The life of the body is a heart at peace, but envy rots the bones.  — Proverbs 14:30

 Last night, we were spending time with a group of friends when one couple started playing a video.  This couple makes funny videos fairly regularly, so this wasn’t odd.  (Though I’m sure anyone reading this can see what’s coming).  Sure enough, the climax/surprise of the video was that our friends are expecting a baby, due in October 2010.  A beat, then squeals of excitement, hugs, and congratulations filled the room over the triumphant music coming from the the TV speakers.     

This is a great couple.  They are going to be wonderful, fantastic parents.  Their announcement was nothing but pure and completely good news.  I wanted to be happy for them.  I should be happy for them.  But I wasn’t.  I felt sick inside.  I put on my best smile and said “that’s awesome” and “congratulations,” as well as asking some appropriate questions.  But I did not feel happy for my friends.  At all.  Instead, I felt a clenching tightness in my upper torso, a real physical sensation of…well, at first I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was, exactly.  Not sadness.  Not anger, or resentment.  Not annoyance.  Then it struck me: it’s jealousy.  Pure and simple.  And I felt it — felt it physically — in a different way than I can recall feeling any other emotion.  A hollow knot was growing in my chest.  In my throat.  And it felt awful.

As I sat there, smiling and doing my best to appear excited and happy, I began to feel sadness.  And this is important: my sadness was not over the fact that my friends are pregnant with their first child, and I am not.  I was sad because I had no happiness for my friends in this wonderful moment.  None.  I was devoid of one shred of a joyful thought for these truly good people, who had something truly good happen to them.

I will not let infertility do this to me.  This is not who I am going to be.  Though I may be walking in this “weirdly inverted world where an unwed teenage mother [is] envied,”  I will not become someone who is dominated by jealousy, such that I cannot muster up happiness when good things happen to people I love. 

I want to call this out for what it is: Envy.  It is not anger at injustice (which would perhaps be a more apt description of the unwed teenage mother example).  It’s not a righteous indignation that something good has happened to someone undeserving, or who doesn’t want it, or who won’t appreciate it.   Thomas Aquinas described Envy as a kind of sorrow: “sorrow for another’s good.”  That’s precisely what I felt.  And I think that whoever wrote the above Proverb (Solomon, perhaps?) was wise to say that this feeling will rot the bones.  It is the opposite of a heart at peace.

Writing this all down has already helped me.  I actually just started feeling a bit of joy creep in, thinking about my friends’ pregnancy, and I am thanking God for that.  It is a beautiful thing to feel true happiness for another person.  Perhaps even more beautiful when it is coupled with one’s own unfulfilled desires for that same good news that has not yet come.       

 **as an aside, if you haven’t read the Modern Love article I linked above, please do.  It is truly excellent, and a beautiful example of a marriage strengthened by infertility.