Do you ever think about jealousy and think something like, "I'm so glad I'm over that now that I'm an adult."
Jealousy? That's for junior high girls and toddlers fighting over toys. I'm mature. I'm content. I'm not jealous.
I came across this verse in my devotions the other day:
"For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." James 3:16
That's when it hit me. As an adult, jealousy tends to hide behind a few disguises. It's not, "she got the part and I didn't" or "I wish I had her boyfriend." But it might be, "Her kids are always winning things," or "Everyone I know was at that wedding. Weird that I didn't get invited." Yuck. That's jealousy and it's like bitter coffee. It's terrible and hard to get the taste out of your mouth.
The Bible says nothing good comes out of jealousy. It brings 'disorder and every evil practice'". I recently read the book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. It's a great book that's really funny and reminded me that Mindy Kaling isn't actually Kelly Kapoor. Anyway, in this book, she exposes the fear most adults have: is everyone hanging out without me? Am I missing out on something? Are my kids missing out on something? Is there some secret club out there I have no idea about because I'm not cool enough? Social media doesn't help with this because we see pictures of friends hanging out without us, friendships that seem stronger than ours, and stuff we're on the outside of. This is just a sneakier form of jealousy.
In my life, jealousy has brought disorder. When I'm jealous of someone, I tend to become critical of them. I make them out to be something they're not to justify my jealousy. I isolate myself from situations where I'll encounter them. I allow the enemy access to my heart. Does that sound like disorder? I think so.
Good news is there are things we can do to avoid allowing jealousy to cause disorder in our lives.
1. Recognize jealousy for what it is. Have you ever fallen into that pattern above? Please tell me I'm not the only one. When we're choosing to isolate ourselves because we don't want to be around people we're jealous of, it's important to admit something. We're jealous. It's that simple. And the sooner we come to grips with it, the sooner God can do work on our hearts.
2. Choose to be Thankful. You know what I do? I pray for certain things in my life and when God gives them to me, I don't notice because I'm feeling jealous about the next thing I want. If I were my parent, I'd be like, "Enough! No more blessings for you because you don't care about the ones you have already." I'm glad God has more patience with me than that. Carefully looking at our blessings makes it tough to look to our left and right to see what we don't have.
3. Celebrate others. Often, another person having something isn't what is keeping us from having it. This morning I was taking my youngest two kids to preschool. (That's why I had time to write this. Woo hoo!) Grady was bringing snack and Nora was super mad she didn't get to bring snack for her class today. I tried to explain that Grady isn't bringing snack "in place of her". In other words, his being assigned snack in his class had no bearing on whether or not she would have snack in her class. I asked her to please be excited for Grady because he's excited to bring snack and she was ruining it for him.
I know this is a silly example, but it's so true. We need to stop blaming others for the fact that we're not content. It's not like I went to the store and the clerk said, "I'm sorry. You know that Facebook friend you tend to be jealous of? Well, she already bought all the stuff you want. We're fresh out." When I'm feeling jealous of a friend's good fortune, I can choose to celebrate with her which in turn makes me happy. She feels supported and I tend to start to really like her in the process. Suddenly, the the bitterness of jealousy stops being so bitter. It's like adding cream to bad coffee. It's not delicious yet, but it's much tastier and easier to swallow.
So, it looks like we don't outgrow jealousy. Just like any sin, it simply takes another form.
Will you pray this with me today?
Take away my jealousy. I know it only leads to disorder. Please help me remember all the blessings you give me every day. Help me remember I'm your child and you give me everything I need. Replace my jealousy with love. Help me celebrate my friends instead of envying them.