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Steps to Conquering Jealousy and Envy
Christians can conquer the destructive emotions of jealousy and envy and enjoy better physical and mental health (Proverbs 14:30). As frail human beings, these feelings arise naturally in us. We can choose to stew in our own juices or fight these negative feelings. Jealousy can easily turn to a hatred that will cause strife, and damage or destroy our relationships.
The more we obsess about what we don’t have or worry about losing a relationship, the more miserable we become. Chances are that other people around us will be miserable too because of our bitter, resentful attitude.
Possible triggers for feelings of jealousy
There are a number of situations that may trigger feelings of jealousy in us.
- Fear of losing a relationship with others such as mates or friends
- Feeling insecure and inferior in relationships, work, and other situations
- Having a sense of entitlement to things such as money, a career, and prestige
- Feeling that an injustice has been done, such as a co-worker getting a promotion instead of us
- Constantly comparing ourselves to other people and resenting them because they have the things that we crave and don’t have
- Craving what other people have such as their significant other, wealth, or position
The steps we can take to fight feelings of jealousy and envy
Come out of denial
Sometimes we deny our feelings of jealousy and pretend they exist. We need to admit the truth that we have envy in our hearts and decide to deal with these negative emotions (James 3:14-15). When we expose our envy to ourselves, we recognize these feelings are not from God. They come from our selfish carnal natures. Jealously opens the door to all kinds of sin such as anger and resentment towards people who have the things we think that we should have.
The end result of our jealousy creates disorder and every evil practice (James 3:14 – 15) such as depravity, greed, malice, gossip and deceit (Romans 1:29). When we are jealous, we eventually damage ourselves and others through hurt feelings, destructive behavior, and broken relationships.
Sometimes, we need to examine our reasons for working towards certain goals. Are we trying to keep up with the Jones family because we are jealous of what they have? When envy of another person motivates us, we are chasing the wind. Our achievements are meaningless (Ecclesiastes 4:4).
We may also be driven by a sense of entitlement. Unfortunately, the world we live in encourages us to think that we have the right to take someone's husband or to possess the same things others have. We can come up with all kinds of excuses: "He is going to leave his wife anyways," and "I deserve this, even if it means stepping on someone else."
Stop comparing ourselves to others
The Bible says that it is not wise to compare ourselves with others (2 Corinthians 10:11-13). Comparisons not only provoke feelings of envy, but puff us up with pride. Arrogance spurs us to think that we are better than other people and have been cheated because we don't have what they have. We are resentful and discontent all the time. We think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.
On the other and, comparisons can provoke unwanted feelings of low self-esteem and worth. The thought keeps rolling around in our minds, “What is wrong with me? Don’t I deserve the same relationships or things that other people have?” However, the grass is not always greener on the other side, no matter how verdant and healthy it appears on the outside.
Stop being self-centered
Jealousy arises in part from being self-centered.
“Why don’t I have a husband like Susan?"
"Don’t I deserve a better job like Bob?"
Why can’t I have a nice house like the Jones’s?”
Me, me. me, the world revolves around me. The constant focus on ourselves is fertile ground for jealousy to grow. One antidote is to focus on meeting the needs of others instead. We can benefit by having happy and healthy relationships. When we help others, we feel satisfied and fulfilled.
Me, me. Me, the world revolves around me. The constant focus on ourselves is fertile ground for jealousy to sprout up. One antidote is to focus on meeting the needs of others instead. We benefit from having happy and healthy relationship. When we help others, we feel satisfied and fulfilled.
Stop craving what other people have
When we are jealous, we risk provoking an obsessive desire to have what other people have – which the Bible calls “coveting.” One of the ten commandments says that we should not covet anything that belongs to our neighbor such as their possessions, their mate, or their property ((Exodus 20:17). Covetousness leads to quarreling, fighting and ultimately, murder (James 4:2).
TV guru Dr. Phil often says that “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.” A part of each day can be devoted to analyzing our true thoughts and feelings. If we feel like hypocrites that smile at the people while we really want to stab them in the back, “Houston, we have a problem.” We can start defeating envy by taking our thoughts captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). We can also make a list of the positive qualities that we have, and feel good about ourselves. A friend can help by contributing to the list.
Pray to God
God knows that we are weak human beings who struggle with our unspiritual natures (Romans 7:14-25). God will deliver us from our envy and jealousy when we ask Him for help.
Seek help from other people
We should talk to close friends and confess our feelings to someone we trust. They will confront us in love when we veer off track emotionally, and let us know we need an attitude adjustment.
A spirit of thankfulness focuses our attention on what we have instead of the things or relationships we don’t have. We will be able to receive the peace of God, which will guard our hearts and minds in Christ (Philippians 4:6-7). One healthy way to conquer feelings of jealousy is to express our appreciation to those we envy. We can approach the person we envy and express how much we appreciate them or thank them for their service. Our thankfulness can counteract a sense of entitlement to things we probably don't deserve and our selfish desires.
We can benefit greatly by learning to be content with the things we have, such as food and clothing (1 Timothy 6:6-8). One way become content is to stop loving and pursuing money (Hebrews 13:5). We can focus on the positive blessings we have in our lives instead of what we don’t have.
We are blessed when we are humble (Matthew 5:5) and don't think more highly of ourselves than we should. Conceit leads to envy and strife (Galatians 5:6).
Actively love others
When we are jealous of people, we resent and hate them. When we love them instead, we can be kind and patient with them (1 Corinthians 13:4). Love cancels out all the negative junk of jealousy and envy.
© 2013 Carola Finch