When You’re Envious of All the ‘Likes’

Envy: it’s the bone-rotter. The joy-corroder. Buzzkill. I feel it pervade as I look at photos of impeccably adorned, whitewashed Pottery Barnesque mantles, slapdash art with a gazillion “likes,” Instagram accounts of people who seem to have a bottomless financial resource which allows them to travel constantly. And finally the last straw – a photo of my friend with none other than Bruce Springsteen (OK, I am very happy for her … but still jealous).

And the envy festers and grows and I feed it with thoughts like: How do they have time to funnel their dish soap from unsightly plastic containers into attractive antique carafes, when I find simply keeping the floor trash-free every day (not stuff-free, mind you, just trash-free) to be a nearly all-consuming exercise?

As I roll up and store away in the closet yet another drawing I’ve spent hours and hours on, I ask why I seem destined to languish in artistic obscurity while popularity comes so readily to others. And why can’t I have a trust fund and/or an anonymous benefactor who funds a glamorously nomadic lifestyle for my family?

Then the questions turn into accusations and become more malevolent: Hardly anyone likes your art because it’s just not that good. You should give up. It’s pointless. Your house will always be a disaster. Everyone else has figured out some essential key to life that you’ll just never have. YOU will always be a disaster.

The other day I laughed out loud at a phrase I read in a new article, “Click Farms.” We are so overcome with a pathological thirst for “likes” and affirmation of our online images that there is an industry devoted to generating fake ones. Quantity trumps quality, trumps authenticity at all, apparently, and somewhere there is a farm with rows of green, tender, dew-kissed “likes,” nearly ripe for indiscriminate dispersal.

I don’t like owning up to this envious part of myself. It feels ugly. And yet, it’s there. I shame myself for even wanting “likes,” for craving recognition. “God is pleased,” my husband says when I finish a drawing. “Who cares if anyone else is?” I know he’s right. And yet, an unease festers in the cellar of my heart, an unease that greedily demands more. Because envy, if we let it consume us, is an insatiable monster. There is nothing – no amount of accolades, recognition, lavish parades mounted in your honor – that can subdue the beast. But I believe there is a pure and good desire buried somewhere in the corroded heart of envy.

What is that bud of pure desire that our brokenness corrupts? Dallas Willard says because we are made in the image of God, we care about our creations. If we make a sandwich, give it to someone and they drop it to the floor and stomp on it, he says, we care. God created us to relish his creation with him – so we naturally want someone to appreciate and relish our creations with us. It’s when we turn our eyes from this to the creative work of others and begin comparing and ranking and judging. Instead of rejoicing at the kaleidoscopic bouquet of talents in all its endless, beautiful variety, a desire for mutual delight becomes a hunger for “better than” and “more than.”

Ashley Lande
Ashley Lande is a Jesus freak, artist and writer who lives in a tiny town in the Flint Hills of Kansas with her husband, two kids, two dogs and a small flock of chickens. Her work and blog are at www.ashleylande.com.

Related Posts


Recent Stories