The Problem You Don't Have

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by Athena Brockman

You know the one I’m talking about. It can stir within an attitude we won’t admit, behavior we are never proud of, or lead to guilt we can’t ignore. It’s that dreaded JEALOUSY. This is something I thought I had a handle on, but after hearing a recent Sunday talk, I have to admit the struggle is real. 

Jealousy is not an emotion any of us welcome but one we can experience often. And, for some of us, the struggle with jealousy is more frequent. This would be the category I fall into. From the time I tried to steal my best friend’s just-opened birthday present at age four, I knew I might have a slight problem. And yes, unfortunately, there is footage worthy of America’s Funniest Home Videos documenting my behavior. 

As a kid, when peers had more stuff, better accomplishments, or stronger friendships, I responded with jealousy. Of course, the measurements of more, better and stronger were only my one-dimensional interpretations. But, they were enough to allow jealousy to take root. In high school, some of my best friends were the people I was most jealous of. I hated that! I knew it was fueled by insecurity and had the potential to ruin friendships. 

It was clear jealousy prevented openness, deeper friendship, and shared happiness. 

Being an extrovert who thrived on relationships, I knew that I had to get jealousy out of my life if I didn’t want it to get in the way. 

At first, I thought my toolbox of self-prescribed remedies would be sure to carry me from school years through adult life. If jealous of someone’s relationships, better friendships, or leadership role, I could rationalize away my jealousy by measuring the “fairness” of the situation. Maybe those people have that relationship because they put in more time, made a greater effort, and I’m not doing my fair part. I shouldn’t be jealous. Or, I could attempt to diffuse my jealousy of other’s accomplishments and success, by donning an “attitude of gratitude”. I have to be thankful for where I am in life or for how far I have come. I shouldn’t be jealous. And then there was always the third, most negative option, to pessimistically observe that the grass on my side of the street could be less green. Those Joneses over there have what I don’t, but it could be worse and I could have less. I shouldn’t be jealous.

With God being the obvious absence from my toolbox, my comfort with this routine was misguided, not to mention unsuccessful. Many circumstances call for fairness and many more call for gratitude, but I was using neither properly. I would get jealous, and then tell myself not to be jealous. Or, I would get jealous, and then find a way to subdue my jealousy.

I can summarize the glaring problem with a chorus from today’s radio: “I still get jealous.” Thank you, Mr. Jonas. It’s true! And, with social media it seems easier than ever. We are presented with perfectly posed pictures of the highlights of one another’s lives. I still catch myself with moments of jealousy. Look at her more stylish clothes, or that family that is always having so much more fun together, or that mom who seems like she can always do more even when she is already juggling three kids while riding a unicycle on top of an elephant! These jealous thoughts are the result of insecurity and comparison. And, if my toolbox is only full of methods to respond to jealousy, it’s nearly impossible to prevent the initial feeling.

We have to invite God into the equation and make him the primary tool in our toolbox, if we really want to change our hearts and stop being jealous. 

Jealously says, "I have to be equal or better.” God says, "I have already given you everything you need and more than you deserve."

The message on Jealousy was the wake-up call I needed. Pastor Daren described jealousy as the thought that “if you become more, then I become less.” Our jealous thoughts function as a zero-sum game, as if there is only so much “more” to go around. We think if others are better or have more, then the only alternative is that we are worse or have less.  But, God does not maintain a cap on who can become “more” or how much success we can each achieve.

We can have a Christ-like outlook, if we choose to be proud of the successes, gifts, and talents God has given to others rather than find ways to criticize or compare. How? By CELEBRATING our friends! This redirects us from hearts of jealousy to hearts of praise. If we find our value as children of God and accept that He has a unique purpose for each of our lives, then judgment and comparison have no place, and the power of jealousy is weakened. 

I cannot say I haven't had a moment of jealousy since hearing this message, but I can say I have had a lot more fun celebrating others. 

I wish I knew at age four what I was fortunate to learn just a few weeks ago: birthday parties are for celebrating not stealing.

As with most things worth doing, it is much easier said (or written) than done. But, I am ready to celebrate a lot more often. Would you like to join me?

And, if I’m not invited to any future birthday parties, I completely understand. 

Prayer:  God give us peace for our path. Help us to have faith in You and the purpose You have for our lives and the lives of others. Remind us to Celebrate others and all things You have wonderfully made.  You challenge us, teach us, reward us, protect us, heal us, and mold us, in unique ways according to your vision for our lives. For this, we are so very grateful. We pray that we abandon attitudes of jealousy and commit to celebrating others and You everyday. Amen. 

How have you dealt with jealousy? How do you celebrate others?


If you missed this talk, you can hear it on the Bay City Podcast here: