I’ve been at two conferences in the last two weeks. The first was a writing conference, the second a conference I’m attending with my husband, who is a minister. No offense to St. Louis, but I must say, when I compare the two cities, I have to say I prefer being in Des Moines where I have a nephew and niece, several friends, and no exes.

We’re staying in a beautiful, award winning B&B – Butler House on Grand. It’s a three story, brick English Tudor with a very impressive façade… and that brings me to my topic today.

Butler House on Grand, a B&B in Des Moines, Iowa.

Mark Vander Tuig, one of the speakers at the LCMC (Lutheran Congregations for Ministry in Christ) Conference we’re attending, spoke about envy today. The word was mentioned at the Christian Writers Conference I attended as well.

It’s hard not to compare ourselves to others, whether writers or pastors. Published or unpublished, published by a large press or published by a small press, self-published, or getting 6 figure advances, there’s always someone to compare yourself to. Maybe your e-book sold 3 dozen copies and someone else’s sold 2000. Maybe you both write for the same publishing house, but one of you gets smaller advances than the other. Maybe your friend won two awards and you got nothing.

Comparing ourselves to others is a great temptation no matter what stage of life we’re in, and yes, envying the person who seems to have it better than we do is an easy trap to fall in to.

If you’re a pastor, you may be envious of the person whose once tiny church plant has grown to a 6000 member mega-church with six services because you’re lucky to get 150 at church on a Sunday. The pastor who gets 25 – 35 may be envious of you. One pastor might have a church overlooking the Pacific Ocean, another in the beautiful city of Colorado Springs, whereas you’re in the middle of nowhere surrounded by cornfields and hog barns.

California Dreamin’
Midwestern Reality

There’s always a man or woman who’s skinnier, prettier, or has more of whatever it is you want – money, kids, cars, whatever. If I’m honest with myself, there are plenty of reasons for me to envy Clark and Lauren, who own Butler House on Grand B&B. When they opened, a group of designers did a showcase at their B&B. They’ve been featured in a zillion magazines, and Meredith Publications has done all kinds of photo shoots at their property. (One of my dreams.) Midwest Living named them as one of their top 30 B&Bs… American Historic Inns, one of the top 10 romantic inns in the US (or is it the world?) I could go on, and on and on. They’ve won a great many honors – every one of which is well-deserved.

The master bedroom suite at Butler House on Grand.

I’m sure there are B&B owners who whose dream is to have a place like the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House. It’s all relative, isn‘t it?

The Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House, Saint Ansgar, Iowa.

Our speakers point is that you should be thankful for what you have, and accept yourself – limitations and strengths – for what you are.

So why is it that we’re so compelled to compare ourselves and our situations to others? Perhaps it’s because we feel better when we compare and find ourselves on the top of the heap. We feel better about ourselves when we realize that we’re better off than this person or that person. Perhaps by comparing ourselves to others, we’re inspired to follow our dreams – that if this or that person could accomplish this, maybe we can, too.

But even when applied in a positive light, comparing ourselves is usually unproductive. Why? Because while the Blue Belle Inn B&B may be wonderful in just as many (but very different) ways as the Butler House is, it will always be in St. Ansgar, a quaint little town of 1000 in northern Iowa. It will never be a couple of blocks from the governor’s mansion, the art center, downtown Des Moines, and Better Homes and Gardens magazine.  It is what it is, and so am I. If I want to be successful, I have to find my own niche and capitalize on my own strengths.

The church where my husband is currently serving, in a town of 600, nearly an hour from even a moderately sized town, will never draw the kinds of crowds or have the resources to have the kinds of programs that Hope Lutheran in Des Moines or Hosanna Lutheran in Lakeville, MN have. I’m guessing they have more members in their church than we have in our entire county.  That doesn’t mean God can’t and won’t use them – ordinary people in an ordinary town – in extraordinary ways.

Jealousy is unproductive and a negative influence. It can destroy your self-confidence, eat away at your goals and aspirations, and sabotage your efforts to be the best you can be. Yet how easy it is to begrudge our many blessings and covet what another has.

As for me, I’m going to choose to appreciate all that I have. I may not get a hefty advance on my novels since I’m published with a small press, but when I look at what I’ve earned in royalties and profits in the last three years, I realize I have much to be thankful for. Given the odds of success in this business, it’s a miracle that any of my books are even in print. And in all honesty, if someone had offered me the amount of money for my books that I’ve currently made, I definitely would have signed the contract. Don’t get me wrong – if I’m ever blessed enough to make it onto the bestseller list, I’ll definitely do a happy dance, but in the meantime, I feel honored that people are simply buying, reading, and liking my books.  (Which, if you’re interested, you can buy at www.SecondWindPublishing.com.)

And with that, I’ll close. We’re at a banquet, and I couldn’t help but notice that my husband’s piece of chicken is bigger than mine. It’s been a long day, and I’m hungry, and yes, I’m feeling a little jealous. Maybe if I’m nice, he’ll trade plates with me. (Just kidding.)