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!

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criticism

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.

 

envious

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.

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crticize

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.

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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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74 comments

  1. JoDi

    07/12/2013

    I hope the positive comments you receive here about how valuable your contibution is far outweigh the negativity you’re receiving via email. I would hate to see you stop writing because of a few people who feel threatened by a different prespective and feel the need to attack you.

    If you had posted a “don’t list” that included a bunch of reasons why the items on it were a waste of time, valueless, etc. I could understand someone being upset, but that’s not what you did. It was simply a list of things that don’t fit into your life right now and an invitation to share what things we have on our don’t list. I saw it as a way to affirm to anyone that deciding to say no to things that don’t fit your current goals is OK and nobody should feel bad about that. I can’t imagine anyone having expressed that more clearly or nonjudgmentally. If someone managed to be offended by it, I have a feeling they spend a LARGE chunk of their time being offended by a LOT of things. I just wish they didn’t have your email address. 😉

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  2. Sandy

    07/12/2013

    Amen sister.
    I think you tell us what’s right for you and your family. I have not heard you say…”do it my way or else!”
    You have a baby that won’t sleep and some women struggle with infertility. Some women have weight issues and some women don’t have enough groceries to feed their family well. Some women have never experienced the love and devotion of a husband and some women have been brutally abused by a man. Some of us have the best parents in the whole world and some have never felt the love and support of family. We have all walked such different paths. No one else sees the world exactly as I do…. isn’t that just a miracle?
    I try to remember that my opinions are just that….my opinion. Last time I checked I wasn’t the queen of the world. I didn’t see that title in your bio either 🙂 I don’t read that ‘queen view’ in your posts either…. you are a good thinker, processor and writer. I love new and different ideas. That’s what I appreciate about your blog. Some posts apply to me, some don’t.
    Sometimes I like to share my opinion, but I really try to keep it positive. That’s how I read your posts, too.
    Personally, I try to remember…….What ever I do and say should be pleasing to and/or glorifying God.

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  3. Barb

    07/12/2013

    Thank you for sharing your insight! I recently read a post on FB by Lysa TerKeurst that addresses the trap of comparing ourselves with others: http://pinterest.com/pin/228487381067928278/

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  4. sam ferrell

    07/12/2013

    I’ve just recently come to find your blog over the past few weeks and I have to say, I enjoy it so much. Your down to earth nature is refreshing. I find lots of bloggers have a judgmental or holier than thou attitude that turns me off, and you never come across that way. You eloquently preface much of your opinion with a good dose of, “this is just who I am”. You come as you are and I never get the feeling you are trying too hard to be more than what pleases YOU.

    I really enjoyed this post as well.

    Best of luck on your future endeavors!

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  5. Teri

    07/12/2013

    Thank you for this, it’s started me thinking.

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  6. Sue

    07/12/2013

    Honestly Andrea, why do you care? There are always going to be people that disagree or not like what you have to say. So just be a duck and let it roll off your back.

    Some people just like to put your blog down cause they can. I guess it makes them feel better.
    I guess when you put yourself and your family out there for all the world to see . you are going to have to expect the back lash.

    hang in there.

    Sue in NJ

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  7. Missy

    07/12/2013

    This post really resonated with me today, so thank you for writing it. Contentment has been an elusive quality lately, and I miss it. I may need to take a closer look at how I look at things.
    Also, a blog, by its very nature, is a “web log”. A diary of sorts. We just choose to share it with others. If they don’t like what they read, they don’t have to read it. Criticizing your content is rather ridiculous, especially something as harmless and lovely as pictures of your child.
    Thank you for sharing.

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  8. Elizabeth Falicki

    07/12/2013

    Hi Andrea,

    I just wanted to let you know – I stumbled across your blog at the end of last year when I was searching for some meal planning menu’s & I’ve been an avid reader ever since. I think you are doing a wonderful job with this blog. I find many of your posts very useful and relevant to my life – that is why I keep returning to your site day after day & week after week. Keep up the good work & thank you for sharing your thoughts, ideas & life with all of us!

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  9. Debbie

    07/12/2013

    Thanks for sharing so many different topics of life. God truly uses this to teach us so many different things in such a real way. I am so glad that you can keep on without letting the not so nice comments hold you back, or bring you down and understand the heart condition they probably come from. God also gave you a sweet little girl who does not sleep so good to spice up life and make you depend on Him a whole lot more. People like us who plan well and love things organized need reminders of who is in control. lol! You show us daily that you have a loving, humble and faithful heart. I as a reader I enjoy seeing and using your blog to teach myself how to help me with my life and household.

    Thanks

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  10. K

    07/12/2013

    Andrea,

    I do have a bad habit of looking to other people especially in my church and thinking of how much better they are than I am. Also wondering why they don’t seem to have any problems.
    Boy am I finding out just how wrong I am.

    Just this last 4th of July weekend, my husband and I were at a lake enjoying each other with affection. My husband noticed a girl kept watching us and looking to us like she wished she had what we did. If I am honest here. Little did she know that we have been separated for 8 months. (I only say this to make a point that we have no idea what is really happening in the lives of others).

    We all have our own journey and it TRULY is different for all of us and not easy for any of us. We are blessed though our trials to learn and grow…to better ourselves.

    Thank you for your blog I LOVE IT. And thank you for your post today.

    This weekend as I’m outside pulling weeds, I will just sit and ponder the words that you have shared with us today.
    THANK YOU!

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  11. Mrs. A

    07/12/2013

    Loved it! I truly believe criticism comes from discontentment in any way, shape or form. It’s something so easy to fall into and something were all guilty of. Thank you for sharing a bit of your faith. 😀

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  12. Melanie

    07/12/2013

    I try to take what works for me and leave the rest. When I see a snide or purposefully mean-spirited comment aimed at you or other bloggers, I feel sorry for the person who left it–they’re only hurting themselves. And I feel sorry for the writer. You are bravely sharing your gifts and insights and if they are going to be mean and critical rather than engage in a genuine conversation that everyone can benefit from, they should just move on.

    This post was insightful and brave, keep it up.

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  13. Sharyn

    07/12/2013

    This was refreshingly honest, and well expressed.

    It also made me think about the saying, “We don’t always get what we want – sometimes we get what we need.” If only we could all be better about understanding the “what we need” and growing from it.

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  14. Organize 365

    07/12/2013

    Andrea-

    I love reading your posts. Someone said, “Reading a blog is like reading a book as it is being written, one day at a time”.

    I am really enjoying your “book”!

    🙂
    Lisa

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  15. Holly

    07/12/2013

    Well said!

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  16. Five4FiveMeals

    07/12/2013

    I have always said judgment is just asking other to affirm your life decisions. If you’re living an authentic life, you really don’t have room to criticize others. But we are all guilty of it at some point.

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  17. Margret

    07/12/2013

    I agree. And it reminds me of something that has stuck with me since hearing it, that usually what you dislike in another person is what you don’t like about yourself. I think you do a wonderful job, you inspire me to be more organised, I’m getting there!

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  18. Sabrina

    07/12/2013

    Thanks for a great post! The end of your post reminded me of this quote I heard recently:

    “This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following: Stop it! It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters. I don’t know exactly how to articulate this point of not judging others with sufficient eloquence, passion, and persuasion to make it stick. I can quote scripture, I can try to expound doctrine, and I will even quote a bumper sticker I recently saw. It was attached to the back of a car whose driver appeared to be a little rough around the edges, but the words on the sticker taught an insightful lesson. It read, ‘Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.'” (Said by Dieter Uchtdorf here -> https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/the-merciful-obtain-mercy?lang=eng)

    Thanks for a great reminder!

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  19. Sherri

    07/12/2013

    Reading the beginning of your post reminded me of what Brene’ Brown once said (and she was quoting someone): “Don’t try to win over the haters. You are not the Jacka*** Whisperer.”

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    JoDi Reply:

    +1
    ROTFL Thanks 🙂

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  20. Kristy

    07/12/2013

    Very well said. Keep up your good work. I try to use you and Dave as an inspiration to my 22 & 20 year old daughters. You should be proud of what you have and the work you have done to achieve it.

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  21. Michelle

    07/12/2013

    This was really great and so true – some people just aren’t willing to admit their truths

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  22. Debby

    07/12/2013

    Well done again Andrea. Love your blog. I just read something about Beyonce’ and how she doesn’t let the haters get her down. She just keeps doing her thing. So true. Just keep doing what you’re doing. I love all your post and if it isn’t something that hits home with me. I just go about my day. Who has time for hate mail.

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  23. Katy

    07/12/2013

    Great post! When I was a newlywed, I felt so pressured to keep up with everyone around us, many of whom had been married for many years and were more financially secure than young newlyweds. A wise friend told me that I should be happy with what I have, and make the most of what I have. After hearing that advice, my whole attitude changed, and I am so thankful for her taking the time to share that advice with me.

    Also, I read a good book recently that touches on this very topic. It’s called “No More Perfect Moms,” by Jill Savage. It really highlights how moms shouldn’t compare ourselves to each other, but focus on being the best mom each of us can be.

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  24. Jen

    07/12/2013

    I really liked this post. Truly. One of the reasons I enjoy your blog is that you’ve never said you had the perfect solution to every problem and that you’re always right. You share your successes (which are many!) and your insights to other women who also just trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. Your posts are personal which I find refreshing. You don’t give a general tone that focuses on pleasing the masses. You give a honest, real life, open-hearted response to problems we all face. To me, this is more important. I think you come from a place of love and understanding which is friendly and welcoming, but personal is never pleasing to everyone. I appreciate that you’re different from me because I learn new things. Thank you for all the work you put into opening yourself up daily.

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  25. Michelle

    07/12/2013

    Two things that help envy every time: gratitude and service to others.

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    Barb Reply:

    I agree, Michelle…….gratitude for what we DO have, and service — doing something for others….good for envy AND good for depression.

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    Michelle Reply:

    Absolutely good for depression! I loved this book that explores that topic: 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life: Living the 4:8 Principle by Tommy Newberry

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  26. cathy

    07/12/2013

    Its so nice to know you are just human like the rest of us. We all have those thoughts every once in a while. Thanks for sharing something so personal It took a lot of guts. Again we come away more aware of these feelings. Thanks

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  27. Vicki VS

    07/12/2013

    Thanks! Great weekend food for thought. Well done, good and faithful servant.

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  28. Michele Daggar

    07/12/2013

    Your blog is one of my favorites! You are able to articulate so many common sense ideas and I just love it.

    I find myself reading blogs and being envious just like you said. It’s great you post things like this along with organizing tips and photos of your beautiful Nora. It reminds all of us not to focus so much on ourselves.

    Sorry if this sounds so gushy, but I really liked this post.

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  29. Beth

    07/12/2013

    I’ve been visiting your site for several months now, and so many times I’ve wanted to comment. I enjoy your blog very much, and I find it incredibly inspiring. You are such a positive person & I always feel better after coming here. It is confusing to think someone would send you hurtful messages; you have a way of writing that comes across as sharing ideas & concepts rather than preaching or trying to somehow conform others. Even though you may sometimes spend money or time in different ways than I do, i always enjoy hearing why you make the choices you do & find ways to understand why I make some of my own (yet sometimes different) choices. I don’t judge you for being different; i find the way you take time to explain your choices very interesting and helpful. Basically, thank you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, home, and life, with the world. So few people can say they make the world a better place, and I honestly feel you are one of those people.

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  30. Evie

    07/12/2013

    Thanks so much for this, Andrea.

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  31. Norma

    07/12/2013

    hi Andrea,

    Thank you for this. All your points are excellent but the one I liked most is when you mentioned that we or people get envious of what we THINK another person is living. That is so true! Because we can only see the surface or we can only see what other people wants us to see! And I think Facebook is a perfect example of that! 🙂

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  32. joy

    07/12/2013

    wow! What a timely post! The small group Bible Study I attend is working through Idol Lies by Dee Brestin. Much of what you wrote jives with her ideas about the things and people we put too much value on. Good thing that we over-emphasize and over-prioritize and turn into an idol. Things like the approval of others, control, children, a spouse or having [financial, emotional etc] security. These idols of the heart breed criticism, discontent, anger, frustration etc.

    Brestin’s suggestion is to fill yourself with God. Literally. Surrounding yourself with truth. For example, when I’m tempted to critisize another’s housekeeping in thinking: “her home is too neat… She probably never plays with her kids”, instead turn to truth. “Her life is not under my control. God has a task for me and I need to pursue my work wholeheartedly.”

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  33. Lori

    07/12/2013

    Love it, love it!

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  34. Audrey

    07/12/2013

    Sometimes it’s like you are reading my mind. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this. The atmosphere in my home and my family are also “happier” when I am content. God has blessed me tremendously . . . “The LORD is my shepherd. I shall not want . . . ” ~ HE provides for my every need. Great reminder today! Thanks!

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  35. Julie

    07/12/2013

    I guess not everyone was brought up with: “if you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything rule.”

    I am guessing that most of the negative/mean comments were from people that don’t have Blogs, otherwise they would know “how it feels to put themselves out there.”

    I have never taken any of your post as criticism or any other way then….I have found/discovered/made something that you may find interesting/useful or something you may want to try.

    Keep doing what your doing…not everything is going to work for everybody…one would hope people would just “take the info” they can use and “leave the rest”. I personally enjoy reading your posts. They are simple to follow, honest and to the point… and …that is they way I like it.

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  36. Becca

    07/12/2013

    I think this is the perfect way to end the week. There are so many opportunities each day that we could be envious of others and taking time to appreciate what we are blessed with instead of what we don’t have is not always easy, but definitely has benefits. Thank you for sharing, Andrea!

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  37. Stephanie

    07/12/2013

    And, (since you have a wide audience I understand why this wouldn’t be mentioned) our focus needs to be on the calling and place God placed us. It is ultimately for his glory and being envious and discontent is not God glorifiying.
    So thankful for our High Priest who we can boldly come unto in prayer and ask for help in these times.

    I think that was a very good example and very open with your readers confessing that you have thoughts in your head of judging others.

    This is something I struggle with. We have some close friends who just got married and have no kids. We have been married 5 years and have kids. They are into going out a lot, adventures, etc and want us to join. We don’t like spending money on eating out much, plus the cost of babysitter makes an evening out around $80. These friends go to micro breweries not Culver’s for a night out. I try hard not to judge them but I feel they spend their money frivolously, but it’s not my place to judge them.

    Anyway, I am sure you will get some grief, but as you said with the social networks we have it is easy to become envious and discontent. But instead we need to use these things as inspiration. It can be good to take a break if we are becoming angry and discontent.

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  38. Nuria

    07/12/2013

    Totally agree again , Andrea!!! I’m that kind of people who doesnt need too much and enjoy what i have… And as we say in spain … No es rico el que mucho tiene si no el que poco necesita…. And now people want to have more and more things and they are never satisficed… Thats the problem!!!….
    I love your thoughts and your post about them!!! Its not the normal way for young people nowadays!!

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  39. RR

    07/12/2013

    Thanks, Andrea….very insightful !

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  40. Jenny

    07/12/2013

    Well said Andrea! I think we all get envious at times. but you are right, the key to happiness is finding out what is important to you and what does bring you joy. I have been following your blog for years. I love it, there are some tips I love and follow. Some that simply don’t work for me. However, everyone is different. I think you do a great job on this blog. I just love it and it is the first one I check every day. Your honesty is so refreshing in the land of blogs.

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    Julia Reply:

    I agree with Jenny 🙂 Especially the part about your honesty… we all love to look at magazines and see perfect houses and pantries, but the truth is that is not real life. Your blog is REAL and I love reading it.
    This post made me think of a quote I recently saw on Pinterest, of all places. “Don’t compare your behind the scenes life with other people’s highlight reel” I feel that you are one of the few bloggers who shares her behind the scenes right along with the highlight reel. And for this, your readers are very thankful.

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