She stole my patient. That was my exaggerated reaction when a fellow resident in medical school used the data I had collected about the unique medical condition of one of my patients. She included my patient in her academic paper and didn’t even ask me! How dare she?

Medical residents who publish case studies are often showered with affirmation, and this colleague was a talented writer pursuing an academic career. I envied her for being special, unique, set apart. From my perspective, her success was at my expense. Thus, my indignation at her “stealing” my patient data.

But the only one stealing from me was myself. My envy stole the joy of a calling and vocation that God fashioned uniquely for me. I imagined that my colleague’s academic accolades somehow diminished my focus on patient care and a more “ordinary” path of medical practice. Instead of celebrating both of our accomplishments, I was blinded by the light of her seemingly superior achievements.

Yet, the “ordinariness” of how God shaped me was exactly what made for a successful practitioner of dermatology. My name didn’t shine in the lights of academic journals. I didn’t have mountaintop experiences or worldwide acclaim. But my relationship with patients and the consistent, detail-oriented care I provided for them was valuable and life-saving in some cases. Longing for recognition and envying those who achieved something I considered more worthy negated my gifts and denied my unique – albeit more “ordinary” – contribution to the world.

My relationship with Christ now grants me freedom from the desire to be something I’m not. Rather than allowing envy to suck the joy from my life, I can embrace the path that my good, loving Creator fashioned uniquely for me. Instead of resenting the light shining on others, I can bask in the light of God’s face shining on me and appreciate life as a gift from Him. As I do, I not only return what I stole from myself in envy, but I give the gift of myself to the world.

Have you ever robbed yourself of joy in envy?  How would you rethink your own story now?

Shauna Schneider
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