- Gender and Relationships
Love and Jealousy
The Good Side of Jealousy
Many people who come to this hub will want to stop at the capsule subtitle, immediately thinking, "what can possibly be good about jealousy?" To anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of a jealous relationship, we know the discomfort and sometimes fear, that accompanies the response to another person's anger and accusations stemming from their jealousy.
There was a time when I had heard so many bad things about jealousy, I can recall reading "I the Lord thy God am a jealous God" and thinking God must not be a very nice guy.
But the Bible depicts God as good in every way, so is it plausible to think this is meant as a negative attribute of the Divine? Or is it right to think that in the ancient literature and its earliest English translations, jealously was actually understood in general to be a good quality?
With everything that is said about jealousy, it is hard to think of it as good. I wonder, however, if what we commonly refer to as jealousy is better understood as possessiveness rather than jealousy per se . Possessiveness isn't a word that easily rolls off the tongue, and even if we use the adjective form - possessive - it's a little confusing in the context of a male-female relationship - "jealousy" just seems to create a more clear picture of the issue. Nonetheless, I think it's worth considering the real distinctions between jealousy and possessiveness in order to help understand jealousy for what it really is.
If jealousy is an attribute of divinity, then at it's core, it is good. But how can this be so? Moses heard God say he is a jealous God because he did not want the Israelites worshiping other gods - false gods. He wanted them to be faithful to him, but he also wanted truth to prevail and he did not want them to rely upon gods who could not deliver on promises they might make, in fact, could not answer their prayers at all.
In fact, the Bible then describers the punishments that come to his people when they stray from fidelity to him - he would "visit the iniquities" of that generation on many generations to come.
To us, this all seems extremely harsh. But thoughtful reflection of the matter sheds light in a way we can all understand. have any of us ever witnessed an intergenerational plague, what a father has done is not only repeated by his son, but the consequences are multiplied in ways no one might have imagined?
The Darker Side
Even with all of the above said of God, it takes only a moment to think of an experience with a jealous person to make you want to change the subject. Jealousy is rarely expressed in a positive way on a human level - at least when it is recognizable as jealousy.
I suspect this is because what starts as something truly positive - perhaps a sense of protection of another person from something harmful - turns into an ignoble emotional experience before jealousy is ever obvious. When this happens, it is often even triggered by an action or concern over something palpable and legitimate - but it becomes unhealthy the very second the jealous person thinks he can do anything to prevent or control the harm that may come from what he is worried about.
For example, a young man cares about his girlfriend. He wants her to spend time with friends who have high morals and good judgment. One of her closest friends, however, is a serious partier, and is rumored to sleep around frequently. The girlfriend will not let him choose her friends - they are hers to choose. Her friendship continues till at last the girlfriend is persuaded to get close to another guy. She displays this unspoken interest through a newly kindled indifference toward her own boyfriend.
At some moment, she is in a simple conversation with another guy, who is truly just a friend, immediately after which her boyfriend explodes. She's intimidated, doesn't understand, and disdains her boyfriend's attention - nobody wins.
Jealousy is frightening because it is accompanied with anger, insecurity and love of one's self rather than the other person. If the jealous person was truly calm, self-assured and loving, his expressions would not be a threat - whether they are well received by the other person or not.