Celebrate the abundance in the lives of friends

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The condition has a name: Facebook Envy.

It’s symptoms include twinges of resentment, pangs of self-pity and thoughts of “Why not me?”
Some blame it on technology itself, although the condition has been around since B.C. — Before Computers.

For those not familiar with Facebook, it’s a Website where friends, which can be people you actually know or people you might sort of know, post news or random thoughts or pithy messages for their friends and sometimes the general cyber public to read.

According to an article in The Washington Post, “Facebook envy” happens when a person is scrolling through status updates and reads a happy announcement or reflection.

For example, every once in a while people will post about how much they love their significant others or about a child’s accomplishments. New moms post about their adorable babies and pregnant moms post about their bumps.

I have fellow writer friends who post about their latest book project.

It’s not much different from getting annual holiday letters from people who try to condense a year’s worth of news into one page. They tend to focus on the highlights and omit the humdrum.

“My life is awesome! My relationships are amazing! My kids are incredible! My dog never pees on the floor!”

A common Facebook request goes: “Today is Wonderful Husband (or wife or child) Day. If your husband/wife/child is as perfect as mine, copy and paste this into your Facebook status.”

For many, that’s when Facebook envy rears its ugly green head.

The infertile envy those who have children; the unmarried envy the married. Some blame it on technology, as if this type of envy wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Facebook, but it’s been around long before social networking sites.

Take Mother’s Day. For seemingly a million years motherhood has been celebrated, especially in church, as it should. We wouldn’t exist without mothers. But what about those who aren’t mothers or who have lousy mothers or no mother? We try to be sensitive to them, of course.

Or when pastors preach sermons on marriage most are careful to include, or not exclude, those who are not married. “God loves you guys, too.”

That said, there seems to be a shift taking place and the envy folks are trumping, according to the Post article. People are increasingly feeling guilty for announcing their good news, for talking about their pregnancies and wedding or anniversary plans or even for admitting that they love their spouse.

Or they refrain from sharing good news lest they cause their friends to feel bad.

There’s something wrong with that.

One person commented, “Reading this article forced me to face my responsibility for my own feelings …  Is it really fair for us who haven’t yet been blessed with marriages or children to hold our friends hostage to our own hurt feelings? Why should people with great news feel like they have to tiptoe through a minefield to share it?”

As I see it, and as the Bible calls it, envy is a sin. It’s being discontent with the life God has given you and wanting what someone else has that you don’t have.

If that’s true, and it is, then it’s wrong to alter one’s communication to accommodate another person’s sin.

That said, there’s a line between sharing good news and flaunting it. It’s all in the delivery and motivation.

Another person commented, “The best cure for Facebook envy is to stop focusing on what you lack in your life, but choosing to celebrate the abundance that is in the lives of those you call friends…. Bless others for what they have been blessed with or wallow in despair for what you do not have: Guess which is the better choice?”
Or as the Apostle Paul exhorted, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:15-16). We can do both without excluding either. And for those who are prone to envy, and I am one of them, we need to call it what it is — sin.

If you feel this way too, post it into your Facebook status.

Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via e-mail at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.