Baseball fans need no introduction to the Green Monster. The left field wall at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, is over 37′ high and acts as a giant fly swatter to keep line drives from becoming home runs. Fans sit on top of the wall, hoping to catch a hometown home run and jeer pretenders who come up short. The Green Monster is an iconic sports site, ranking alongside Lambeau Field for football and St Andrews for golf.
The Green Monster I face isn’t nearly as hallowed, but impacts my life to a greater degree than that storied venue. Like the wall in Fenway, it likes to slap down meager attempts at success with a mocking derision. Unlike the structure in left field, 310′ feet away from a batter standing at home plate, this monster is close. Uncomfortably close. In my head close.
Envy pervades my brain every day. Like most men, I possess an inherent drive to compete. If two boys were stuck in a room together, their conversation turns towards who is better.
“I can run faster to that wall.”
“Yeah, well, I can pick up three of those books.”
“Oh, yeah? I can jump higher.”
On and on it goes, eventually including the dad’s into the competition. Men want to win. Winning means we’re better. Winning proves our manhood.
As we get older, our competition grows sophisticated. While some men compete with physical strength, most battles are more subtle. Which one makes more money? Whose kids are more accomplished? Who is more learned or well-traveled? The perceived winner puffs out his chest with pride. The vanquished slumps back into their hole, feeling defeated and inadequate.
Social media has given envy a microphone. Every time I turn on Facebook, I see a video about someone’s awesome kid amazing everyone with their musical talent. My Instagram feed is full of other people’s vacation pictures of beautiful places I am unable to visit.
“Oh, look. This guy’s business is booming while mine is stuck in neutral (or reverse).”
“I’ve been trying to have lunch with a friend who never has time. But there he is hiking with in the woods last weekend. Where was my invite?”
My Green Monster grows with each new post or picture. The more I try to ignore it, the bigger the voice in my head seems to be.
“You’ll never measure up.”
“You’re such a loser.”
“You don’t fit in.”
“You don’t matter.”
I probably can’t hit a home run over the left field wall in Fenway. I have even less confidence of getting out of the grip of the Green Monster in my head. I’m tired of the competition. What’s a man supposed to do?
Busyness feeds envy. Like jogging on a treadmill, the faster we run, the faster we have to run. You feel like you can never catch up. You’re always falling behind. The key is to get off the treadmill and catch your breath. Even just 15 minutes of silence, emptying your mind of all that negative energy will produce huge dividends to your battle against envy.
If mindfulness shrinks the monster, gratitude slays it. If you’re the praying type, send up a prayer for the other person to succeed. If praying is not your thing, imagine what it would feel like to be doing the things they get to do. What warmth would you experience watching your children display their talents? How would your heart find peace hiking in the woods? What joy would you find sitting on the beach reading a book? As you put yourself in their place, you find an understanding and can experience gratitude on your friend’s behalf.
Discover the ways you face the Green Monster each day. Write down what triggers your envy. Spend 15 minutes alone (even in the bathroom if you must), and pray for your friend to succeed in those areas that trigger your envy. Extra credit: Reach out to them and tell them how thankful you are for their experience.