be safe. )