I have never been a very jealous person. Occasionally as a teenager I might have been jealous of someone else’s clothes being cooler than mine (honestly, my cousin had the nicest clothes), but that was about the extent of my experience with jealousy… until last year. Something happened in my life and I found myself almost consumed by envy. The quote, ‘A sound heart is the life of the flesh but envy the rottenness of the bones’ (Proverbs 14:30), suddenly took on a deeper meaning for me. I literally felt like the jealousy was eating me up for about a good six months and I’m embarrassed to say that I even lost sleep over it.
When I am going through a trial, I like to either try and find someone in the Bible who went through the same thing/something similar, or, in the case of jealousy, study the topic itself. Here are my thoughts from what I read in the bible and from other people online on jealousy.
You don’t need to look very far to find it. There are many examples of jealousy in the bible and what it can lead to (Saul when he lost the throne to David, Joseph’s brothers, Leah and Rachel, the list goes on!). But the example I am going to look at is this:
The parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matt 20:1-16)
If you haven’t heard this parable before, a vineyard owner hires some people to work for a day and they agree with him on a wage. Later in the morning he hires more people for that day, and finally he hires a third lot of people to work for the afternoon. At the end of the day, the first lot of workers are angry at the owner when they find out that those who only worked for a portion of the day still got paid the same amount, even though they had been perfectly happy with their decided wage that morning.
Now I know what I am about to say isn’t the main point of the parable, but I think it’s still a lesson that can be taken from it. This quote sums it up quite nicely:
Comparison is the thief of joy
Often we are perfectly happy until we find out that someone else has it better than us. This is a good lead-in to another thought that I have had over the last year and that is that everyone is jealous of someone else for something. For example, I might be jealous of a friend because they are mega attractive, that friend might be jealous of someone else because they have a nice house, that person might be jealous of another person because they have a cool job… etc. Everyone wants something that someone else has and when you look at it like that, it’s like what’s the point of even being jealous! Don’t bother comparing your life to someone else’s because no one’s life is perfect, we need to learn to be content and thankful for what we have.
These thoughts were a good start in getting over my jealousy but I also felt like I wasn’t as good as this other person because I didn’t have what they had. I felt less of a person and like people would look down on me. Looking back now, this seems completely irrational but at the time it was the part that consumed me the most!
Keep earthly achievements in eternal perspective
This is something I read online here. “When our lives are over, we’re going to leave everything behind. The body we spend so much money on will return to dust. The wardrobe, the beautiful home, the bank account, the advanced degree, the recognition—all those things that we give our lives to are going to remain on Planet Earth long after we’ve departed.” …I was focusing on the wrong thing. Instead of worrying about what other people might think of me, I should have been focusing on how well I was doing before God. God doesn’t care about how good our job is, or how cool our clothes are or how pretty we are and he certainly does not care about the thing I was getting all jelly over! God is interested in how we are working on our characters and striving to be more like Jesus. Everything I do should be for God, not so that I look a certain way to other people.
Okay, one last thing (because I feel as though I could go on all day if I don’t stop myself).
I started to dislike this person I was envious of and I am very ashamed to say it. I would look for their faults and dwell on them so I could feel like I was better than them. It’s ridiculous because they are actually one of the nicest people ever and have never done anything to wrong me. I don’t really have any advice on moving past this, but I think just getting to the root of why you’re thinking in a certain way helps.
Actually, I said I was going to finish on that note, but as I was walking home from work I remembered something else. In the midst of all of my being jealous and everything, I felt as though I wouldn’t be able to get over it, that it would bother me forever. Then I remembered the quote, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13). It sounds simple but praying to God was probably the most effective thing, asking for His strength because I couldn’t do it myself. I am so thankful that now I can look back on something that was so hard at the time as just a pimple on a life full of happiness 🙂