Jealousy and Envy are bummer emotions
Did you ever realize that the word “lousy” is contained in the word ‘jealousy’? That’s because jealousy can really make a person feel just that – lousy! I hate jealousy! It was an emotion that used to often plague me when I was younger. I was fraught with jealousy and it was a corrosive emotion to my psyche.
It’s not hard to feel jealous once in a while. Looking at social media and comparing “my insides to others’ outsides” can do that. We can feel jealous when we see others getting something we want for ourselves. We can feel jealous when we want something that others have. Or when we perceive that others are getting more (attention, affection etc) of what we think we want.
Jealousy leads us to negative, corrosive emotions.
- Discomfort and even
Jealousy and envy are emotions as old as the Bible.
The story of Cain and Abel shows us how that feeling of jealousy can even lead someone to kill another. Cain believed that God cherished Abel’s offering over Cain’s. So, in his pain and jealousy, Cain killed Abel. Certainly this is not the outcome we’d ever want. But clearly, jealousy shouldn’t cause us to kill, but it could. And that’s why, it’s so dangerous. Therefore, we have to learn to overcome this emotion.
Years ago, I was an aspiring songwriter in Nashville. I saw friends achieving great success in their careers. They had their songs cut by Country music stars, they got professional writing deals. And me? I got to keep my job as a waitress. I couldn’t help but be plagued by envy and jealousy. So, I sought help from my spiritual advisor. It was getting to be too much for me and was starting to affect my relationship and the quality of my life. My spiritual advisor asked me to explore some questions. When I got really honest with myself, I found that I was not really doing everything in my power to achieve my goals. Instead, I was expecting success without working for it. When I saw this humbling truth, I had no choice but to get busy and work harder. I used prayer. Prayer saved me from losing relationships with those I was jealous of.
Years later, I went through 5 long years of infertility. There were times I couldn’t help but get jealous when I saw my friends get pregnant when I could not. I had one experience where my friend sat me down and admitted she was afraid to tell me that she was pregnant. She saw how I struggled to act happy to hear when others had success where I had not. (Yet) Ugh, talk about humbling! I didn’t realize I had been so obvious in my inability to be happy for my friends. I knew I had to change – but how?
This was my spiritual journey of how I was able to rejoice in another’s success:
- First, I had to acknowledge or recognize that I felt jealous
- Then, I had to ask, “why do I feel this way?”
- From the ‘why’, I had to recognize I wanted what they had. This begged the question, “Am I willing to do the work to achieve it?” (Or, do I only have wishful thinking)
- If I am willing to do the footwork, I have to get busy. But, I also have to pray for the willingness to be okay if I don’t get the outcome. Somethings are just not in the Universal plan for me to have, and I have to be okay with that.
- Accept and be grateful for all that I have today at this moment.
There’s another story in the Bible (Torah, Old Testament) of Moses and Aaron. Aaron is the older brother but Moses becomes the leader of the Israelites. Aaron, however, unlike Cain, is not jealous. When Moses got commissioned to lead the Israelites, Aaron rejoiced for Moses’ success. The Talmud (later commentary on the Torah) says that Aaron got a reward: A jeweled breastplate. This reward was for his being able to rejoice in Moses’ success. Wow – huge. To feel happy for someone when they get something we think we should have or wanted for ourselves? That is the spiritual work we have to do.
When we are willing to take a look at our own jealousy, we can be free from it and move from envy to happiness for others. And what is the ‘reward’ for doing this work? We too can receive the ‘jeweled breastplate’ like Aaron did. The jewels are:
- True love of our fellow man
These are spiritual gifts that can be ours if we are willing to do the hard spiritual work. This is the best way I have found to overcome those negative feelings of envy and jealousy.