We know the Old Testament story about Joseph who was favored and loved by his father, Jacob. He was given the most desirable things, including a coat that was far more colorful than any of his brothers’ coats. His brothers harbored feelings of hate and envy that caused them to throw their brother away, selling him to the Ishmaelites.
In the course of our lives, we can also be overcome by envy just as Joseph’s brothers were. When we see our peers being so incredibly blessed and appearing to be happier than we are, we can feel jealous. However, our church leaders have taught us that envy is not inevitable, and can be overcome. Here’s what they said:
WHERE ENVY COMES FROM
Envy roots from comparing ourselves to others, which causes us to feel that we are less than them. Just like Joseph’s brothers, who saw that, “their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.” (Genesis 37:4) Seeing that their brother received more love than them, they began to feel that they had to prove their worth by getting rid of him.
President Ezra Taft Benson taught us that, “It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” Sometimes we see our neighbors seem to have more than we could ever have. This can lead us to making comparisons toward one another and presses us to acquire more in ways to appear “better” than them.
One thing that we can do to eliminate the urges to compare is to lose ourselves in the service of others. As we avert our attention from ourselves and instead serve others, we discover our own worth and happiness. By doing so, we eliminate the element of competition that strips pride and envy from ourselves.
WHY ENVY CAN BE OVERCOME
It can be difficult for us to detect envy, which is often disguised in other feelings and behaviors. Most of the time, envy is masked by the tendency to harbor hate and criticize others. Additionally, we may feel as though we should act in a way to cause others to feel envious as well. Seeing as it’s already difficult to detect, how much more challenging can it be to overcome it?
President David O. McKay explained that “The gospel of Jesus Christ is the crucible in which hate, envy, and greed are consumed, and good will, kindness, and love remain.” The good news is that envy can be overcome through the gospel of Jesus Christ. The natural man is subject to suffering from numerous negative feelings, including envy. Through observing the teachings of the gospel and putting effort into applying it, we can indeed overcome feelings of jealousy..
WHAT ELIMINATING ENVY CAN DO
“Live free from envy, malice, wrath, strife, bitter feelings, and evil speaking… wherever we meet them. Live so that our consciences are free, clean and clear.” President Brigham Young said, teaching that living free from all negative feelings including envy makes our consciences clean.
The scriptures teach us that “no unclean thing can enter into the kingdom of heaven” and that only through “the repentance of all their sins and their faithfulness unto the end” (3 Nephi 27:19) can we be able to return safely back home.
We need not feel envious of others because we all are equally loved by our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, no matter our abilities, status in life, or achievements. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught that, “We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. We’re not in a race against each other… The race we are really in is the race against sin, and surely envy is one of the most universal of those.”