Nobody really likes to admit to it. But sometimes – usually without advance warning – we feel this sting of jealousy and envy inside. The reasons why these feelings suddenly appear out of the recesses of our heart can be quite varied: other people’s success, talents, looks, friends, influence, opportunities … It can get under our skin when somebody else is being praised or receives a lot of attention. At times, we might not even realise that we are jealous. Instead, we notice feelings of anger or resentment rising within us towards that person.
The words jealousy and envy tend to be used interchangeably. There is however a difference. Envy is wanting what others have and it usually refers to things. Jealousy is being afraid of losing something we do have and that is precious to us (often a special relationship). We read in Exodus 34:14 that ”God is jealous about his relationship with you.” Such jealousy is right and helpful in protecting what is ours and shouldn’t be shared, e.g. your spouse. However, jealousy can go awry and we can become wrongly protective, selfishly controlling and use our jealousy to manipulate.
jealousy can go awry and we can become wrongly protective
We might try to play it down, but essentially envy and wrongful jealousy are sinful responses. They are a result of man’s broken relationship with God, leading to struggles in our identity. Jealousy goes all the way back to the first human family. The account of Cain and Abel (in Genesis 4) shows us that, if left unattended, it can have devastating effects.
Of course, jealousy doesn’t always result in murder as in this biblical story, but it can outwork in many other ways: judging people, being discontent with our lives, experiencing self-pity and low self-esteem, depression, bitterness, resentment towards those who have what we want. It can ultimately lead to a breakdown in relationships. Also, it can cause us to be side-tracked. Rather than using our energy to run the race God has called us to run and develop our giftings, we are trying to compete with others.
Unfortunately, social media with its display of polished pictures showing an endless array of happy people and breath-taking moments is not helping. A study conducted in 2015 by the University of Copenhagen came to the conclusion that the regular use of social networking sites like Facebook can have a negative impact on people’s emotional wellbeing. One of the results showed that “4 out of 10 envy the apparent success of others on Facebook.”
an endless array of happy people and breath-taking moments is not helping.
So, where are you in all of this? Do you struggle to break free from jealousy and envy? Then know this: with God’s help you can. Even though God will not just magically remove these feelings, he will guide and empower you to take the necessary steps to freedom. What’s your part? There will be things to look at and to deal with. Are you ready to say: “Enough is enough, I want to lay hold of the freedom that God has for me and discover the rich and satisfying life he has planned for me?”
Generally speaking, a deep-seated insecurity about oneself is the “breeding ground” for jealousy and envy. Many different experiences whether in childhood or later in life can lead to insecurity, for example:
In order to overcome jealousy and envy it is important to actively do something about it.
Develop an attitude of gratitude
These steps will enable you to shift your focus. Rather than being dissatisfied with what you don’t have, you can start discovering all the opportunities God has given you to live the life he designed uniquely for you. With his help, you can reach your own destiny joyfully.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
R.T. Kendall, The Sin No Ones Talks About (Jealousy): How to overcome envy and live a life of freedom (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2011).
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