Watch Out for the Green Eyed Monster

Mad guy with computer“How rare, men with the character to praise a friend’s success without a trace of envy.”
-Aeschylus

Recently when I was reading my daily Publishers Marketplace update, I saw that a friend of mine, an agent, had just completed a really great deal. I simultaneously felt a few different things… amazement, happy for my friend, happy for the author… and yes, a touch of envy. Why couldn’t that have been me?

I’m sure you know what I mean.

The writing/pubishing business is difficult in many ways, and one of them is that we are challenged when we see others around us experiencing exactly the same success we want for ourselves. In our hearts we truly celebrate with them. But how often can we say there is not a trace of envy mixed in? Such a level of spiritual maturity takes a long time to develop. I know I’ve improved by leaps and bounds over the years, but I’m not “there” yet.

In publishing, thousands of writers struggle daily… and everyday, there are more stories of writers reaching milestones. They got an agent. They got their first publishing contract. Their book hit the bestseller list. If you’re one of the struggling writers, the success of others can be difficult to deal with.

I have friends who’ve published numerous books and are considered quite successful. Yet there is always someone who is more successful. Someone selling more copies. Someone getting better reviews. Even those who’ve achieved remarkable success can be tempted to look at others and wish for more.

How do we avoid being bitten by the jealousy bug?

For me, it seems to hinge on a few things.

First, being grateful for where I am, for the unique path God has given me. I have to focus on gratitude for my own gifts and for the opportunities God gives me to cultivate them.

Second, trusting I’m where I’m supposed to be, regardless of where anyone else is.

Third, in every area of life, I have to remember that if I begin to compare, I’ll always find a way to come out a loser. It’s easy to find someone smarter, prettier, kinder, skinnier, more generous, more godly and more successful than me. Oh yeah, taller too. So it doesn’t make sense to compare. My path is my path, my life is my life, and it doesn’t have anything to do with anyone else’s.

Gratitude is key. But of course, it’s easy to discuss intellectually, harder to make a reality in life. I think it’s one of those things we have to develop over time, as we gain more life experience and grow more mature.

“Our envy of others devours us most of all.”  -Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Do you have a story about envy? What things tend to bring up the envy in you? How have you dealt with it?

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  1. Web Design says:

    There are some interesting points in time in this article but I don’t know if I see all of them center to heart. There is some validity but I will take hold opinion until I look into it further. Good article

  2. Ainsley Shay says:

    great post! with books coming out so rapidly these days – it’s hard not to think “when will mine be as good as theirs, good enough to send it out into the world?”

    but – your right – it’s all about gratitude and appreciating where we’re at now and knowing our time will come.

    thanks

  3. Like the article-I’d like to quote C.S.Lewis; ‘Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less’. This might help to make us less envious of others and less subject to the ‘green-eyed monster’!
    Thx to T Denise Clary for bringing this srticle to my attention>

  4. Brianna says:

    I do envy my writer friends who are doing more than I am. I envy my friends that are married and having kids and buying homes. I spend a lot of time having to over come the fact that what I am doing is enough and that perhaps, one day, those things will be mine, too. Except for that whole kids things – I am pretty firm in my decision to not have kids.

  5. Love your suggestions on gratitude. Very very wise.

  6. Staci Eastin says:

    This post reminds me of the essay “Envy” by Kathryn Chetkovich. She is a writer and the live-in girlfriend of Jonathan Franzen. In the essay, she talks about the mixed emotions — including, obviously, envy — that she felt when his novel The Corrections was published and he suddenly became the man of the hour.

  7. A timely post, Rachelle. Not because I’m feeling the “monster at this point,” but because I’m dealing with disappointment at my agent’s reaction to my latest manuscript. Just remembering that we are in God’s hands and right where we should be is a blessing! Thanks for the reminder.

  8. AshParso says:

    Great post! For me gratitude is KEY for battling envy. But also a healthy dose of self-mockery. By which I mean self-awareness – that it all comes down to foolish pride. This song helps me with that IMMEDIATELY: (Ben Folds: There’s Always Someone Cooler Than You)(2 cusswords, fyi)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxkM_cnjFfw

    Also – and this is ironic given that I’m commenting on a blog —but getting off social media is huge for me. Getting it all out of my face/focus.

    Finally – as someone else posted – trying to focus on something within my control. – Not “Win an Award!” or “Sell a Book!” But work on writing a book worhty of those things.

    Cheers! Thanks for the post!
    🙂

  9. Such great points! I find that constantly telling myself how happy I am for my friends has changed my mindset so that I am looking for their successes, eager to cheer them on. I still have to close the door on the green-eyed monster, but I am able to sincerely congratulate them, and learn from their success stories! 🙂

  10. K.C. Bishop says:

    This agent friend of yours may have made a good deal– but I bet your blog is a lot better 🙂 Thanks for all the wisdom and integrity in your words. Your advice and perspective is invaluable.

  11. Lisa Iriarte says:

    Wow, what a coincidence. I just blogged about this three days ago. 🙂

    http://vickcorrenagencyfiles.blogspot.com/2012/01/green-eyed-monster.html

  12. Jeanne T says:

    Such a heart-searching post. I think we all have times when that green eyed monster tries to make an appearance. He usually atacks my thoughts. I’ve found that gratitude is HUGE in keeping that monster at bay. Your other suggestions are spot on.

    When I succumb to comparisions, my tendency is to compare another’s best showing with my worst. I’m learning not to do that and to keep my thoughts focused on truths you mentioned. Thanks for this post.

  13. Peter DeHaan says:

    I once heard the advice that no matter how good someone is in his or her field, someone will always come along who is better or more successful. So the key is be the best that you can be, honor God by what you do, and stop comparing yourself with others.

    Still, it smarts when someone falls into a book deal — and their books get put on the fast track, too.

  14. Ha! There are moments I think I’ve reached that level of spiritual maturity, but then get a little down about something unrelated and feel the envy creeping in. Your general outlook has a tremendous effect on how much specific envy bothers you.

    Gratitude is the key to conquering it, along with a promise to try harder. Trusting where you’re supposed to be is the hardest thing to do, at least for me. I tend to be a worrier, no matter how much I try!

  15. Noveldoctor says:

    When my primary goal is “to be a successful, published author,” I wrestle with envy. When my primary goal is “to become a better writer,” I’m envy-free; inspired by beautiful writing, grateful for others’ success, eager to learn.

  16. M. G. King says:

    Printed #3 and put it on a sticky. My path is my path, and I have to trust that I’m where I need to be.

    Thanks!

  17. This is so true. I’ve found that praying for my writing friends helps. It’s really difficult to hold on to that negative emotion when you praise the God for the friend’s success and ask God to use that success for His glory.

  18. Joanne says:

    I love the post and the comments, but 2 additional methods:
    1. If you’re going to compare, then play fair: compare downwards at least as often as you compare upwards. Aren’t you better off, luckier, more successful, etc. than a whack of people you may or may not know? True, there’s always someone better than you, but there’s always someone much worse than you, too! Stop the habit of comparing only in the direction that makes you feel inadequate.

    2. (particularly useful for writers) Adopt an attitude of abundance, rather than poverty. It may feel that way, but actually the publishing and reading world isn’t like a finite pizza pie. Success breeds success. If your friend (of whom you’re tempted to be envious) signs a deal and has a bestseller – that’s good news, not bad, for the rest of us muggles! Publishers and agents took a chance on him/her and it paid off. In future, they’ll be more likely to take a chance on another someone. The publishers made a mint, now they have a little stockpile in their vault and are more likely to make more acquisitions (maybe of your manuscript – squee!). THis amazing bestseller was so terrific and so publicised that even peeps who don’t normally buy, or even read books, did so. And now the world of readers and buyers has grown – all good for business. And what’s good for the business is good for all of us.
    So rejoice in the success of others – just think how many more young people buy and read books because of the success of Rowling and Meyer, et al.

    anyway, that’s my tuppence worth 🙂

  19. Susan Bourgeois says:

    I get excited reading about other people’s success because it makes me feel like I will be able to fulfill my own goals.

    I have the opposite problem of envy, I envision myself being that successful.

    Very often, I have to remind myself that I need to focus and strive to make my dreams come true in a timely fashion.

  20. Bret Draven says:

    An agent friend of mine recently approached me about writing “Wrestling for Dummies” for Wiley Publishing. Initially, I found the request odd because my knowledge of wrestling would not be considered my strongest suit. Secondly, I found it odd because I have never written a how-to manual. Interject the “opportunity to become a published author” debate and I was effectively lost! I explained my reticence, and as expected he reassured me that I was absolutely capable of writing the book. In response I said, “While I appreciate your vote of confidence… you’re forgetting one undeniable factor!” “Oh yeah, what’s that?” “It’s a snooze-fest. I’m bored with it already, and I haven’t written a word!”

    To me, being motivated about writing a particular work is much more important than writing for the sake of writing. Although the offer was enticing… it wasn’t enough. At least not for me! So, I politely declined the opportunity, and referred him to a writing partner of mine.

    So, where is the book now? It just went through final editing, and it is set to be released this March. Where is my book? Answer: not being released in March! Am I envious… no, not particularly? I didn’t want to write it in the first place. And besides, how can I be upset when a buddy of mine finds success? Having said all of this, I can fully understand “author envy,” but it is their own successes that keep the rest of the generations writing!

  21. ChrisM says:

    It’s not envy of others as much as frustration with continually hitting the wall. I am an avid backer of my first novel, but it’s not an easy fit for most agents. The frustration level hits maximum point when I send in a partial and receive this common reply: Well-written and interesting, but not what I’m looking to add to my list right now.

    I think agents sell to established niches (i.e. editors), and it’s incumbent on the author to fit those niches first, rather than write interesting plot, characters, dialogue and craft a fine (but very different) novel.

  22. Janet says:

    When I hear of other writers success, I’m genuinely happy for them. I don’t think my reaction includes envy so much as it involves self-doubt. I wonder if I will ever get to that particular milestone. I suspect that’s because I started my writing career late in life and sometimes feel that I don’t have time to be patient.

    Many times, however, I’ve had my faith rewarded and been amazed at the serendipity and synchronicity of events that move me forward toward my writing goals. Just when I’m feeling like I can’t get a break something happens. I get a call from a publisher friend who needs somebody to write for a magazine he’s launching. I have an author friend ask me to do content edit on his latest novel. I win second place in a short story contest. These events remind me that not every success has to be a MAJOR success and that everything will work together for the good if I just keep my faith and believe it that what is supposed to happen will happen.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean I sit back on my haunches and wait for that. It means I have to devote some time every day writing, honing my craft, building a platform, helping others succeed – and sharing their ups and downs. We have to remember that those we sometimes envy have likely had their share of disappointment along the way.

    Life is a roller coaster, not a merry-go-round.

  23. It takes work to shrug off envy, but it’s worth the effort.

    Over 33 years ago when I became a Christ follower, I went all in. I trusted that God had a plan and a path for me. Years ago with a young family, I was a stay-at-home mom. My DH’s brother and wife were shopping for their first home. Every weekend they would look at homes, and my SIL was so anxious about it she would often vomit at the end of the weekend.

    When they finally found a home I was thrilled for them and said so. My MIL called me to say that my SIL was shocked at my response because, “as everyone knows, you can’t even afford to buy a new car much less a house.” That was true. But eventually we did buy a house. It just wasn’t our time then.

    I look at publishing the same way, it may all happens in good time, not necessarily our timeframe.

    I was raised with a sibling consumed with jealousy. Everyone else’s accomplishments made her see red, even if she still had something bigger, better, newer. Having witnessed that ugliness, I steer clear of jealous people and continue to trust that God has guided me to the best path for my life. And I don’t put all my “happiness” eggs in the publishing basket–that’s a recipe for misery.

    I guess it all comes down to perspective, and that’s something we have control of, friends.

  24. I’m going through a minor tug-of-war right now with the green-eyed monster. My book was chosen one of five finalists in the Christian Writers Guild 1st Novel Contest. The winner will be announced at the Writing for the Soul Conference in Denver the 2nd week in February. The other four finalists are able to attend; I am not. I’ve caught myself a few times putting on my pity party hat wishing I could be there. The hat is a poor fit; it falls down over my eyes. But when I take it off, I don’t have far to look to be grateful.

  25. I can’t help feeling jealous sometimes, especially when people I know get exactly the things that I’ve always wanted, or if they accomplish the goals that I’m still trying to accomplish. One thing about jealousy is that it motivates me to keep going, so that I can have those things too. Otherwise I’ll just keep stewing about what other people have, and that’ll make it that much harder for me to listen to them talk about how happy they are.

  26. I never thought about agents being jealous of other agents (thogh of course it makes sense). I think focusing on gratitude is the best cure, like you said. Not easy, but it will make us happier. 🙂

  27. Meg says:

    I really love the photo you chose to go along with this. I’ve definitely have felt like that guy now and then.

    I do feel a little stab of jealousy when I see all these new authors coming out while my own WIP seems to be moving at a glacial pace. I just try to make myself not worry — I’ll get there eventually. 🙂

  28. Patti Mallett says:

    I love those quotes, Rachelle. Thanks. We’ve probably all gone various shade of green, at one time or another, perhaps there is a close friend we are forced to listen to/look at often.

    Here’s something that helps me. From the age of five until graduation from high school, we lived beside the only road to the next small town and a large Amish community. The horses pulling the buggies all wore blinders so they wouldn’t freak out at the cars, and especially the huge trucks, whizzing past them on that two lane road. Remembering to put similar (though invisible) blinders on, when it’s time to get down to work, really does help.

  29. H.G. Ferguson says:

    This is something we all — but myself in particular — have struggled with for a long time. Recognizing envy is not enough. We must deal with it. And the way I best deal with it is constantly reminding myself of the question Peter asked Jesus concerning the disciple whom Jesus loved: “What about THAT MAN THERE?” To which Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? YOU follow ME!” (Ferguson’s Greek Translation). Only by constantly being thankful for what we have, who we are, who and what the Lord Jesus Christ has made us, and by following HIM every moment of every day, by laying hold of HIM and HIS purpose, HIS intentions, HIS kindnesses — do that, and envy for others dies. Kicking and writhing under His Grace.

  30. Ilana W says:

    Thank you so much, this was a beautiful reminder of the fact that we are all on God’s path.

  31. I’m always thrilled when my friends reach some milestone of success. They’re my friends & I love them. Period. Do I wish that was me? You bet. But I’m not jealous.

    Sadly, what I’ve noticed online recently is the fact that when a writer who’s been blogging about their struggle to land an agent or secure a book deal finally does, she is quickly abandoned by many of her so-called followers. Sometimes they send angry emails. Sometimes they stop following. And sometimes the writer’s comments plummet, indicating a disconnect. Because that is what so many writers feel after their favorite writer-blogger reaches a level of success they have not. They no longer can commiserate in the writer’s struggle. For some reason, writers need to surround themselves with others who are struggling just as they are.

    For me though, when a friend reaches a milestone, I celebrate, because it reaffirms my belief that it IS possible, than I CAN make it. It gives me hope. And every writer needs hope!

    • Timothy Fish says:

      Keep in mind that the need for conflict applies to writing blog posts as much as it does to writing a novel. When an author is searching for an agent, there is plenty of conflict as they talk about their frustration at receiving yet another rejection. As so as they start talking about success, their posts make it seem that everything is running smoothly. Of course, they won’t complain about their agent or their publisher, that would be like biting the hand that feeds you, so all conflict disappears from their posts and their readers lose interest.

  32. Thank you for these wise words!

  33. I am in a critique group and get so excited when one or more of my partners gets good news about their work–but I don’t ever resent them, it just makes me believe even more that it can happen for me too someday:)

  34. Van Vasko says:

    “I know I’ve improved by leaps and bounds over the years, but I’m not “there” yet.” I say this to myself often. If it is meant to be, it will be; when it is meant to be. If not, so be it. It is as it is, always.

  35. Great post and really excellent advice! Thank you so much for the reminder. 🙂

  36. We are on the same page, sister! I JUST wrote about this very topic last week, and came to the conclusion that my jealousy is a symptom of a much deeper problem: idolatry (specifically, making an idol of the “writer’s life.”). Here’s the post: http://www.michellederusha.com/2012/01/idol.html

    Thanks for some very good tips on keeping the ugly ol’ green-eyed monster at bay!

  37. Stephen King says:

    Nicely written. I’m not sure I agree with the response above that says jealousy is a symptom of selfishness. I think it’s more a symptom of poor self-understanding/self-esteem. When I see one of the authors in my small publishing family making it to the top of the charts, as several have been lately, I’m glad for them because I’m seeing it’s possible. When I see Stephen King (the other one)’s income reported as in the millions, then again, that gives me an idea where I can be in a few years if I apply myself. When I see JK Rowling’s billion dollars reported on, well, that’s just one more thing for me to go for…and yes, my next book WILL be the next Harry Potter. 🙂

  38. Gerry Wilson says:

    Rachelle,

    Your post was a gift to me this morning! I was exactly in the place you describe and feeling down on my writing (and myself), yet celebrating a friend’s success. You’ve reminded me that my path is my own, and it will never be exactly like someone else’s. Thanks you so much for this post!

  39. Carol Boley says:

    Who hasn’t struggled with this in some area, at some level,at some time? What helps me the most is putting myself in Peter’s shoes when Jesus says to him,”What is that to you? You follow me.” (John 21:22)Snaps my focus back into place every time.

  40. Kay Elam says:

    I’m grateful that when I was much, much younger, I had an epiphany that no matter what I did, there would always be someone who could do it better. On the flip side, there would also be someone who would do it worse. Therefore, I learned not to worry about where I fall on the measuring stick.

    Even when I won an award as being the best “xyz” in the country, I knew in my heart of hearts it was a momentary blip. Someone else was probably better by the time the award was given, if indeed I’d ever been the best.

    It helps keep me grounded to think of myself as “somewhere in the middle”. I can’t allow myself to worry about rankings or other people’s success.

    When my friends get published (and several have) I can genuinely be happy for them, trusting my time will come. If envy tries to rear it’s ugly head I remind myself how subjective the publishing world is, and I can usually let the jealously go because I know it is a waste of my creative time and energy to dwell there. I try to go back to “there’s always going to be someone better and always someone worse” and I refocus.

    Thank you for another thought provoking post.

  41. I’ve been a working artist. My expertise was theatre scene painting. It’s been a pain driven career where finally I had to quit. I wanted to focus on my fine art. The art scene here is one filled with envy, distrust, and selfishness. When I saw a person I worked with in the faux finishing business climb to the top of success in the art world, I felt envy. I practically held her hand to get her through daily challenges of wall painting. She was a delicate flower and I was a rock; strong, secure, knowledgeable. Yeah, I felt envy. But I feel her path to success could not have come without my help and encouragement. Someday people will like my art. Someday people will like my novel.

  42. Kelli Hughett says:

    I think the best way to handle the jealousy bug it to invite it in. Whenever I have that problem, I attempt to bring that person as close as possible. Writing that first congratulatory email can be hard, but it feels like the right thing to do. Then, I become a fan. Follow their blog, etc. It’s my way of telling God, “I’m wrestling this sin!” And it’s resulted in some great friendships! 🙂

  43. I’m grateful that there are people further on than me, so I can see what to do.

  44. Thanks for your honesty, Rachelle. Whenever I begin feeling envious of some other writer’s success, I force myself to count my blessings, and I usually come up with quite a few (as all of us could).

  45. Susan Bourgeois says:

    I was just thinking the same thing Lindsay.

    I also realize, in most every case I’ve heard about, the author has paid his dues in some way.

    I get motivated when I hear great stories of success. I also receive a reality check. Most all of us have heard of the numerous times a writer was turned down by an agency before their manuscript was accepted.

    It takes perseverance to be successful in this business.

    I think it all comes down to the belief in one simple statement, “Why not me.”

  46. Ann Bracken says:

    I learned this lesson years ago when I couldn’t get pregnant. My friends and coworkers were all having babies, but I never did. I would be happy for them, then cry that I didn’t have the same blessing in my life.

    The greatest lesson was that it was possible to celebrate someone else’s success with the understanding that it doesn’t prevent my own. I now have four beautiful children whose mothers couldn’t care for them. God does answer our prayers, we just have to be patient and open-minded to the possibility it might not happen in the way we expect.

  47. Great post, Rachelle. I think we just need to focus on the fact that “for everything there is a season.” There will be seasons when we’ll be on top, and there will be seasons when we’re on the bottom. But wherever we are, and whatever we’re doing, God is there beside us. And if we can focus on that, then we realize that it doesn’t matter where we are in the world, because being with God–and doing His will–is all that matters.

    Regarding writing in particular, I try to remember that all the people I see having success “paid their dues,” so to speak. They had to take the same steps I’m taking now to be successful.

  48. CG Blake says:

    Envy is an unhealthy and unproductive emotion. You said it best, Rachelle, “Gratitude is key.”

  49. Jill Kemerer says:

    Oh yeah! Spend enough time trying to get published, and you can’t help but feel envy. This isn’t a business where you earn a degree, apply for a book deal, and boom, magic happens! It’s subjective and often doesn’t make sense.

    But I’m with you–my journey is MY journey. It doesn’t matter what is happening with anyone else. And I don’t want to live my life concentrating on what I don’t have. Yuck.

    Thanks for the encouragement today!

  50. Susan Bourgeois says:

    Envy is ugly. That’s how I feel about it.

    Envy is hurtful when it is directed toward you. Envious comments are often made to downplay a person’s success.

    I know it hurts more when it involves your children. I think it’s hard to explain “envy” to a child or a teenager.

    I think we are all capable of feeling envious at times because we are human. We all wish to be validated in certain areas of our lives.

    I think it’s understandable to feel slightly envious of a friend in an area where we too are striving to reach a similar goal that is rewarded with strong recognition.

    It’s another type of envy when it crosses a line that proceeds to diminish the other person’s success.

    It’s worse when that person hears the hurtful comments.

    To me, that’s when envy takes on a whole new meaning.

    I can’t begin to tell you the countless times I have had to explain to my children how to handle hurtful, envious comments related to their looks or achievements. It can break your heart over and over. I think many people can relate to what I’m saying.

    I have a sister-in-law I admire who is highly intelligent.

    One day, years ago, when she was visiting from out-of-state, I opened up to her about one of the latest dilemmas of hurtful, envy type comments that were made towards one of my daughters.

    She shocked me with her response. I will never forget it for the rest of my life.

    She happens to be one of the most kindest individuals I have ever known.

    She simply stated in a nonchalant manner, “Why wouldn’t they be envious of her.”

    My interpretation of that comment is the simple fact that we’re all human and most of the time, it’s nothing personal, it simply feels personal at the time.

    Envy is ugly but unfortunately it seems to be a part of being human.

    • Timothy Fish says:

      I suppose you could take that comment in more than one way. In a way, it seems like a compliment. If someone has reason to envy someone, then the other person must have something to be proud of.

      • Susan Bourgeois says:

        You’re correct. I did take it as a compliment and she opened my eyes in a new way.

        I was able to understand that it’s a part of human nature.

  51. I have little trouble with envy in the area of material things. I can cheer and applaud my close friends and relatives who have succeeded in early retirement while I seem to be always struggling and starting over. This is because I can see clearly the hard work, right choices, and how they have “paid their dues.”

    The envy, the sour grapes, appear when a younger or less seasoned writer comes crowing about landing a publisher and I have read their work, seen that the craftsmanship, wisdom and world view offered is less than mine; yet my manuscript languishes, unpublished. Mutual friends affirm, cheer, celebrate the fledgling; and I feel diminished, discarded. That is how envy manifests itself in me.

  52. I actually just blogged about this very thing after reading the new John Green book!

    http://lightsallaround.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/not-only-neurotic-but-a-writer-too/

  53. Irene Smith says:

    Envy is something I never feel. My mother always taught us to envy no one, as you do not know what personal issues they may have, and because you must be grateful for what God has given you. So whenever I would feel that twinge of envy trying to surface, I remember her words. What is envy really? Is it a feeling of injustice or unfairness? Why would someone else’s success make you feel envious? I have a big problem with getting overly upset about true injustice. I mean TRUE injustice. That makes me crazy and downright vigilante. (In thought, not action) But even in cases of true injustice, I do not feel envy for the opressor, for the oppressor is without character, devoid of dignity, and ultimately ostracized.

  54. Marielena says:

    Needed to hear these words right now and get back to focusing on gratitude and trust. Many thanks, Rachelle!

  55. Timothy Fish says:

    Can I point out something? Envy and jealousy are two very different things. Envy is resentment when someone else gets something that we desire. Jealousy is intolerance toward rivary or unfaithfulness. There are a few uses of the word jealousy that are easily confused with envy, especially when we don’t believe someone has the right to be jealous, but unlike envy, which is generally wrong, there are instances where it is right and proper to be jealous. For example, a husband has a right to be jealous of his wife’s affections and a wife her husband’s affections. But it would be wrong for a husband to feel envy toward his wife because of her success in some area of life.

  56. Susan Foy says:

    I can so relate to this. A woman in my writers group was published years ago, while I still struggle on. I agree that gratitude is the key, and faith that God has us where he wants us. Doesn’t always come easily though…it is a journey. Good to remember that even if I get published some day, I may still have to battle envy, so it’s a good lesson to learn now.

  57. I never thought of an agent’s envy over another agent’s deal – but you know, I guess that does make sense!

    I usually rock along fine – I love talking about other authors’ books and their successes and I cheer them on. But every so often, that envy bug will bite me on my butt. Usually, it’s when I’m feeling down about something, or tired. And most always it’s when the other author is similar to me or my novels in some way, so that I start to compare and wonder where I “went wrong” and why I am not “doing what they are,” and on it goes.

    I then have to remember this is a journey – and I’m in the part of my journey that even a short time ago I would have envied myself! So, that’s that! And then I find my gratitude for what I have and where I am.

    nice post . . .

  58. I don’t know if there is any hope for me. I was born with green eyes. Maybe I can get colored contacts?

    I am jealous of other’s skills. Why can they write a first draft in 6 weeks when it takes me a year? Whine, whine, whine.

    Like I used to tell my children, I need to tell myself. “Take that up with God.” I need to also tell myself, “Get over yourself.”

  59. Great post! This is something we all struggle with as we work so hard to produce excellent writing then see others find success beyond what we’ve achieved. Envy and jealousy show us how wicked our sinful hearts really are–such a green, slimy feeling–that’s why coveting made the Top Ten, definitely a root sin. As soon as I recognize it, I start repenting and praising God for his timetable for me (reminding myself of the “don’t compare yourselves…” verses). But I recently came across this quote that reminded me of God’s unique design and plan of me as well as the need to rest in who I am and what he has planned for ME: “I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.” (from “10 Steps to Stay Alive to the Beauty of God’s World” by Jonathan Parnell on the Desiring God website). As a reminder, I copied that first sentence onto an appropriately green-colored post-it and stuck in right where I can see it at my work area. God made me to do something no one else can do (I remind myself), not even that person who is currently making me green. I shouldn’t demean the design or the plan of the Sovereign God of the universe by wishing I had something he didn’t give me. It’s a good reminder. I look at the green post-it often.

  60. Oh yeah, you nailed it. I handle those feelings as you do. However, I really appreciated the reminder that I am exactly where I should be. Somehow that one gets lost for me.

    This post was also affirming because I literally just finished praying about my lack of gratitude. And then I opened your blog. Funny how that work, eh?

  61. Words to live by — not just for publishing, but for life.

  62. Thank you, Rachel, for your honesty and your encouragement.

    Jennifer Dougan
    http://www.jenniferdougan.com

  63. Sue Harrison says:

    Thank you, Rachelle, for reminding us that we take a huge step toward thwarting envy when we focus on gratitude.

    When I have trouble with envy, it’s in the areas where I find my self-esteem – writing and music. Since I’m an absolute klutz, I’m never envious of the athletically gifted, just amazed at their abilities!

  64. angie says:

    “Jealousy is a wasted emotion,” as my dad always says. The success pie isn’t cut into a finite number of slices, so it wouldn’t serve me well at all to begrudge someone else vs. being happy for them. I guess it’s hard not to compare oneself to others sometimes. Maybe that’s why envy is one of the Seven Deadlies. 🙂

  65. M. A. Golla says:

    Bless you for posting this! Just had a friend crowing about her #3 spot on Kindle with her RS. I’m happy for her, but I’m tired of allowing her joy to make me feel like a loser . . . and I don’t even WRITE RS!

    My path is my path with all it’s twists and turns and dead ends. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but sometimes I wish I could walk along the path a little faster. 🙂

  66. carol brill says:

    Your post reminds me of the saying “comparision is the theif of joy.”
    good to be reminded God has a plan for me and the outcome isn’t always the one I picked but it’s always the right one for me.

  67. I think you can use jealousy / envy in a positive way…to inspire yourself to reach the same goal. The important thing to remember is that it’s not a zero-sum game. If “Bob” gets an agent or a publishing contract, that IN NO WAY affects whether or not I will.

    What I’ve been trying to find is the word that is like jealously or envy, but is completely “positive.” In other words, “I’m happy for you my friend, AND I wish it could be be, TOO,” versus, “I am happy for you, but it should have been me instead.”

    Any ideas?

    • Timothy Fish says:

      The best thing is probably to just leave it at “I’m happy for you,” but if you must bring up the fact that you wish it were you also, you might say something along the lines of “Wow! I know firsthand how difficult it is to do that. I’m really happy for you.”

    • Davey says:

      Michael, maybe something like: Your accomplishment has motivated and inspired me.

      • Timothy / Davey —

        Thanks for your comments. Your words are great words to share. What I’m trying to find is the word for the emotion — what *I* feel — that is sort of like envious or jealous, but without the subtext of “It should have been me INSTEAD of you.”

        Does that make sense?

        • Timothy Fish says:

          Got it.

          I don’t know that envy requires that we feel that it should be us instead of the other person. If your neighbor buys a new car and you go out and buy one because of it, it is still envy, even though you don’t want their car, you want your own. But the word you might be looking for is fear or worry, since seeing them acheive or obtain something you have your eyes set on reminds you of your concern that you won’t reach your goal.

  68. Lisa M Buske says:

    Rachelle,

    This was an inspiring post. When it comes to keeping my eyes green only with the color God painted them, my first reaction to my friend’s publishing success is always of joy and celebration. Yet at some level there is an envy that could easily turn one’s heart so I go to the Word immediately. If God allows me to hear the word “no” or “not right now” then there is a reason and I need to trust Him. He is in control – in His time. This encourages me to keep writing and I LOVE to celebrate with my friends. When God beleives I am ready, it will happen.

    Lisa M Buske
    http://lisabuske.weebly.com

  69. Jessica Kent says:

    I’ve been having this very discussion with a friend of mine lately! I even just blogged about it. Yes, I think it is all about focusing on where I am, what I’ve been given, and trusting that there is a greater plan for my individual writing. I think it’s easier, too, not to get jealous of others who have gotten an agent or get published because every writer is doing something different. No writer can walk the same exact path as another.

  70. Just before I read this post I was thinking about what makes a writer. Nowadays there are so many Conferences, Retreats, Workshops, Courses and helps available to those who can afford them. Are these things in and of themselves what make a writer though? I don’t think so, it’s knowing you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing at the right time, with the gift God has given you. This stops the green eyed monster!

  71. Jackie Ley says:

    I have a friend in my book group who achieved a two book deal with a reputable publisher last year, securing a sizeable advance after a bidding contest. We went for dinner at my friend’s house on the day she received her galley proofs. She was so excited – I was excited for her, but…. On the drive home I commented to my husband that I felt like she’d stolen my life. Next day, my scripture reading was in 1 Samuel 1: Hannah not only had to cope with being barren but she had to put up with her husband’s other wife, Peninah, blessed with many sons and daughters, taunting her day in day out for years. But God had his plan for Hannah and ‘in the course of time’ he answered her prayer. That passage really helped me, not because my friend was taunting me – far from it – but because it emphasised that sometimes God adds an extra challenge to that of waiting and hanging in there, that of seeing someone else’s dreams come true ahead of our own.

    • Lisa M Buske says:

      Jackie,

      I love when God both encouragent, reminds, and rebukes me through His Word. He is ever faithful. At writer’s group last night someone shared the verse God gave her in the morning, Psalm 96:3 “Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.” (NLT) She reminded us to each write and publish in the way God gifted us. Some of us are meant to blog, or do the church bulletin, fiction, non-fiction, devotionals, or a newsletter to name a few. We only need to wait on Him. I hope this verse is an additional comfort to you. 🙂

      Lisa M. Buske
      http://lisabuske.weebly.com

  72. Neil Ansell says:

    I try to think that I am not in competition with others; I am in competition with myself, to write the best book I can.
    You have to develop a thick skin as a writer – when the rejections end, the reviews begin, and there has not been a book written yet that has been universally loved. Even runaway successes end up suffering from a backlash.
    The worst review I ever had, in a national newspaper, was by another writer, whose book had come out the same week as mine and was not selling half as well. My publishers warned me about the review and I chose not to read it.

    • Thank you for sharing.
      Perhaps the reason I have not yet achieved success is that my skin is not yet well developed. Just hearing what happened to you makes my tender skin turn ashen.

  73. When I was a young singer, I sometimes looked at Steve Greens and Larnelle Harris and wished I could be like them. My bedroom was my stage and my hairbrush became my microphone. I sang along with them and imitated their sound as best I could. Of course, I am neither Steve nor Larnelle. One day, as I was reading C.S. Lewis, a great truth appeared. Envy is the desire to usurp God’s authority.

    All gifts are from God, lest anyone should boast. We have no right to brag on our accomplishments, because they are made with talents we received. Even the very desire to work hard to achieve is, in fact, a gift. Therefore, for someone to envy what another person has is the desire to play God and reassign gifts. When believers see this truth and own it, we realize that it is good for others to have what they have. We do not glory in the person or what they have, but we give glory to the God who gave the gift.

    There is no greater freedom from envy than that which comes in the words, “They are more gifted than I. Praise be to the Giver of the gifts!”

    • Timothy Fish says:

      Imitation is an important step in the learning process. I see nothing wrong with studying the work of successful artists and looking for ways to make our work include the elements of their style that we think makes their work great. Envy seems to take on a different form in that we look at the success of other artists with no appreciation for what makes their work great and convince ourselves that our work is more worthy than theirs.

    • Very well stated. We are all unique and perfect in God’s eyes.

  74. EnnisP says:

    Not a story but an observation.

    Each stage of progress – agent signing, book deal, whatever – broadens the road it doesn’t end it. It brings more responsibilities and scheduling demands.

    I believe you wrote a post about that recently.

    And the best way to prepare for the acceleration brought on by success is, as you said, cultivate your abilities and opportunities.

    Brilliant!

    It’s hard to be consumed by envy when your enjoying the success of personal development.

  75. Stephanie McKibben says:

    You’ve summed it up as competitors are not enemies. I’ve observed some people have a mind-set that competition is a bad thing.

    Most consider competing with your-self is fine. But I believe bad sports-man-like behavior, being a “poor-sport” or taking one’s less than ideal outcome personally is the culprit for making competition the “bad apple”.

    When you come from a secure belief that you are doing all you can and giving all you have and are proud of your work, competition can push you further than you can push yourself.

    Fortunately, I can’t think of another group that is more competitive and, conversely, supportive as a whole than writers. Most writers support the effort of their fellows. They applaud others triumphs because they know how difficult it is to complete projects let alone get published. Even those who have talent have to have determination to continue writing. Writers understand that competition makes them grow. They also mumble under their breath and swear to themselves they need to do better.

    Change your mind about competition and a whole new world awaits you; one with friends to cheer on, cohorts to show-off to, and like-minds to conspire with. Your competitors have something in common with you. In life that might mean you’d be friends. Competition is what you make of it. Competition is not your enemy, insecurity is and I think you are already most the way to that spiritual place of peace.

  76. Brian says:

    I’m envious of this guy:

    http://andrewskurka.com/

    He’s done so many amazing trips.

    And I find myself spending more and more time hiking and tweaking my camping gear than writing. I hike pretty much every weekend and hit the gym at least four times a week. I know, I should be writing, but I always feel lazy when I’m sitting on my butt.

    Help me find a good balance between exercise and outdoor activities and writing. Instead of finishing my third book that I think is good enough to pitch, I’m thinking about going to Peru.

  77. marion says:

    Like!
    FB-sharing this one!

  78. Vicki Orians says:

    Thank you for this post! It’s good to keep my envy in check, especially when I’m so eager for representation. I think I get most jealous when debut authors immediately jump to bestseller lists and get movie deals. I always think: “Man, I wish that was me!”.

  79. Beth K. Vogt says:

    ” … if I begin to compare, I’ll always find a way to come out a loser.”
    Profound insight there, Rachelle. And isn’t funny how when we compare ourselves it’s often in a “what they have versus what we don’t have” kind of way?
    And, yes, I’ve struggled with being happy for a writing comrade even as I batted back a twinge of envy. I don’t think I’ve ever succumbed to “It should have been me” but more a “It could have been me …” reaction.

  80. It’s always powerful to see these emotions acknowledged publicly. Somehow, it takes away some of their power to throw a spotlight on them.

  81. I think envy is a symptom of selfishness.

    When I feel envious of other writers, it’s usually because I’m busy thinking about myself compared to them. So I try to do things that will force me to stop it… I make time to critique other people’s work without a recompense, or write a positive note on somebody’s blog. And when I have forgotten myself… it frees me. 🙂 The problem is never the other people, the problem is always me. Who cares if they are brilliant? Wonderful that they are!

    Just like you said… easy to say but hard to do.

  82. Thank you very much for this blog post. I struggle with the same dynamic where I’m truly happy for my friends’ successes, but I also think, “That could’ve/should’ve been me…”

    In some way, it makes me feel a little less alone to know agents go through the same emotions. I’m not sure why I thought agents would be immune!

  83. “Gratitude is key.” YES!

    I sometimes struggle when I see anyone being published for the first time. It’s as though I believe there is a specific, finite number of “ins” and with each one, my odds slide.

    I also feel that twinge when I discover a blogger who writes in a way that I really admire. I’ll find myself thinking,”Okay, be more funny.” or “Try being a deeper thinker.” Of course, I quickly snap back to the reality that all I can be is who I already am. And it’s working just fine for now.

  84. jeremy bates says:

    great post! its true… there’s always someone more successful than the next person… best thing i think of to avoid the green-eyed monster is to do what you want and do it the best you can do it

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