Commentary: When ‘me too’ becomes a sin, too

10/12/2013 12:00 AM

10/11/2013 10:32 PM

“Me Too” was my nickname as a child. Whatever meal my big sister, Rosemary, ordered in a restaurant, I wanted the same, and whatever flavor of ice cream she chose, I seconded it.

I was really a pest, I have to admit. When she and her friends planned to see a movie, I shamelessly pitched a royal fit until my mother let me trail along. “Come along then, Me Too,” my sister would snarl through clenched teeth, and I would smile smugly figuring I’d won this round.

Although my relationship with my sister improved over time – thank God – the nickname followed me well into adulthood. In fact, I was a grown-up, married woman teaching college, and yet my uncle still greeted me on the phone with a hearty “Hey, Me Too!” Truth be told, the nickname still fits today. There are so many times when someone posts photos on Facebook showing their trip to the beach, and my first thought is, “Oh, I want to go too.” Or someone mentions having a bumper crop of tomatoes and I think, “I need to start a garden too!”

The whole “me too” thing sounds harmless enough except it can easily morph into a sin. When I see a neighbor getting new kitchen cabinets or a lady with gorgeous shoulder-length hair or an author making the New York Times best-seller list, I start craving to have what they have – and that leads to envy.

When I was in high school, I longed to be one of the girls whose phone was always ringing. Instead, I was generally a loner, rather plump and shy, who had one or two close friends rather than being part of a clique. When I finally did land a date to the prom, I spent hours wishing the fellow could be someone else, someone more like my mental picture of Mr. Right.

When I actually met Mr. Right in my 30s – and went on to marry him – we didn’t go on to have children. And so often these days, the envy monster has me in its clutches when I spot a plump baby at Mass with a fetching toothless grin and a big bow in her hair and I think, “Oh, I want one too!”

I’ve discovered over time that envy goes hand in hand with the “if only” mantra, as in “If only I had a bigger house, a better job, a slimmer physique, a child, I would be entirely happy.”

The envy monster is persistent indeed, but fortunately there is one way to tame him – and it’s called gratitude. Whenever I start drooling over other people’s trendy home-renovation projects or burgeoning gardens or giggling grandchildren, I try to list my blessings.

True, my house is humble and my cabinets worn, but at least I have a house! True, God didn’t give me children of my own, but I have lovely nieces and nephews and godchildren. True, my lawn is shaggy and the bushes are scraggly, but I have a host of hummingbirds, chipmunks and even the occasional rabbit.

With prayer and constant vigilance, I’m trying my best to banish the envy demon whenever it rears its ugly head. And my hope is that at the Last Judgment, when God calls out my name, he will forgive all the times I was a relentlessly pesky little sister and all the times I succumbed to envy. My dearest hope is that he will turn to me with mercy in his eyes and say, “Come on in, Me Too!”

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