Beyond the banter: Envy can eat you up




Gordon is a good friend. We have spent some fun times together, but he is totally locked into ‘stuff’. He’s a busy person and he’s gadget mad and considers it a priority to have the latest versions. He has a good job and can afford to buy these things. I suppose when I was earning more money I was a bit more carefree, but I sometimes wonder whether for him it is an addiction. I’m probably about five years behind when it comes to the latest technology, but as we talked it became clear that he would find it very difficult to go back even a couple of years to what then seemed like a must-have piece of equipment. In his eyes going backwards represents a failure of some sort, and his fairly forceful insistence that I should upgrade my stuff was actually quite hurtful.

I’ve always wanted to be a good provider. I feel the weight of that responsibility. I hope I never lose that sense. But I sometimes feel self-conscious that my car is getting on a bit. Why should I? It runs perfectly well. Yet I feel slightly off the pace of other men whom I perceive to be more successful than me. Do you ever feel this kind of pressure?

Financial difficulties can leave you with feelings of uselessness and under-achievement. The trouble is we’ve all come to expect a certain standard of living. Some young couples expect to start out in life where their parents ended up after a lifetime of work. It was all made worse by the ‘buy now, pay later’ idea. When I was a young man there was a cultural shift from saving up until you could afford something, to buying it now on credit. After all, why pay more for it a year down the line if you could get it cheaper now, even allowing for paying some interest?

Men can feel an unspoken pressure to compete with one another. I know one guy who doesn’t watch adverts on television because he doesn’t want to know what the latest gadget is. He doesn’t want that pressure on top of everything else he has to deal with. Sadly, advertisers find ever more cunning ways of peddling their wares especially through the internet. It’s so annoying when adverts pop up uninvited. It’s almost impossible to avoid.

It takes will power to swim against this tide, to channel some of that drive to be a good provider into holding back on what we want and being happy with what we have. Let’s be strong enough to avoid the tendency to compare ourselves with others. Let’s not overstretch our resources just to keep up appearances.

It’s healthy to be content, but envy can eat you up. Proverbs 14:30 CEV.

Main photo credit: Rupixen via Unsplash

Bob Fraser

Bob Fraser is a singer-songwriter, men’s group leader and Regional Director for CVM aiming to open up conversations about life and faith.

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