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When Jealousy Interferes with Spiritual Growth

by Mary Ellis

Writers often create characters with some rather profound lessons to learn. If we’re smart we can learn those lessons along with them. Working in the competitive world of publishing, I often struggle with ego and pride. Authors are asked to blog and Facebook, tweet and pin, to draw attention to their books and ultimately to themselves. Available slots on publishers’ lists are shrinking and will continue to do so. So what does that bode for Christian authors who wish to glorify God with their stories?

Jealousy and envy are two deadly sins that every author must grapple with. God gave His people specific instructions in the Tenth Commandment: Thou shalt not covet. As Christians we know this reaches far beyond the neighbor’s ox or donkey, and thus becomes one of the hardest laws to keep. Human beings are naturally wired to be envious. We spend much of our lives jealous of something or someone. As children, we yearned for a brand new bicycle or a trademarked Barbie doll if Grandma could only afford a knock-off. As we grew older we turned green if a classmate received a new Mustang for their birthday. Women have often coveted longer, curlier, or straighter hair, or to be taller, shorter, thinner or more voluptuous. Males aren’t immune to those emotions either. My husband envies men who still have thick heads of hair.

When couples get married, they strive for a new set of goals: a house with more bathrooms, a bigger yard, or a better school system so their children will excel. We might think ourselves content until a neighbor starts living the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Then the green monster rears its ugly head.

As I get older, I’m no longer envious of possessions. A larger house means more to clean, while a bigger yard means more lawn to mow. I am content with my current home, car and financial circumstances. But as writers we’re subject to a different type of envy: so-and-so receives a contract with a huge publishing house, a five-book deal, several award nominations, or lands on a bestseller list. Once we attain that list, then there’s the top position to strive for. Does this sound familiar? I battle the monster by not reading reviews and not checking my numerical placement on lists. But I assure you, this is an ongoing battle.

Lately, I’ve been envious of the ability to write faster and thus, have more time for relaxation. I might not covet a mansion in a gated community, but show me an author who breezes through deadlines while maintaining a social life and my vision clouds a greenish hue. I am making progress. I joyously celebrate the accomplishments of my peers, including those I will never achieve. But if a writer turns her book in early, while redecorating her kitchen and learning to speak Mandarin, she had better keep the last two details to herself.

What Happened on Beale StreetMary Ellis has written twelve award-winning novels set in the Amish community and several historical romances set during the Civil War. Her latest, What Happened on Beale Street, is second of a new mystery series, Secrets of the South, from Harvest House Publishers. Magnolia Moonlight will release in August. Before “retiring” to write full-time, Mary taught school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate. Mary enjoys traveling, gardening, bicycling and swimming, and lives in Ohio with her husband, dog and cat. She can be found on the web at: or on Facebook.

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3 Responses to When Jealousy Interferes with Spiritual Growth

  1. Mary, I’m with you on the writing faster thing! The others, too, sadly. But we’re human. The thing is as you say–battle it.

  2. LOL! Your last line cracked me up, Mary! But there’s a lot of truth to that too! Excellent post!

  3. Yes, I agree with your last line. I don’t want to hear about it either. However, about the writing stuff: I try to remember and consider that, as Christians, we are all on the same team. A catch in the End Zone by one of our members is points for all of us. So go, team!