When I was in the third grade, I watched Jenny Tripp with great reverence every single day, keeping exact track of one thing: her outfits. And by my count, Jenny Tripp never — and I mean never — wore the same thing twice our entire third grade year. Maybe she had three turtlenecks, but one had little dancing snowmen, another had flying unicorns, and the other had rainbow Care Bears. I am telling you. She never repeated a single garment. Not. One. Time. And I would know because I was a laser beam when it came to Jenny Tripp’s wardrobe.
Watching her and her garment factory of a closet caused something inside me to believe, truly, that this was the pinnacle of living.
Jenny Tripp was the same girl who brought a lunch of crab to our class field trip to the Padres game when the rest of us had sweaty sandwiches. She had naturally occurring ringlets, and was also the girl whose grandparents had an entire authentic bear rug, including the intact head, spread out across the entryway of their massive mansion perched on a mountain.
In a word, Jenny Tripp was rich. And I didn’t want her crab or her mansion or her bearskin rug. But I for sure wanted her closet.
This was my first taste of envy. Fixating on someone else’s abundance in a way that creates nothing but personal lack.
Here’s how we do this in adulthood, and it’s oddly not dissimilar to how it looks in the third grade:
Nitpick every area of your life, including but not limited to: your minivan’s cleanliness, your partner’s social skills, your reading habits, your wall decor, your water intake, your countertops, the overall look of your feet, the overall look of your partner’s feet, your pores, your hair density, your nail beds, your dog’s capacity for obedience, your kids’ capacity for obedience, your ability to keep plants alive, your last family vacation that wasn’t a vacation, what’s underneath and in the cracks of all of your furniture, how much you pray, your use of chemical-ridden household cleaning products, the number of unanswered emails or texts you currently possess, your handwriting, your partner’s heart for polar bears, your grout, and the exact color of your teeth.
Scrutinize — being sure to make a lot of sweeping and grandiose assumptions — every area of everyone else’s life (see aforementioned list), making direct comparisons of what you know about yourself to what you don’t know and can’t see about them.
If you are looking for a foolproof way to ruin your joy, equanimity, fulfillment, and contentment in life, this strategy works every time.
Love does not envy, it says in 1 Corinthians 13. It’s right there, plain and (not-so) simple. Envy has no place in a life of love. I think this is because envy is a way we are, at the core, incredibly unloving to ourselves. Punishing, even. Envy encourages us to get super impatient with our own limits, peculiarities, idiosyncrasies, and realities, and then whispers in our ear that if we were different, we would be better.
Envy is also a way we are incredibly unfair and unloving to others, turning them into caricatures of ease and perfection instead of real, messy, fleshy humans. Or worse, envy breeds contempt in us because we believe others are trying to make us feel bad about our humble station of repeat outfit wearing.
Jenny Tripp, if you’re reading this, please know this has nothing to do with you. You did nothing to make me envy you. You just skipped into school with everything I ever wanted to be and have, and my black heart did the rest. Please accept my sincerest apologies if I was ever snarky to you. My 8-year-old self had yet to learn the invaluable lesson of day-three hair and yoga pants.
Leeana Tankersley is a mom of three, a writer, and a hope warrior. She is the author of 6 books, including her newest, Hope Anyway. Leeana is the managing editor of The MOPS Magazine and a co-host of the MOPS podcast, “Moms Unscripted.” Learn more about Leeana and her work on IG @leeanatankersley and on FB @tankersleyleeana and her website www.leeanatankersley.com.
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