There is a new TV show that has piqued my interest. It is #FWBL. It stands for Friends with Better Lives. It is a comedy that centers around six friends who each think the other has a better life. This new show is not really new at all--it is simply a recurring show that plagues human life. We call it envy.
Envy is a discontentment that we feel when we look at others lives or possessions and desire to have what they have. It is driven by our perception of other's lives as having qualities that we find lacking in our own lives. We measure our reality according to our perception of the reality of another and focus on what we lack compared to the other. Envy focuses on only one part of who the other fully is.
In the history of the church, this is one of the seven deadly sins. That is, it is something that alienates us from God and neighbor. Ancient church theologian Thomas Acquinas says that envy is the opposite of charity. "Charity rejoices in our neighbor's good, while envy grieves over it." Charity, or love is that which is of God and when we love, we connect with the holy one. To look at what another has and to wish you had it instead of their having it is to separate yourself from those bonding experiences that love helps create.
And, it often results in blinding us to the gifts of life that we do have. Our perception of others lives is limited to what we can see and what we assume is happening. Our experience of our own lives is more complex and confusing and therefore may look like it not as good. But, the reality is that most people live confusing and conflicted lives. Most people are a jumble of delight and pain, joy and suffering. Most people have self-doubt and deep fear and anxiety that tends to rob them of their happiness and contentment.
When we see others in a more realistic life, we can live with more empathy. We can see that, while they have somethings that we might wish we have, they also live with the same frustrations and fears that often plague our lives. When we see that, love, compassion, charity are more likely to be our response. When that happens, we discover the presence of God who is loving connection.