The Distraction of Envy

Article by Malcolm Marler, Edited by Dee DeWitt


Do you ever envy other people’s talents?


Dr. Michael Saag is a friend and a world-class HIV researcher and physician.  But it’s his ability to quote entire dialogues from movies he has seen that makes me laugh hysterically.  Especially comedies…


He can have an entire room rolling on the floor by quoting a scene word for word.  I just shake my head in disbelief at his photographic memory.  Sometimes, I can’t even remember a movie’s title I watched last night!  Woe is me.


What talents do you envy in others?  Maybe it is someone who can sing, or play an instrument, or some other gift you wish you had?


The more we envy the talents of others, the more likely we will miss and devalue our own.  Envy is a marvelous distraction from self-discovery.


I Corinthians 12: 12-26 says that … all persons who claim to be a child of God are all connected to one another like the human body, and all parts of the body are equally important.  The hand doesn’t say to the foot we don’t need you, or the ears have no right to envy what the eyes can do … And so it is with our talents and gifts.


So how do I know what my gifts are?  How do I identify my gifts so that I can use them to further the work of the Creator?


For me, a starting place in discovering my own gifts is the answer to this question:  “What do I love to do in helping others?”


There’s a reason why you love to do a certain thing for others.  It’s a holy whisper in your ear to say, “That’s one of your gifts.”


I have discovered that I love to be with people when they are in a crisis.  This sounds really strange to some of my friends.  It’s the last place they would love to be.  But that’s what is so cool and diverse about gifts.


Gifts are not given to be compared; they are given to be shared.


So what do you love to do when helping another person?


Write a note?  Make a phone call?  Give a ride? Cook a meal?  Take care of someone’s child or parent for a day?  Teach a class?  Cut the grass of a neighbor’s yard?  Offer a listening ear?  Lend a helping hand?  Give an encouraging word?


Name it.  Claim it.  Share it.


But don’t compare it.




The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 

If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

-I Corinthians 12:26 (NIV)


Malcolm Marler is Director of Pastoral Care for UAB Hospital in Birmingham, AL.  In addition to his interest in spirituality and health, he loves to identify physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of persons, then design and build programs that help meet those needs.  His warmth and humor along with his powerful message of hope and grace is his greatest strength.  Malcolm grew up in Alabama and attended Clemson University (S.C.) on a football scholarship as a defensive back where he graduated with a B.A. degree in Psychology.  He is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY with Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees.  Malcolm lives on a lake in North Alabama with the love of his life, Mary Bea Sullivan.  He has two open-hearted, loving stepchildren, Brendan and Kiki who are both freshman in college.  For more information or to contact Malcolm, please visit


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Posted on 26 January, 2010 in Helping Others, Motivation, Spirituality
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