Envy and Jealousy. The first steps on the journey to Anger
I found myself looking again
Wondering why my body doesn't look like them
No, it might sound weird but I refuse to pretend
And then you probably think the same every now and again
I got more than all these scars
I got flaws and broken hearts
I don't like this stranger staring at me
All my insecurities
Searching for something different
All the things you do to me
Tell me the truth
-lyrics from "Beautiful" by Anne-Marie
You cannot judge your life by another person’s journey. Yet this is what we do all the time. When I compare, it turns into a competition. Can you imagine what it would have been like for US to have instagram in the 80’s? Wishing you had those roller skates, or that classic Alex P Keaton swagger and confidence (if you’re older than me it was probably the Fonz). We did our share of comparing, but our circle of influence was limited to the channels to which we had access, and the group of friends we had (Jocks, band geeks, Nerds, or burnouts).
I would say that most of us would say that we are pretty self-aware when it comes to jealousy and envy, however it’s much more subtle than we are aware and the reality is that we can be pretty “nose blind” to it’s effects and outcomes.
Jealousy isn't always as loud as we think and when it leads to envy, we go from just being discontent to becoming entitled.
Jealousy takes us to the LAND of er…according to one preacher. We look at what another person has and we want ER.
-They have a BIG house, but we want one that is…BIGGER
-They have a nice car but we want ours to be NICER
-His girlfriend is pretty, but I want MINE to be PRETTIER
It's jealousy that leads us to ENVY. so, if Jealousy is the Mayor of ER...then ENVY is the Governor of EST. We want to:
-not just have a nicer car, but the desire to have the nicest car.
-not just have better grades, but to try to get the BEST grades.
-not just be faster, but the FASTEST.
Envy is defined as a painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.
In other words: I not only want what you have but I want it FOR MYSELF ONLY. Envy and jealousy turn into resentment when I compare myself to others. We think things like: I should have that...so what will it take to get that thing for me.
Comparison is a tool of envy and comparing either makes you feel SUPERIOR or INFERIOR. Neither of these are honoring to God. We say things like:
- Well, I made have done this thing here…but at LEAST I DIDN’T DO THAT…like she did.
- I work harder than HIM, why does HE get that thing that I feel I deserve MORE.
What we fail to realize is that when we do this we actually begin to question the character of God in allowing or preventing these things from happening. We put OURSELVES as the judge and jury over that person when we have no right to.
We cannot live our life according to someone else’s journey. When we live in ENVY, we do just that. We live according to what WE feel that we should have. This is a drama that plays itself out over the pages of the Bible, think about Cain and Abel (Genesis 4), Joseph and his brothers (Genesis 37)and also the narrative of Abraham, Sarah, and of course Hagar (Sarah’s servant). There is jealousy, adultery, banishment, human sacrifice, and eventually a promise is fulfilled despite Abraham’s poor choices along the way.
If the TOXIN is envy and jealousy, then the antidote is the name of God: Jehovah Jireh: God our Provider. (Genesis 22:13-14) This means that jealousy and envy are the opposite of trusting that God will provide.
For instance: for our teens is this common question: Why God hasn’t provided a girlfriend or a boyfriend? It's often because we're not ready. But what do we do anyways? We end up going from broken relationship to broken relationship doling out hurt and pain because we’re trying to provide OURSELVES with an experience for which we’re not yet ready. Then get mad at God because we get hurt.
When I ENVY I fail to trust God’s timing and Gods provision for all that I need. But envy doesn’t just stop at NOT TRUSTING GOD…It means to look on something with malice, resentment, or in a hostile way.
“But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t brag and deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil.” James 3:14-16
Let’s face it. Marketing is a cleverly used tool in this age, you may know this if you’ve every watched The Social Dilemma. Online ads, YouTube promotions, Instagram suggestions, and so on, can stir up our longing for what we don’t have. Looking at friends, neighbors, and strangers’ posts online can make us feel that everyone else’s life is a “fairy tale dream of happy vacations and large unified families.” We know only too well our own struggles. But believe me, those with lovely Instagram posts have heartache, trials, medical problems, and rebellious kids too. Remember much is not what it seems on the surface.
So what are we supposed to do?
First of all, know that there are two things underneath our envy: fear and rejection. Because those things are in our hearts, we anxiously struggle to feel as good as everyone else. And, we feverishly work to “rank” as well as others. If only we can get to the place of really embracing the truth of God’s steadfast love as being true, we will worry less about what others are doing or if they are better off than us.
This includes our desire to work more hours to "get ahead." If our kids see us falling into the trap of bigger and better, how are they going to be any different when it comes to the anxiety of having to become Valedictorian or having to be MVP?
Secondly, when we have our identity in Christ, we don’t need to envy others, watch them jealously, or think that they have more or that they “have it better.” If you have chosen Christ, or if you make the decision to do so, “all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” (2 Corinthians 1:20 NKJV) As a believer, you become “blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing through Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3 NIV).
The third thing is WORSHIP. This gets the focus of ME and off of others and “on” to God. In singing, praying, and adoring God, our remembrance of how much we have rises.
-Hearts lift up above earthly conflicts and comparisons.
-Our love for God as a good, good Father is emphasized and His constant concern for us is recalled.
-We have no time for envy in the glorious atmosphere of worship.
-Instead, what rises is thankfulness, hope, and good spirits.
I often use worship to re-center my heart onto God! Even sitting in my car, getting ready to go in to a store God has kept me there lingering in His presence while he does some heart surgery. If you’re not a music person, just reading through the Psalms may do it for you as well.
The last thing I’d say is having gratitude is important. “A joyful heart is good medicine!” (Proverbs 17:22a ESV) There is so much truth all throughout the scripture that focuses our hearts BACK towards remembering what God has done and celebrating His Provision for us. In fact, all throughout the OT they were constantly putting up 12 Stone tributes at places in which they were to instruct their kids to remember and be thankful.
Remember, counting our blessings isn’t the same as boosting our ego by reminding ourselves how we’re better than others, as in the nice car/good looks example above. It’s more about refocusing on what is really important in life, and on the sometimes intangible or invisible things we do possess.