We don’t hear much about the Seven Deadly Sins these days. Well, actually, we hear a lot about these seven sinful attitudes, but just not by that old-fashioned title. Rather than avoiding these destructive behaviors, our modern culture now embraces pride, anger, covetousness, lust, envy, gluttony, and sloth. Just watch TV for a while. The primetime shows are filled with lust; the commercials are filled with covetousness and gluttony; and the cable news talk shows are overflowing with anger.
Of the seven deadly sins, envy is the most joyless. At least with the other six, a person will get a brief feeling of satisfaction—before all the negative aspects overwhelm him. But with envy, there is no satisfaction at all. Medical researchers tell us that envy is one of the leading causes of unhappiness.
And in my view, one of the most powerful sources of envy—and therefore a major source of unhappiness—is Facebook. Do a Google search for the phrase, “Facebook leads to depression.” You’ll get a mere 145 million search results, many of which link to articles describing the undeniable connection between Facebook usage and unhappiness.
What exactly is envy, anyway? Well, the dictionary defines it as “a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else's possessions, qualities, or luck.”
The key with envy is making comparisons. And I hate to admit it, but I know about this first-hand. As someone who is well into my middle-age years, and as someone who has very little retirement savings set aside right now, I keep hearing about old schoolmates who went to work for the government, and now in their late 50s or early 60s, they’ve retired with a guaranteed, lifetime pension that often pays them more each year than I currently earn. And they will receive this steady income for as long as they live.
In my case, if I retire right now, I can live very comfortably—for about seven months. After that, I’m in big trouble.
So, when I compare my situation to these retired state employees, especially when I consider that I could have gone to work for the government back in the early 1980s, I get frustrated and sad, and most of all, envious.
Envy, of course, is not limited to financial comparisons and personal possessions. People are envious of other folks’ good looks, their youth, or their musical talent. Any particular aspect of a person’s life can be the source of envy in another person. The possibilities are unlimited.
The thing about envy—and again, this is from first-hand experience—is that when a person is comparing himself to someone else, and resentfully longing for what that other person has, he is not focusing on his own blessings.
For example, when I think about a particular former classmate who is now collecting his big government pension and playing golf every day, I have lost sight of the all the good things in my life, such as: I have a job that I really enjoy. Even if I could afford to retire, I probably wouldn’t right now. Also, I’m healthy, I have loving family and friends, no mortgage on the house, and many other wonderful things.
Our culture encourages us to be envious, often with the relentless political demand for “fairness!” But as a result, we have become a very unhappy society. We must stop the constant comparisons we make with others. It just makes us miserable. Instead, we need to count our blessings. Literally. Go make a list of all the good things in your life. And number one on that list should be this: God loves you and offers you eternal life in Heaven through faith in His Son Jesus. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Then the next thing to do is delete your Facebook account. No, really. Do it today. You’ll be amazed at the major reduction in that terrible deadly sin: envy.