This is a really interesting topic to me, and I considered titling this post “Women prone to the sin of envy need to stay off social media.” It wasn’t meant to be a command or anything, just merely an observation which even female Christian leaders and teachers are coming to admit is becoming necessary. You won’t hear them come out and say it so directly, they’ll usually just advise a woman to take a break from social media or not spend too much time on it, but it’s becoming more and more obvious that even modern women in church leadership are now recommending it for the mental health of the women who become dissatisfied with facebook or instagram (or blogs, etc.). Even with staying off of social media however, women with this particular sin still have to do some major heart-work & self-evaluation to keep the envy from creeping into their real life interactions.
The sin of envy is a lot older than facebook, so staying away from blogs, facebook, instagram, etc. for them isn’t really a “cure,” for their sin. It’s a heart issue that stems from not focusing on thankfulness, God’s perfect provision, and being content with what God’s already given you. And it’s pretty tragic that it seems to take some women well into their late adulthood before they ever learn to really deal with it appropriately.
So even though it’s not a “cure-all,” staying off social media entirely for women who have the sin of envy, is a very good start to get them on the right path spiritually.
I love Proverbs 31 Ministries, it is extremely rare that I disagree with something those women post about – they are usually very on point, and the post linked above isn’t some exception here. ❤
Karen Ehman wrote a post for Wednesday morning titled “Coming Apart at the Seems,” where she wrote the premise for a woman tempted to envy happy people on social media, is that it makes it “seem” like their life is so much better than the woman who’s envying.
There are so many points you could make on this that it’s hard to know where to start, but the main difference I’ve found between women who go to social media and come away feeling depressed, unhappy, and dissatisfied with their own life, and the women who can have social media and still be happy seeing other people’s happiness, is a heart issue. One woman is sinning with social media use (envy) and another woman isn’t, at least not in that particular way. Karen doesn’t cover in depth the women who are able to have social media and enjoy seeing their friends’ happiness because the post would probably be too long, but since I find myself always in that category, I can offer some perspective from the other side.
I’m weird. I find myself even being happy for people I don’t really like if I see something good is going on in their life – it really makes me happy for them and even contemplate if I’ve misunderstood or misjudged them. Unless I’ve determined they are an evil person (like terrorist-level evil), I really don’t want to see anyone come to harm. But again, envy has never been a sin that I’ve wrestled much with.
Karen pointed out in her article that the women who feel depressed or dissatisfied after scrolling through facebook and seeing people doing positive things or being happy, compare their own life to the ones they’re viewing online. This one word compare is so important here. If you compare your life to someone who looks to be happier than you or has more material or physical blessings than you, you may feel more depressed. If you compare yourself to someone who isn’t doing so great in life or failing at things – even making bad decisions, you may start to feel superior and prideful. The correct response is humility and understanding blessings but also that life isn’t fair for everyone. Some people really will have much worse life outcomes than others, and it’s not always their fault. Karen doesn’t touch on those outcomes, but I think it’s important to know and understand that comparing either way can lead to deception and sin.
Her examples were interested to me when coupled with the word she chose “seems” though … keep in mind, this is from her perspective of “comparing UP:”
- “Wow. Seems like she sure has academically brilliant children. Student of the month awards for both her kids at once?”
- “Man. Look at that fancy dinner with her smiling husband. They seem so in love and happy. And we could never afford a night out on the town at a restaurant like that. Nope. Our nights out are often spent in a spat while we split an entree at a chain eatery to keep the cost down.”
- “Oh lovely. A workout selfie at the gym. Look at how flat her stomach is. And those sculpted arms? Seems like she has oodles of time to devote to exercise and a body and appetite that cooperate. Maybe I’ll finally start my diet tomorrow. Or next Monday. Oh, who am I kidding? Seems I’ll never look like that.”
Ok, so since this is so interesting to me (nerd alert), I want to analyze #1… first, the opening word “Wow.” looks like she isn’t really that impressed in a positive way. Usually, when I say “Wow” about something, there’s real enthusiasm there and it’s expressed more like “Wow!…” Then we see her go on to say it “seems” like this other woman has academically brilliant children because they both have gotten Student of the Month awards. Academically “brilliant” may not be an accurate description exactly, Student of the Month surely isn’t that hard to get at most schools, but more of an exaggeration in Karen’s mind. People who think grandiosely about others tend to have problems idolizing them or feeling really bad when compared next to them – it’s like they don’t realize that they’re exaggerating this other person’s life and success at all. Again, “Student of the Month” awards don’t necessarily mean her kids are “brilliant.”
From my point of view, when I see someone’s kids succeeding and doing really well, I’m really happy for them or even have a feeling of being over-joyed. It’s weird… and I don’t know why I’m like that. Granted our oldest has gotten all-A’s this year at a really hard science and math school, if he was doing very poorly seeing other people’s kids succeed may have affected me differently. When you’re comparing from a point of view of lack (having a child that doesn’t succeed in school) it may be painful to see friends who have kids who easily excel.
Analyzing #2…. “Man. Look at that fancy dinner with her smiling husband. They seem so in love and happy. And we could never afford a night out on the town at a restaurant like that. Nope. Our nights out are often spent in a spat while we split an entree at a chain eatery to keep the cost down.” Again, with the opening word “Man.”, she just doesn’t sound that happy or really impressed with what she’s viewing. She notices the dinner is “fancy,” that the husband is smiling, that they “seem” so in love and happy. The “seem” word is what is so interesting to me in Karen’s post. I get it that there are people who are really faking it on social media… who really may have horrible marriages but put up a front that they are really happy and post pictures to try to “prove it,” so maybe “seems” is the correct word to use just in case. But I’m certain it’s impossible for those people to keep faking it 100% of the time, eventually an unhappy marriage will make it’s way to the light in one way or another.
I can think of 2 couples my husband and I know who are great examples of truly happy and fulfilled marriages – we know them from real life circumstances, and their facebook posts reflect accurately what is going on in their reality. It is so clear from us knowing them personally, they really DO have more joy and happiness in their marriage than the average person does. A LOT more joy and happiness. They are much older, too, so this happiness and joy over that many years is pretty rare to see. When they post a picture of them out on a date and the husband is smiling, they really ARE having fun and loving being married to each other in that moment. You aren’t seeing something that “seems” to be happiness, you’re getting a tiny glimpse into their reality.
After saying to herself that they “seem” so in love and “seem” so happy, she promptly compares her date nights to theirs. We have never had a ton of money, so our date nights really are very cheap and I feel I can relate here at least in that way. Want a look inside my mind? For some reason, I just don’t feel envy when I see our friends or family out on expensive dates and enjoying themselves. Those kinds of dates are rarely in our budget (maybe once or twice a year at most!), but even if they were, we just don’t spend money that way and probably wouldn’t enjoy it if we had enough to try. If you are familiar with my family’s background I’ve written about before, you’d know that my parents acted like spending money lavishly was insane. They had a “millionaire next door mentality” almost to the extreme, and thankfully, I married a man who thinks the same way. So we actually really enjoy going out on frequent dates and spending practically nothing! It’s like something we’re passionate about or find extra happiness in – in NOT spending money on fancy dinners, etc. So I don’t relate to her being upset or feeling down that they can’t afford fancy dinners. When I see those posts on my facebook, I still feel happy for the couple (we need more happy marriages in this world!), and move on with my life.
“Our nights out are often spent in a spat while we split an entree at a chain eatery to keep the cost down.” This is sad! I have a ton of respect for Karen for being so honest so we can really get a look into what envious women are thinking, but this is tragic to me. If a married couple can’t even enjoy date nights – nights that are usually carefully planned and away from kids where you can relax and enjoy each other – without fighting (“our nights out are often spent in a spat”) then it makes me wonder how often they fight when they’re doing just day to day struggles?? So from our point of view, when we have date nights, we’re out having fun and enjoying ourselves, and we try to do this to the max. We laugh and tease each other, we play and flirt and make sexual innuendos – we REALLY enjoy our time alone together and it always ends in having sex when we come back. No fighting, no little spats, just fun, massive flirtation, adventures together, and good sex.
Sometimes we do snap a picture and post it to facebook, but usually we’re too busy to remember. But if another woman with Karen’s point of view sees our photo on her news feed and has her same line of thoughts, saying it “seems” like we’re so in love and so happy, she’s getting a peek into our reality. She really may have a marriage where they fight often when they’re supposed to be out having fun and relaxing, but that’s not the case with us. Seeing a glimpse into our reality makes her feel bad and feel tempted to envy, or tempted to feel superior by thinking that “well it’s only PART of their lives and who knows what’s REALLY going on.” If she knew the whole story, how this is just how our marriage operates and how satisfied we are by the end of the date night, cuddled up together after a fun adventure and great sex, feeling both so loved and fulfilled emotionally inside that it feels like a real-life fairy-tale, she’d probably even feel worse about her own marriage knowing our reality was so much better than hers presently. It’s sad 😦 her reality is the direct opposite from our reality – both in the way we view things (not desiring fancy dinners, being optimistic in hard times financially) and in what’s really going on (fighting every time they’re out on dates versus us hardly fighting ever).
One can see why staying off social media altogether for women prone to this sin would be a good thing, especially for their mental and spiritual health.
Analyzing #3….. “Oh lovely. A workout selfie at the gym. Look at how flat her stomach is. And those sculpted arms? Seems like she has oodles of time to devote to exercise and a body and appetite that cooperate. Maybe I’ll finally start my diet tomorrow. Or next Monday. Oh, who am I kidding? Seems I’ll never look like that.”
So again with the opening words of her facebook observations, this time it even sounds sarcastic. Maybe it’s not, but it would make sense with the depressive attitude she has while scrolling. Again, I really commend Karen for being so open and honest here. So she looks over this woman’s selfie at her flat stomach and sculpted arms, and then makes a judgment that it “seems” like this other woman has “oodles of time to devote to exercise,” and has “a body and appetite that cooperate.” I think I can relate here somewhat since I see those selfies all the time, too. But being a part of a fitness group where even extremely overweight women lose ALL the weight overtime, I know for a fact it doesn’t take “oodles of time,” each day to get your body to feeling great, fit, and strong. Realistically, all it takes is about 20-30 minutes a day… that’s it! It may take a couple of years doing that though, and usually does for women who have over 100 pounds to lose, but when you’re not that far from your goal (50 pounds or less), it just doesn’t take that long if you’re consistent and committed to yourself succeeding. So it’s sad from Karen’s viewpoint, she already shoots herself in the foot before she’s even begun by making it “seem” to out of reach. Then we see her talk about “maybe” starting a diet soon, but there’s no real conviction or commitment in “maybe,” so it’s highly unlikely she’ll really try hard enough. And finally she ends with a definitive sabotaging statement, giving up and claiming she’ll “never look like that,” anyway, so why try?
Just very tragic to see how these women think when scrolling through facebook or instagram (which is worse since it’s nothing BUT pictures). The woman taking the selfie really IS probably much happier in her life – not just with her body, although that definitely adds a lot to a woman’s overall happiness, but also the fact that she’s getting up and going to the gym, meeting people there, making friends to support her in her fitness goals and filling her life with positivity. It feels incredible to take care of yourself physically, and it’s kind to yourself to prioritize your health – the rewards bring so much joy and happiness to a woman’s life. While Karen is sitting down in an already depressive mood, staring at this other woman’s picture who is out and about, having fun and making positive life choices to make her life happier, it’s only Karen who is the one hurting in this case.
You can read the rest of her post to find out how she brings it around in a lesson of finding contentment in your own life’s choices. It is a great message and was fun to analyze for me. So again, staying off social media doesn’t “cure” the sin of envy, that sin will still show up in real life when the woman is tempted to feel that way about coworkers or relatives or friends. The only thing that seems to combat envy on social media is developing the habit of thankfulness or living every day with “Thanksgiving,” for the blessings in your own life. Women prone to this sin also need to be wary of feeling prideful if they delete their facebook or social media – using the attitude that it’s “all nonsense anyway,” and looking down on the women who can still have it and not be tempted to envy. Realizing with humility that it may be too much for them to keep a pure heart, or that they have a heart issue with contentment and gratitude so facebook isn’t “for them,” is a much better response than merely feeling superior because they don’t use it anymore.
Something to think about:
If a woman is going through a very rough period in her life, or has experienced many losses all at once, staying off social media altogether would be extremely beneficial to her until she fully heals emotionally and spiritually. It would be extremely hard to be going through trauma or tragedy and still keep a grateful heart when seeing the happy and beautiful posts/pictures of her facebook acquaintances every day. It’s almost cruel 😦 . Same goes for a woman who is already in a depression. Seeing happy posts or pictures will either tempt her to sin or tempt her to become bitter and more resentful at her own internal feelings. It’s hard to be happy for other people when you’re depressed – and that’s normal, so giving herself grace and time away from a computer is taking care of herself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.