How to Fight Ministry Envy
Updated: Nov 24, 2019
It can be crippling to feel like everyone else is doing better than you are. But I've found some tools that are helping me fight jealousy and comparison.
My Instagram stories feed was brimming with images of success that day. Someone had launched a book which became an almost-instant bestseller. A podcaster had started a new season with some big-name guests. A blogger was sharing all the good feedback she’d received on her latest post. As I swiped through their achievements and accolades, I felt tension rising inside me as the cold clutch of comparison constricted my heart.
Have you ever felt like there are so many people doing the same thing as you, but better? Have you ever wondered if there was room for your voice? Have you ever been a tad jealous of someone else’s talent or following? Me too. It’s an especially odd feeling whenever I realise I’m struggling with ministry envy.
Ministry envy is watching the follower-count go up on a Christian communicator's social media page and wishing that you could get more attention too. After all, you're trying to encourage people as well and your feed is just as good! Ministry envy is feeling small or bitter or incompetent because a creator is receiving so many positive comments on their work, but it feels like nobody is paying attention to yours. Ministry envy is wondering why God seems to be doing so many cool things with that person while you're just...here. I’ve noticed that ministry envy can creep up on me even in my own role at Adventist Radio London; I occasionally find myself jealous if a colleague interviews someone famous or fabulous, especially if I’m struggling to find a guest who can appear on my morning show during the first rush of the day. In those moments, to my chagrin, I find myself giving my ministry contemporaries the side eye. I'm tempted to stay silent, to put down my pen, because obviously they’re doing ministry so much better than I am. And then I feel more ashamed of my reaction because we’re all meant to be in this for God and for the good of other people, not for ourselves…right?
It’s so human for a little too much “I” to creep into our best intentions to be altruistic, whether that plays out as arrogance or insecurity or envy. It’s human for our motivations to be a little mixed even when we genuinely desire to serve others. Thankfully God knows that and doesn’t let our weaknesses stop Him from using our efforts for good. But what can you do if you find yourself struggling with ministry envy? Here are three things that are helping me.
1) Get some perspective. For example, one podcaster put it something like this: You may feel like your voice isn’t worth raising and you don’t have a real audience because you only have 50 or 100 or 500 people following your platform, whereas the person you envy has thousands of people in their online community. But imagine gathering your 50 or 500 followers into one room and speaking to them in real life. Friend, you have an audience! People are listening to you. It is worth speaking out. (Jesus himself had only 12 close followers, and look what they accomplished!) Imagining your digital following together in a room is a quick way to gain some perspective if you’re envious of the size of someone else’s tribe.
2) Remember the value of each person. This has been something God repeatedly reminds me of, and you can read more about that journey here. Every individual is deeply valued and loved by God, as if they were the only person on earth to have His affection and attention. If Jesus would have been willing to die to rescue just one person from the grip of the Enemy, surely, I can be willing to minister to one person too and count that as success.
3) Remember that you’re on the same team. This has helped me in working with other Christian communicators whom I both admire and periodically envy. Instead of being salty that my colleague had such an amazing interview today and I didn't, I can rejoice with her because her success is my own—her goal is my goal—and anything good that she does is supporting the whole team. In ministry, our shared aim is to show people what God is like and how adventurous and beautiful and deep and healing life with God can be. We want to move someone one step forward on their spiritual journey. So, for example, if my colleague creates a moving programme that receives many positive responses, our whole radio team wins. “If one part is honoured, all the parts are glad.” (1 Corinthians 12:26) I think this mindset is applicable not just on a local level, such as in my radio station, but across the worldwide collective of Christian ministers, creatives, and communicators…whatever your role is, we are on the same team.
I’m currently learning how to take the pressure off myself and be content in my sphere of service. It is not bad to want to do and be the best that you can. However, ministry envy and comparison can be crippling. Let’s support each other instead of competing with one another. Ponder the profound statements Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 12 about how we work together. And remember that in your unique circle of influence, however large or small, “nothing you do for Him is a waste of time or effort.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Have you experienced ministry envy? What has helped you?