Where does envy hit you in the workplace?
- Someone else gets a promotion you were after (or perhaps even a position you did not even apply for!)
- A colleague is applauded for work on a project and your contribution was not noticed or recognised
- You feel that you have been treated unfairly compared to how another person in your workplace has been looked after
- A workmate gets allocated a better office, desk, stapler, bonus, stapler …
I think I have been guilty of all of those and could easily add a few more. ?The Apostle James makes this observation:?‘For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there your find disorder and every evil practice.’ (3:16, NIV)
Envy is worse than anger according to Proverbs: ‘We’re blasted by anger and swamped by rage, but who can survive jealousy.’ (27:4, The Message).
Stevens and Ung cite a number of examples from the biblical narrative of envy, jealousy and rivalry at work:
- Cain who longs for God’s approval envies the acceptance of his brother’s sacrifice
- Rachel’s longing for a child leads to envy of her sister’s fertility
- Saul longing for the people’s approval is driven to distraction by the popularity of young David
- David himself longs for another man’s wife with disastrous consequences.
- Matthew notes that Pilate read the motivations of the chief priests accurately when they called for the release of Barabbas in preference to Jesus: ‘… it was out of envy.’ (27:18)
It’s hard not to be envious in workplace environments where ‘winning is prized … [and] Envy can be legitimised by company policies, social norms and national legislation’ (p.52) ?Envy even attacks us in terms of spiritual competitiveness – wanting to appear to preach better, pray better, care better than someone else. ?All good things of course, but even our best desires can be undermined by a spirit of envy can’t they?
Steven and Ung identify a progression in envy that demonstrate its insidious nature and suggest some remedial actions:
- Looking – seeing what other people have, observing the salary package, car, clothes, successes etc. of others leads to resentfulness and anxiety. ?Remedy: Guard your eyes – stop looking.
- Self-pity – we start to feel sorry for ourselves and our thinking becomes impacted by our envy. ?Remedy: Stop feeling sorry for yourself – beware of ‘poor me’ and victim thinking.
- Guerilla warfare – ?we verbalise our thoughts, anxieties and resentments (rumours, undermining, snide remarks, faint praise etc.). ?Remedy: Don’t spread the slightest rumour or do anything that could be considered character assassination.
- Full-blown war – words become actions. ?We plot the downfall of others, enlist co-conspirators, deprive others of happiness. ?‘You’re probably the most miserable person in the office right now’,?write Stevens and Ung! Remedy: Teach yourself to be grateful for all that God has given you, big or small (Habakkuk 3:17, 18, Philippians 4:11-13)
The opposite of envy is found in Jesus’ command to love our neighbours as ourselves – when we do that, rather than tearing people down with our words and actions, we will demonstrate kindness and putting people at ease in our company. ?More of that next week!?
Next time: Kindness ? Putting others at ease by rejoicing in their gifts and achievements. (Chapter 16)
Stevens, R. P., and Ung, A. (2010).?Taking Your Soul to Work: overcoming the nine deadly sins of the workplace.??Grand Rapids, Michigan. Eerdmans