I want that attention. I want that talent. I want to be in that group. I want to be in a relationship. How do I handle this jealousy?
I was blindingly jealous. She was my age, around 15 years old, and she commanded the hall with her surprisingly mature, velvet singing voice and a sense of poise I could only dream of having. She was beautiful. She wore beautiful clothes. She had curves.
I wriggled in my seat, suddenly and intensely aware of how utterly unremarkable I was. She had everything I wished for. I, in contrast, had an average voice, was awkward and shy, and skinny and short-haired like a boy. And the floral skirt I had felt so elegant in only a few minutes before now felt like the charity-shop bargain it had been.
Over the following years, I did not think of myself as an envious person. I could "rejoice with those who rejoice." With the arrival of Instagram, I wasn't someone who scrolled through friends' and strangers' pictures, feeling pangs of discontent and resentment over their travel, their families, their bodies, their lifestyles (although seriously, how do some of those 'yummy mummies' manage to look so put-together?!). I was satisfied with my life.
But then I began to notice. There were pin-pricks of jealousy...
... over someone's stylish home in the country. ... over financially-stable friends who seemed secure and passionate in their work. ...over whoever seemed to have their life figured out and be "ahead" of me.
But the real straight-up stabbings of jealousy always came from situations that were relational.
The moment that really made me sit up was my reaction to a friend's news. While she bubbled with the joy of a dream come true, I found it difficult to wholeheartedly rejoice with her. "Warm fuzzies! I'm happy for you!" I messaged, and I was, but I was also jealous, and just a tiny bit bitter. Why her and not me?
"This is completely ridiculous," I wrote in my journal, kicking myself for what I was feeling. But I kept feeling it, surrendering to its dark tide as other events of that weekend dragged me deeper into resentment and envy.
God had been whispering to my heart in recent months, with each of these events, and now He was saying again firmly: "This is an area that needs attention."
One thing about Christian life is that while God is merciful, He is also insistent. After all, He wants to make us "whole and holy" for our own good (and let's be honest, everyone else's good as well). He fixes what is broken, and sometimes that means prompting us to take a hard, painful look at what is going on in our hearts.
Maybe the roots of jealousy vary, differing based on our own histories and personalities. Perhaps there are also different kinds of jealousy.
I realized that one root of my jealousy is simply stumbling into the trap of comparison. I've wrestled with that one before. Sometimes I still need to remind myself that my story is my own, and comparing it with others is pointless. However, a truly impactful moment of revelation came with reading a simple line in a blog:
Whoa. How many of us "live loved?" Do we get up and go through our day resting in the surety that we are cherished? Too often, I don't. Part of the tangled roots of my jealousy may be related to the desire to feel valued and loved and seen, and from the wounds that came from the times when I felt I was not.
It wouldn't surprise me. Those of you who know me, or who have read previous blogs, know this has always been a challenging issue for me, and one which God has been working on for a looong time. (Sometimes it feels like one step forward, three steps back.)
"Through jealousy, the deepest desires of our hearts are elicited and amplified. The fire of jealousy burns away the distractions of life's details to show us the things we treasure. This process of internal emotional suffering -- of jealousy most pointedly -- can help clarify and bring to the surface all that we would otherwise have kept hidden from God and even from ourselves." (Paul Maxwell)
We all want to be loved. The heart is almost insatiable. But, as John Eldrege explains, we are "leaky vessels," feeling happy and loved one day and yet waking up the next day with a needy soul.
"'I keep telling him he's doing great. It doesn't seem to sink in.'
'I don't know how many times I've shown her I am here for her. It's like she doesn't believe me or something.'"
"Let's face it -- we are insatiable...The human heart has an infinite capacity for happiness and an unending need for love, because it is created for an infinite God who is unending love. The desperate turn is when we bring the aching abyss of our hearts to one another with the hope, the plea, 'Make me happy. Fill this ache.' And often out of love, we do try to make one another happy, and then we wonder why it never lasts. It can't be done. You will kill yourself trying." (John and Stasi Eldredge, Love & War pp 66-68 )
This is not to negate good relationships. But people fail. We've all been on the giving and receiving ends of wounds. My jealous moments reflect the yearing for love in me that I cannot expect another human being to completely fill, in any relational capacity. The solution is another Source.
"The love of God is real, and personal, and available. He wants to be this for you." (John and Stasi Eldredge, Love & War p 69)
"We are created to be the object of desire and affection of one who is totally and completely in love with us. And we are. An intimate relationship with Jesus is not only for other [people], for [people] who seem to have their acts together, who appear godly and whose nails are nicely shaped. It is for each and every one of us. God wants intimacy with you." (Stasi Eldredge, Captivating p 122)
This unchanging, soul-quenching love is what enables me to choose to "live loved." As Lysa TerKeurst says about the concept,
"It's settling in your soul, I was created by a God who formed me because he so very much loved the thought of me. When I was nothing, he saw something and declared it good. Very good. And very loved. This should be the genesis thought of every new day: I am loved."
This is, bottom line, what is truest.
Sure, sometimes it doesn't feel that way. Sometimes the greater truth may seem to be what he did to me, what she said about me, how they made me feel.
Yet I am learning how to fight against such negative feelings and self-assessment -- the feeling of being permanently marked "Not ____ Enough" -- with truth.
It's an exhausting fight, some days.
But the truth sets you free. And the truth is, you are loved. I am loved.
Little by little, I am learning that. The truth is beginning to feel more real in my life.
"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us." 1 John 4:16
I can live trusting that I am under the complete care of One who
... knows me the best, and loves me the most. ... sees all my faults, but doesn't replace me in His affections. ... hears my thoughts and ideas all the time, and isn't tired of me. ... promises to guide my life, working all things out for good.
I have a feeling that, within this context, if I start choosing to "live loved" more frequently, the green eyed monster will start to slink away, defeated.
First written in 2017