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Spiritual Approaches To Jealousy

I hate the feeling of jealousy. As I have written before, the word “lousy” is inside the word ‘jealousy.’ Because jealousy makes us feel so lousy. I wish I could just snap my fingers and not feel this corrosive feeling. But alas, I don’t have the power to take away my own jealousy. What I do have, is the power to do the work around the ‘why’ I am jealous. Also, what steps to take to deal with jealousy.

First, one has to explore the source of jealousy. Where does the feeling come from? What is the cause of the discomfort?

Why Am I Jealous?
I’m jealous when I see others get something that I think I want. I desire to be happy for them – to celebrate with them. But then that ‘ol’ man jealousy’ rears its ugly head, and I just feel lousy inside. I lack the faith that I too will get what I am supposed to have when it is supposed to happen.

  • I had this problem back when I was experiencing infertility – my friends were cautious about telling me when they got pregnant because it was such a struggle to be happy with and for them. I couldn’t help it, I was beyond envious – I was full blown jealous.
  • When I lived as a songwriter, I attempted to be happy for my friends who wrote hit after hit, while I struggled in the trenches, never quite reaching the heights I desired. Again, I was beyond envy – I was jealous.
  • And today – many of you know because I talk about it all the time: I have longed to live in Florida. My whole family currently lives there – Both of my sisters moved there over the past two years. Now, I want to live there. I have been talking about moving there for the past 15 years. So, when it gets colder in Chicago, I get envious of those who live where it stays warm. I am happy for them, yes. But still, I am jealous.

There’s A Difference Between Envy and Jealousy
There is actually a difference between the two words. Jealousy is defined as “feeling resentment against someone because of that person’s rivalry, success, or advantages.” Whereas envy is, “a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions.” Notice, jealousy comes with resentment. Envy is coupled with discontent. There is a difference, albeit subtle. But both emotions can be treated by doing the spiritual work to treat the problem.

Alan Cohen, In his book “A Deep Breath of Life,” tells of a story about his friend Ernst. According to Cohen, Ernst was just a regular dude, who was also a part of his band. A few years later, Ernst told Cohen how he’d become a local hero and well known as a healer in South America. Cohen reported feeling jealous that Ernst went from bass player in his band to local South American saint. But then Cohen knew he had a choice to make: Negate the good or rejoice in the blessing. By recognizing Ernst’s divinity and grace meant he embraced his own superpower, and thus, Cohen could celebrate with him.

He understood that he didn’t have to feel diminished by others’ success.

I can be happy for anyone who moves to Florida and know that one day, if I am supposed to – I will get to be there too.


Image by David Mark from Pixabay

What Spiritual Work Can We Do To Overcome Jealousy?
My spiritual advisor had me start exploring my jealousy with journaling. I had to spend time each day, writing out everything – no matter how ugly – about the cause of my jealousy.
I then had to pray for the jealousy and envy to be removed. Every day. Methodically.
To make matters worse, my sponsor advised me to pray for those I envied, to have everything I wanted for myself! Talk about a spiritual discipline! I was resistant at first – but when I practiced this prayer for awhile, it really helped change my attitude toward those I envied.

Jealousy Can Be the Midwife Emotion To A New Way Of Thinking

We have to be willing to let our jealousy be the guide to a new way of thinking. We can stay in the negative resentful feelings of jealousy or we can strive to attain love and acceptance. Nothing can kill a friendship faster than the corrosive feeling of jealousy and resentment. It separates us from others, and from God. And can have the power to make us do terrible things. (Remember the biblical story of Cain and Abel and how jealousy led Cain to kill Abel!)

  1. We can ask ourselves if we are truly working toward our goals or are we expecting the world to give us something we should otherwise be working for? And if we uncover that we haven’t truly worked for something, then we can get busy doing so.
  2. My spiritual advisor instructed me to invest more into my own creativity and focus on my own small accomplishments. And she advised me to take a break from social media, where I have the tendency to “compare my insides to others’ outsides.” That is a toxic trip down the rabbit hole, and I am able to get off that gravy train anytime I wish!
  3. Finally, we can change our own behavioral patterns, which helps control my reaction of feeling jealousy. Everything comes in its own time and season. If I’m willing to put in the hard work, I will have my own results.

Alan Cohen chose to celebrate his friend’s accomplishments. He chose love over jealousy. Which reminds me of a quote from a French Eccliesiastic Saint, Bernard of Clairvaux. (1019-1153)

WE FIND REST in those we love, and we provide a resting place in ourselves for those who love us…

Saint Bernard was a great leader who raised up his friends (and they followed him to the monastery in droves!) Friends are to be sources of love, not sources of pain and envy. If we do the work of our own spiritual excavation, to emerge from our place of jealousy, to a place of love for others and acceptance of self. When we stop resenting, feeling jealous of and envying our friends, we can feel the love and support for them. We can celebrate their accomplishments and have hope for our own good fortune. To everything there is a season – Our time to celebrate our own accomplishment will come. I believe that jealousy is an opportunity to grow spiritually if we seize upon it as such.

I hope this has been helpful to anyone who also struggles with jealousy. Until we meet again, may you be blessed on your spiritual journey!

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