A Vicious Cycle

posted by Andrea | 07/12/2013

a vicious cycle

Several weeks ago, I heard a fabulous sermon that really got me thinking.

The sermon was about envy, and the main points (or at least what I took away) were:

1. When we criticize others, it’s often because we are envious of them in some way.

2. When we are envious, we are not content.

I like simple messages like that — however, I’d like to go two steps further, and say:

3. When we are not content, we don’t achieve simple living or enjoy life..

4. When we don’t enjoy life, we tend to criticize others more… and then the vicious cycle starts all over again.

I realize the topic of this post is a little heavy for a summer weekend, but this message (along with a few emails and previous blog posts) got me thinking about an idea for another blog post… below are the thoughts and words that transpired!



Part 1. When we criticize others, it’s often because we are envious of them in some way.

This part of the message hit me hard for two reasons:

1. I am often the brunt of lots of criticism (from people I don’t even know) via rude emails like this one, blog comments, and Facebook messages.

Sometimes these criticisms really bother me, but most of the time I remind myself that these people don’t actually know me, and they are probably just envious of what they THINK my life is like.

2. I often catch myself mentally criticizing the way others do things.

Of course I’m “smart enough” not to verbally criticize straight to a person’s face — and I don’t think I’ve ever criticized anyone via email or on Facebook — but I still think it. However, I don’t know the whole story either — and maybe deep-down, I’m a little envious of these people for some reason or another.

Either way, this message was a really good reminder that any time we criticize someone else, there’s a good chance we are envious of them in some way.



Part 2. When we are envious, we are not content.

It’s hard (maybe even impossible) to be 100% content 100% of the time. Don’t you think? I know I’ve struggled with contentment at points in my life, and I have a hunch I’m not the only one.

I do NOT think the problem is when we strive to do “more” or be “better” though.

You all know I’m a huge fan of personal growth, setting goals, learning more, trying new things, making life improvements, tackling house and yard projects, etc. etc. That’s all fine (in my opinion), as long as we’re doing it for our own personal satisfaction.

I think the issues arise when we strive to do “more” and be “better” ONLY to prove ourselves to someone we are envious of… or worse, to make others feel envious of us.

Do we keep our house clean because we like it clean or because we want to make our friends THINK that we have it all together and have a perfectly clean house all the time?

Do we bring gourmet foods to the party because we enjoy cooking and baking or because we want to show off to everyone else?

Do we volunteer to help on one more committee because we feel we have the skills and the time to serve, or is it just so we can gush about how much volunteer work we do at the next office party?

If we are jealous of what others have and are constantly striving to “one-up” our friends, neighbors, relatives, or co-workers, we will never be happy or content — and yes, I know this from personal experience :)

If you’re nodding your head along with me, don’t feel bad. You’re not a horrible person, I promise! Like I mentioned earlier, it’s nearly impossible to be 100% content 100% of the time. We’ve ALL been there, but it doesn’t mean we can’t try harder… right?


enjoy life

Part 3. When we are not content, we don’t achieve simple living or enjoy life.

This is another biggie for me because simple living is one of my personal goals — and who doesn’t want to enjoy life a little more!

I know from my own life and from helping so many others, that life is easier to enjoy when it is relatively simple and organized. No, your home doesn’t have to be spotlessly clean and you don’t need your meals planned out for the next 8 weeks — but a little breathing room, feeling comfortable in your surroundings, and having some sort of plan in place does a world of good when it comes to enjoying life and feeling more content (at least for me).

If we constantly wish we had more (time, money, organization, clothing, etc.) or better (jobs, homes, cars, vacations, etc.), there’s a good chance we will spend way too much time focusing on what we don’t have versus being thankful for all the wonderful things we DO have. Then we get bitter and think how unfair our lives are and how everyone else seems to have so much going for them while we have such a rough life.



Part 4. When we don’t enjoy life, we tend to criticize others more.

Life has many bumpy roads, hills, valleys, high points, and low points. I don’t think we need to be happy all the time and I don’t think it’s bad to be frustrated (or even really really angry) when we feel we’re being dealt all the crappy cards. However, there’s a difference between being frustrated with your circumstances and totally hating your life.

After Nora was born, I honestly felt like I totally hated my life. I felt like everything I prided myself in was crumbling around me faster than I could pick up the pieces.

Nora was such a difficult baby, we had our very problematic international student living with us at that time, I was SO tired, and this was all during the holiday season when everyone is supposed to be happy and cheerful.

I can vividly remember how negative I was at that point — I mentally criticized anyone who posted pictures of their napping babies on Facebook, anyone who gushed about how great motherhood was, and anyone who “bragged” about  how well their children were sleeping (this is unfortunately still a really hard topic for me).

In all of these situations I was definitely envious of those moms who seemed to be so happy with such good babies. Why did I have to deal with such a difficult baby? Why wasn’t I so happy to be a mom? It’s easy to criticize others when we don’t have all the facts — which is why social media can be so dangerous.

Even earlier this week when I posted about my “don’t do” list, I got rude emails accusing me of “judging” those who did spend time on the activities I didn’t spend time on. But seriously, there was no judging! It’s fine if you spend your time differently that I do; actually, I think that’s to be expected. However, based on the emails I got, I have a hunch that the rude comments were said out of envy for what they THINK my life is like and the fact that they aren’t content with parts of their own life.


And that brings us right back to #1 - criticizing because we are envious.

It’s such a vicious (and sometimes, never-ending) cycle that we are all part of at some point or another.

Unfortunately, I have no awesome tips or advice to stop the cycle. I have no 3-step solution to solve the problem.

All I have are words that will hopefully resonate with some of you and encourage you to stop and think before you criticize someone else (mentally or verbally), the next time you start to feel envious or discontent with your life, or the next time you just feel a little blue.

I know the words of that sermon have stuck with me the last 2 months, and I just felt like I wanted to share my thoughts with you.

How’s that for some ‘light’ weekend reading!

image credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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  1. Danielle Eblen


    I struggled with envy for awhile (FB and otherwise). It felt SO good to learn to let it go and be happy for (rather than jealous of) my friends and the happiness in their lives. I think that the more I encourage others, the more encouragement I get back. It is easy to eliminate people who can’t do this from my life.


  2. Doreen@househoneys


    You do realize that your level of maturity rivals most 60 year olds? I’d love to meet your parents. Well done.


    Ann Reply:

    Amen! I agree 100%, and I am a grandma who is amazed by Andrea’s writing skill, and God given common sense! We need more of this :)


  3. Maria


    You have been blessed with so many gifts and writing is definitely one of them. Thank you for sharing so eloquently your thoughts and ideas that serve to help and improve others. I think those who unjustifiably criticize you, should just try and count their blessings and be grateful for your blog–for all the great ideas to improve home, finances, family life etc., for all of your hard work! I think those who criticize you are simply people who are extremely immature and just need to grow up. I am truly sorry you have received such nasty emails from such people as you do not deserve anything but thanks and gratitude for generously sharing your amazing ideas with us. I really look forward to reading your blog everyday because it is so down to earth and refreshing; I just wished it existed 30 years ago! Some people just don’t realize how lucky they are. Keep up the great work!


  4. Jenny C.


    This made me think of a verse: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6. This was the theme verse for a Women’s Conference I went to called “Contentment in Christ.”


  5. Living So Abundantly


    I’ve also heard that critical people lack confidence. If they bring the focus on others, it is off of them and their inadequacies. Constructive criticism given sincerely often produces growth on both ends. I LOVE the verse, Romans 12:15: Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. When we do that regularly, it is so much easier to share your heart with someone. As a blogger, I think you have done that. Not that you need my pat on the back. However, you have shared posts where you struggle and posts where you succeed. I appreciate that you are real and raw. Thanks for including your readers on your journey. :)


  6. Ann


    Have you heard this saying before? The word hatred is used, but it could apply to envy OR

    HATRED, like an acid, destroys the vessel in which it is stored,

    more than the one on whom it is poured.


    Andrea Reply:

    Oh, I like this Ann — thanks for sharing!


  7. Jerita


    You are such a gifted young woman! Keep doing what you are doing! As long as you are glorifying God, (which you are) just know that there will always be negative people who will try to discourage you.
    Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
    Keep it up, girlie!!!! We’re ALL proud of you!!!


  8. Kim in ID


    Great post! You are wise beyond your years and I enjoy reading your blog!


  9. Kim


    It’s evident you put a lot of thought into this. Well-spoken! Just wondering, what passage of scripture was the sermon based from?


  10. PW


    I grew up in a household where my mom did not work, back in the 60′s. Therefore if it took her 3 days to clean out the frigde or clean a bathroom, no problem, she had the time. I work full time and long hours, but had no model as to how to get house chores done while working, so it has been a big struggle. I find your blog as well as others a huge help to get me organized, and live well in this different age. While some people minimalize your contributions I find them extremely helpful, yours particularly. Pay no attention, move on and let them voice their opinions. Maybe they will move on also. To a different blog. As for Nora’s evil eye, she sure knows how to communicate. That is one evil eye!!


  11. 52 Ways for More Serenity in Life and Home :: ignore negativity (week #30) - Domestic Serenity


    [...] More to Read:  3 People You Need to Ignore Online (for bloggers, but a great post for all) :: A Vicious Cycle [...]

  12. Diana


    Great thoughts :)

    This goes right along with something I’ve been mulling over for awhile: it’s often hard to learn from someone else’s strengths without feeling guilty that you’re not just like him or her.

    And feeling guilty often causes us to criticize (as a way of relieving the guilt we feel).

    I’ve been trying to learn what I can from others who are willing to share (like you, Andrea, with your amazing organizing and clutter-free-living ability!) without feeling like I’m failing if my house, project, meal, or conversation ability is not to the same level. Thank you for sharing the things you do, because I’ve improved so much in organizing our house. I still have a long ways to go, so you keep writing and we’ll all keep learning :)


    Andrea Reply:

    progress…. right Diana?! Thanks for the kind words — I’m so glad some of my tips and ideas are working in your own life!


  13. Sarah


    Andrea-This is one of the best blog posts I’ve ever read, honestly. It’s so true, all of it. Thank you for putting this all down into words.


    Andrea Reply:

    Aw, thanks Sarah :)


  14. Anna


    Hi Andrea!
    I loved your post ‘vicious cycle’. I struggle with ‘quick to criticize’ syndrome too.
    Thanks for the reminder:) I just found your blog on moneysavingmom.com and love it. I am just at the beginning stages of making a blog here in B.C, Canada. Wish me blessings! (I don’t believe in luck;)
    Anna x


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