Carola is a Christian writer and author of several books. She writes about Christian living, relationships, and other related topics.
When we look at a field of grass from the other side of the fence, it looks good. It is thick and luxurious green with no dandelions. We may look at our own puny lawns and envy the owners of such beauty. As frail human beings, envious feelings arise naturally in us. Jealousy can easily turn into hatred that will cause strife and damage or destroy our relationships. We can choose to stew in our own juices or fight these negative feelings.
In the book, Jealousy--The Sin No One Talks About: How to Overcome Envy and Live a Life of Freedom, author R.T. Kendall says that jealousy is "more infectious, more widespread, and more subtle than we can imagine." The more we obsess about what we do not have or worry about losing a relationship, the more miserable we become. The chances are that other people around us will be miserable too because of our bitter, resentful attitude.
Possible Triggers for Feelings Of Jealousy
There are a number of situations that may trigger feelings of jealousy in us.
- Feeling insecure and inferior in relationships, work, and other situations
- Fear of losing a relationship with others such as mates or friends
- Lusting for what other people have such as their significant other, wealth, or position
- Having a sense of entitlement to things such as prestige, money, other people’s mates, or possessions
- Feeling that an injustice has been done, such as a co-worker getting a promotion instead of us
- Constantly comparing ourselves to other people and resenting them because they have the things that we crave and do not have
Steps to Overcoming Envy
There are steps we can take to fight feelings of jealousy and envy.
Come Out of Denial
Sometimes we deny that we have feelings of jealousy and pretend they do not exist. We need to admit that we are jealous and decide to deal with these negative emotions (James 3:14-15). When we expose our envy, we recognize these feelings are not from God. They come from our selfish carnal natures. Jealously opens the door to all kinds of sin, such as anger and resentment towards people who have the possessions, status, lifestyle, and relationships we think that we should have.
The end result of our jealousy creates disorder and every evil practice such as depravity, greed, malice, gossip, and deceit (James 3:14 – 15, Romans 1:29). When we are jealous, we eventually hurt ourselves and others, have destructive behavior, and experience broken relationships.
God knows that we are weak human beings who struggle with our unspiritual natures (Romans 7:14-25). God will deliver us from our envy and jealousy when we ask Him for help.
Seek Help from Other People
We should talk to close friends and confess our feelings to someone we trust. They will confront us in love when we veer off track emotionally and let us know we need an attitude adjustment.
Examine Our Motives
Sometimes, we need to examine our reasons for working towards certain goals. Are we trying to keep up with the Jones family because we are jealous of what they have? When envy of other people motivates us, we are chasing the wind. Our achievements are meaningless (Ecclesiastes 4:4).
We may also be driven by a sense of entitlement. Unfortunately, the world we live in encourages us to think that we have the right to take someone's spouse or to possess the same things others have at any cost. We come up with all kinds of excuses: "He is going to leave his wife anyway," and "I deserve this, even if it means stepping on someone else."
Work on Self-Awareness
TV guru Dr. Phil often says that “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.” A part of each day can be devoted to analyzing our true thoughts and feelings. If we feel like hypocrites who smile at people while we really want to stab them in the back, “Houston, we have a problem.” We start defeating envy by taking our thoughts captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). We can also make a list of the positive qualities that we have and feel good about ourselves. Friends can help by contributing to the list.
Stop Comparing Ourselves to Others
The Bible says that it is not wise to compare ourselves with others (2 Corinthians 10:11-13). Comparisons not only provoke envy -- they puff us up with pride. Arrogance spurs us to think that we are better than others and have been cheated because we do not have what they have. As a result, we are resentful and discontent all the time.
On the other hand, comparisons can provoke feelings of low self-esteem and unworthiness. The thought keeps rolling around in our minds, “What is wrong with me? Don’t I deserve the same relationships or things that other people have?”
Become More Selfless
Jealousy arises in part from selfishness.
“Why don’t I have a great husband like Susan?"
"Don’t I deserve a better job like Bob?"
Why can’t I have a nice house like the Jones’s?”
Me, me. me, the world revolves around me. The constant focus on us is fertile ground for jealousy to grow. One antidote is to focus on meeting the needs of others instead. We can benefit by having happy and healthy relationships. When we help others, we feel satisfied and fulfilled.
Stop Coveting What Other People Have
When we are jealous, we risk provoking an obsessive desire to have what other people have, which the Bible calls “coveting.” One of the ten commandments says that we should not covet anything that belongs to our neighbor such as their possessions, mates, or property ((Exodus 20:17). Covetousness leads to quarreling, fighting and can ultimately lead to murder (James 4:2).
We should keep in mind that our view of people may be an illusion. Jealousy can skewer reality. Green grass can hide a lot of weeds or may just be AstroTurf.
A spirit of thankfulness focuses our attention on what we have instead of the things or relationships we do not have. We will be able to receive the peace of God, which will guard our hearts and minds in Christ (Philippians 4:6-7).
One healthy way to conquer feelings of jealousy is to express our appreciation to those we envy. We can approach them and tell them how much we appreciate them and thank them for their service. Our gratitude can counteract a sense of entitlement to things we probably do not deserve.
We can benefit greatly by learning to be content with the things we have, such as relationships, food, and clothing (1 Timothy 6:6-8). One way to become content is to stop loving and pursuing money (Hebrews 13:5). We can focus on the positive blessings we have in our lives instead of what we feel we lack.
We are blessed when we are humble and do not think more highly of ourselves than we should. Pride and conceit lead to envy and strife (Matthew 5:5, Galatians 5:6).
Actively Love Others
When we are jealous of people, we resent and hate them. When we love them instead, we can be kind to them. We can conquer the destructive emotions of jealousy and envy and enjoy better physical and mental health as a result (Proverbs 14:30).
The Holy Bible, New International Version
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Carola Finch