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The Rev. Martin Copenhaver The Rev. Martin Copenhaver

The Rev. Martin Copenhaver is president of Andover Newton Theological School, an ordained United Church of Christ minister, and the author of several books.

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Martin Copenhaver: I Don't Envy You

November 17, 2013

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." - Exodus 20:17

A new term has come into common parlance these days:  Facebook Envy.  Researchers have found, and many people have experienced, that spending time on Facebook can make people more envious.  Viewing all of your friends' fabulous vacations, lovely children and great social lives can leave you feeling lonely, frustrated and angry.  It is a manifestation of the tendency we have to compare our inside realities with other people's outer appearances. We are keenly aware of what is really going on in our lives and it cannot measure up to what we see on the surface of others' lives.  Such asymmetrical comparisons can easily stir envy.

Facebook seems to promise intimacy, or at least close proximity to others-but that is part of the problem.  Envy tends to do its work most easily, most destructively, at close range.  Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard called envy a small-town sin because it is a byproduct of living in such close proximity that one is constantly tempted to make invidious comparisons.  So most of us don't spend much time envying the super rich.  Instead, as H.L. Mencken once put it, in America, happiness is making $10 more a month than your brother-in-law.

The opposite of envy is gratitude, gratitude for the gifts you have been given-for the gift of life and for the particular life that is yours to live, and gratitude as well for the unique gifts or talents you have been given, as well.  Envy cannot grow in a thankful heart.  Envy and gratitude are always competing for our souls.

Prayer

God, as much as possible, extract envy from my heart and replace it with gratitude.

 

Taken with permission from the UCC's Still Speaking devotionals. Visit UCC.org


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