by Mary Ellis
Jealousy and envy-God gave His people specific instructions in the Tenth Commandment: Thou shalt not covet. But we as Christians know this goes far beyond our neighbor’s ox or donkey, and thus becomes the hardest law to keep. Human beings are naturally wired to be envious. We spend much of our lives secretly jealous of something. As children we wanted a brand new bicycle or a trademarked Barbie doll, because our grandmother could only afford a low-priced knock-off. When we grew older and heard about a classmate getting a new Mustang for their sixteenth birthday, we saw red…or rather green. Women have been known to lust after longer or curlier or straighter hair. We yearned to be taller, shorter, thinner or more voluptuously endowed. Men no doubt aren’t immune to such emotions. My guess is a thick head of hair becomes a sought-after male characteristic.
When we married and started families, we strived for a new set of goals: a house with more bathrooms, a bigger yard, a garage to avoid early morning ice-scraping, or a better school district so our children might excel. We might think ourselves content with what we have until we see someone living a lifestyle of the rich-and-famous, then the green, two-headed monster rears its ugly head.
As I age, I find myself no longer envious of possessions. A larger house means too much to clean while a huge yard only equals additional yard work. A more prestigious career comes with long hours and less family time. I have found contentment with my home, my car, and my present circumstances. Why own a Monet when I can view one at the museum without paying high insurance premiums?
But as writers we’re subject to new objects to covet. So-and-so lands a contract with a large publishing house, or receives a five-book deal, or more award nominations, or reaches a bestseller list. Once we attain this list, there’s always the top position to strive for. Any of this sound familiar? I have fought the monster successfully by refusing to read reviews or consult my numerical placement on lists. But it’s an ongoing battle, I assure you.
Lately, I’ve been envious of less concrete qualities such as the ability to write faster with more time for true relaxation. I might not covet a mansion in a gated community, but show me a multi-contracted author who breezes through deadlines while still maintaining a personal life and my vision takes on a greenish hue. I am making progress. I honestly celebrate the accomplishments of my peers, including those I will never achieve. But if that writer just finished her last book early, while maintaining perfect nails, redecorating her kitchen and learning to speak Mandarin…she’d better keep those last three details to herself.
Mary Ellis grew up near the Amish and fell in love with them. She has now written nine bestselling novels set in their communities. When not writing, she enjoys gardening, bicycling, and swimming. Before “retiring” to write full-time, Mary taught school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate. Her debut Christian book, A Widow’s Hope, was a finalist for the 2010 ACFW Carols. Her current release is Living in Harmony from Harvest House.