It’s been quite a while since I’ve dealt with major feelings of jealousy, but yes, I do venture there from time to time. I think we all do & it’s not fun! Jealous emotions can range from fleeting, mild pangs to intense waves of emotion that can influence the way we treat others and how we feel about who we are and what we have. Ultimately jealousy can move us out of love and closer to evil. A small amount of jealousy left to grow can rot the whole apple.
Paul Maxwell said this in his article ‘Hey, Jealousy’; ‘jealousy is tyrannical. It is catastrophic. It is metaphysical. It feels controlling and you cannot escape. It feels as if every particle of self-control you have in your entire being is vaporized in one fell emotional swoop. It brings people to the end of themselves in a millisecond, and they are no longer the same people’.
Have you ever felt like that? Consumed by jealousy or another unruly emotion seemingly outside your control. Your good qualities seem to fade from focus as the untameable beast of emotion starts to roar.
Jealousy has a lot of roots or triggers. It’s probably impossible to cover them all as they are heavily influenced by an individual’s personality, beliefs and life experiences. One example of a trigger can be when our own feelings of inadequacy are amplified by another person’s adequacy or success. When someone is really good in an area we struggle in, it can make us feel inferior and hence the temptation to wallow in jealous feelings presents itself. Sometimes we just want something that someone else has, such as a personality trait, material item or the response they get from others. We may feel justified, like we have worked just as hard, so should have the same things as them. Life feels unfair & coveting feelings are stirred. At times we might feel overlooked while someone else receives the praise or acknowledgement we craved. The classic example of this, is when a hard-working employee is overlooked for a promotion at work whilst another person, who hasn’t been around as long, snaps it up! In this situation, it is the sense of being overlooked, under-acknowledged & unappreciated that is the trigger for jealousy, even if the person also has feelings of happiness for the other person’s success.
Jealousy can leave you wondering who you are as a person. It can leave you feeling very wrong & guilty for just having a feeling or at times we can feel totally justified. The temptation to bury it or avoid situations that trigger these uncomfortable emotions is huge, but it’s the decision to face it that allows God to help us grow, rather than the devil getting a foothold into our hearts. If our sinful nature is given control then jealousy can ultimately lead to us doing things for the wrong reasons…we might strive for something just because someone else has it, when it might not be God’s will for our lives. What a waste of time! What a waste of life! What are we missing out on whilst chasing something because of jealousy? Left to rule, jealousy can lead to revenge. Now, when you think of jealousy fueled revenge, you might think of the classic ‘crime of passion’ i.e. ex-husband murdering the new lover, but although most jealousy doesn’t lead to such extreme revenge, smaller actions can be just as toxic. Passive aggressive comments/ actions, avoiding people, withholding praise, judging them harshly, misrepresenting them or undermining them are forms of ‘revenge’ for them having what you want and for simply being themselves. There are many other ways that subtle revenge can be enacted as a result of jealousy…and when it’s subtle, it’s easy to do it without even realising it. The devil often likes to work little by little over time because if he came out with a dramatic show of toxicity it would be identified, confronted and dealt with. A cliff erodes slowly over time, and it’s the same with a heart that isn’t maintained. The devil wants to undermine the glory of God that’s wanting to shine through in our lives. That’s why we must go to Jesus amid our jealousy…mild pangs or raging, feeling justified, ashamed or both!
God understands the emotion of jealousy. Exodous 34: 14 says ‘you must not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God’. Just like his wrath and anger, God’s jealousy is righteous. He covets the things of this world that steal the hearts of the objects of his love…us! He longs for us to return to Him instead of pursuing the things of the world that bring us nothing of eternal value. So although God’s jealousy is holy and ours usually isn’t, we know that He understands how we feel. He is with us when we feel consumed by emotion, wanting to be the compass that shows us the way out of turmoil and into peace. But to start moving in His direction, we have to first acknowledge where we are instead of trying to repress it out of guilt, discomfort or shame. It’s ok to feel jealous and to run to God with your straight up feelings and emotions. He already knows why you feel that way but in telling Him your heart, you are communicating that you’re seeking His comfort, direction and wise counsel. Because of God’s grace, we can come before Him as we are, without shame or fear of rejection. Jesus has already made us clean in the sight of God through his redeeming sacrifice. Yet the devil still tells us to hide our nakedness from God, like Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. He too has plans to use our jealousy, so he wants to get to us before God. He wants us well away from our Father, where he can grow the seed of rebellion in our hearts and start to turn jealousy into bitterness, self-righteous judgement & hate. He really just wants to inflict abuse on our hearts with our permission. We don’t need to give him that.
So where do we go when those emotions don’t let up? It’s not always a case of feeling 100% free from jealousy just as we can’t guarantee we won’t feel anger. The same issue might repeat on us regularly, barging into our hearts when we least expect it, threatening to expose us and our insecurities. Well I think a key is honesty. Confessing jealousy to someone trusted removes us from the grip of shame and secrecy. It acknowledges to ourselves that it is OK to feel jealous & when we confess to someone else our struggle we are operating in the freedom we have in Christ – freedom that says our sin, our emotions, our struggles no longer define us because of Jesus. When we continue to be too embarrassed to get help from God or others, we agree that yes we are too filthy to come into the light. Leaving pride behind and being willing to confess that yes we are human, we do have human emotions makes room for God and others to support us through tough stuff. God will be with us in the midst of all emotions and can help us act in love regardless of our feelings.
Here’s another few suggestions that can help us nip most jealousy in the bud when it arises:
* The good old cliche of ‘count your blessings’. Yes I’m going there, because it works! When we focus more on what we have & less on what we lack, we find ourselves overcome with gratitude! We notice that everyone has been given unique blessings in life & although our ‘gifts’ from God aren’t the same as others, they don’t have exactly what we have, and vice versa. There are many people who would love to have what we have. Thank God for your unique skills, material possessions, relationships & circumstances.
* Pray intently for the person you are jealous of. Start to thank God for this person, their gifts and His goodness in their lives. Pray a blessing on every area of their lives. Every time jealousy arises, repeat…and repeat again! Watch the Holy Spirit move as you put aside your feelings to obey God.
* Appreciate and properly acknowledge your own skills and personality qualities. Often we give more value to who others are then the person God created us to be. We fail to see our unique gifts and focus more on our short comings. To be happy for others it’s important to also value ourselves and what we have to offer. If someone else being wonderful has cast doubt on your value, take stock of the amazing person God has formed in you! If all flowers smelled and looked the same what boring gardens we would have!
* Recognise wrong desires in ourselves for what they are, confess and repent. Sometimes it’s not our insecurities that cause jealousy…at times it’s just pure and simply our sinful desires. The desire to be top dog or better than others needs to be called out by us for what it is, and laid at the feet of Jesus. As God exposes things in us, it’s in our best interest to choose the road of humility, leaning on and relying on Him to help change us from the inside out.
Lord as we go about our days and see others shining brightly, I pray that you would help us to know our own worth in you. I ask that we would being fully aware of and thankful for the unique blessings you have given to us in this lifetime. Please be near to us when we feel jealous and help us to focus on you and do the right thing, even when we don’t feel so great. Lord, we confess that we are sometimes jealous of others, we surrender all jealous feelings to you and turn away from any temptation to rebel against your ways of love. Thank you for your forgiveness and grace. In Jesus name, Amen.