My friend Amanda got me thinking the other night about the 7 Deadly Sins. I’ve never given too much thought to “sins” in the traditional sense, and deadly always seemed a bit melodramatic to me. (To be honest, I mostly know about them because of that Brad Pitt movie, and I had to google them to remember all seven, which, in case you forgot, are Pride, Greed, Gluttony, Wrath, Envy, Lust, and Sloth.)
These seven traits, although less than desirable, are quite human in nature. They may be deadly, I suppose, in a spiritual way. To lose oneself in these superficial attributes surely creates discord with the true loving soul inside.
Amanda mentioned that everyone likely has at least one “Deadly Sin” that they struggle with throughout their lives.
Hm, I thought. Though I’ve definitely had issues with all of these unwelcome feelings, I immediately knew which one has plagued me the most:
And mostly of other women.
It began as an adolescent: I envied her popularity. I envied the magnificence of her giant bangs. I envied the ease of her flirtation with boys. I envied the way she wore her Z Cavariccis. I envied her athleticism, her tanned skin, her confidence, her status. I looked around at the girls who were my peers and I measured myself against them. In my mind, I always fell short. I turned the negative energy of envy inward, silently berating myself.
By focusing on the attributes of others, I was unable to fully embody the amazing and unique qualities that I possessed.
As I grew into adulthood, I continued to struggle with feelings of envy towards women in my life. I wish I had her flat stomach. I wish he looked at me like that. I wish I was as free as her. I wish I was part of that group. I wish I had a clear dream for my life like she does.
I know that these thoughts were often roadblocks to deep connection. More than once I was hit on the head with the realization that these same qualities I “envied” were the qualities that made these women so special and valuable in my life.
When I first started attending yoga regularly after I found sobriety a few years ago, I would often find myself distracted by this woman in the back of the class. She initially caught my attention before class started because she was loud, joking with easy comradery with the two men who placed their mats on either side of her. I turned around and caught a furtive glance – it figures, she was also beautiful. She was curvy and muscular, her bouncy curls framing big eyes and a wide, laughing smile. Her yoga spandex dipped low in front, allowing for a glimpse of the tops of her large, tanned bosom when she dropped into forward fold. And when she moved her limber body through vinyasa, she arched herself skyward with nothing short of awakened bliss.
I immediately hated her and coveted everything about her.
Instead of focusing on my breath and how my own body was moving through poses, I would find myself glancing over at her, her easy rise into crescent lunge, eyes closed, looking sculpted. And viciously comparing myself and all my perceived lack.
I want to be that! I will never be that. Why can’t I be that? I hate her for being that.
My Envy practiced yoga with me every time we were in class together. My Envy kept me from being fully present for myself.
It was a few months into the class when the yoga teacher (who was also my friend) mentioned this woman in a casual remark: Have you met —? You would love her. You know she’s in recovery just like you. I think she’s coming up on one year.
It was like my soul slapped my Envy in the face and *poof* it disappeared.
She is a complex, wounded, imperfect, growing human, just like me.
I walked up to her after class that day and introduced myself. She was kind and gracious; we talked for a few minutes and then hugged. The next time we practiced yoga together, I felt nothing but love for her, and consequently was able to direct that same love inward.
We aren’t in the same yoga class anymore, but we have kept in touch, and whenever we cross paths, we greet each other with smiles and call each other “sister.”
The envy was not about her, it was about me. My own feelings of lack and self-doubt.
By focusing my energy on someone else, I granted myself permission to neglect my own issues.
I can’t yet stop Envy from showing her green face now and then, but I can stick her in a time out and keep her from running the show. I am able to have a more detached awareness now. I pat Envy on the head and sit her down on the bench. She is simply a manifestation of my old stale insecurities. I try not to give power that part of my ego anymore, but instead tune in to my heart and intuition.
The counterpart (the Holy Virtue, if you will) to envy is GRATITUDE. Coming to terms with the source of my envy has opened me up to greater GRATITUDE.
So I offer Envy some gratitude for bringing to light the magnificence of the women I meet:
THANK YOU, ENVY, FOR SHOWING ME THE BEAUTIFUL QUALITIES IN MY SISTERS SO THAT I MAY LOVE THEM MORE.
THANK YOU, ENVY, FOR SHOWING ME HOW POWERFUL AND CAPABLE EACH ONE OF US ARE, SO THAT WE MAY LINK ARMS AND LIFT EACH OTHER UP.
©Skye Nicholson 2020