There is nothing in the world wrong with observing what someone else has and thinking to yourself, “Man, I sure wish I had some of that.” If necessity is the mother of invention, then observational jealousy is it’s step-mother. “Ug have fire outside cave. I want! I find way to make fire inside cave! I make chimney!” Or something. (Now I want to draw cartoons to go along with this blog. I’m iced in. I’ve got the time.)
There is everything wrong with observing what someone has and thinking, “I should have that instead of him!” Then you end up with something like, “Abel gets attention that I should be getting! I know, if I kill him, then they will HAVE to give me all the attention. Hey, Abel, come help me with this thing over here…”
The book of Proverbs is filled with warnings against envy. The two that have always stuck out to me are 14:30, A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones, and 24:1, Do not envy the wicked, do not desire their company.
Most of the time, I can head envy off at the pass. Most of the time I can honestly look at what people have and say, “I’m very happy for you.” I was raised to strive for my own happiness, and to be glad when other achieved their own. My mother didn’t put up with petty jealousy. If SoandSo had a fantastic Somethingorother and I was whining about me deserving it more than she, my mother put a quick stop to that. If I wanted it, I should work for my own, and get off my high horse. I should pay less attention to what SoandSo had and more attention to what it would take for me to achieve the same, and I should also keep in mind, that maybe SoandSo needed that Somethingorother to make up for another emptiness. And, by the way, she would remind me, there are people who would give a right arm to have what I did. I should think of them, too.
I heard Joyce Meyer speak on envy a few times–and I interrupt myself to tell you that, from experience, while I have very, very little good to say about the major television ministries, I have a great respect for Joyce and her teaching, if only because she was the single ministry to fully cooperate when the Senate Finance Committee came calling–and she makes a cutesy, but convincing analogy. She talks about how silly it would be for your eye to be jealous of your hand because your hand gets to wear a beautiful ring. If you put a ring in your eye, you couldn’t see. She says that you might be an “eye” in the grand scheme of things, and envying what a “hand” has will only hamper your ability to live a productive life.
I have posted before about how I mean-girled a classmate into a corner out of jealousy. I wanted the attention of a boy she had managed to snag, fresh from a breakup with another girl I’d been sneering at, and I thought if she was out of the way, I’d have my shot. Of course you know I just ended up looking like a complete horse’s behind, and I carry what is a healthy scar of guilt over my actions to this day.
It is a healthy scar because it keeps me from repeating my past behaviors. When I feel that tightening of envy in my gut, I also feel that scar tightening right along with it. If it had been left on me by an evil wizard, it would have been shaped like a lightening bolt, and you would have seen me rubbing at it and grimacing yesterday, while looking through Facebook.
“Of course she shops at Posh Tots,” I growled, feeling a little sick to my stomach. She didn’t deserve that! I couldn’t shop there! I knew where that money had come from, and that was dirty, dirty money. I was clean as far as all that went, and it wasn’t fair!
I kept flipping through pages, jealous of this or that. Angry that no one had noted my righteousness and… Ugh. It’s just embarrassing what went through my head.
Here’s the thing: If you’re righteous and you know it, clap your hands. See what it gets you? You can’t really feel proud of your righteousness without spoiling it. It’s like adding lemon juice to your milk. Same thing with jealousy. When you focus yourself on envying what someone else has, you can’t enjoy what you’ve got.
No, I can’t afford to shop at Posh Tots, and I am not part of that clique, but you know what I do have? I have an amazing son, who is loved and well dressed, and a group of friends who love me no matter what kind of foolishness I’m up to. It is honestly none of my business what someone else has. My business is about taking care of what I have, and (because I am the ambitious sort) getting to the next level, and working out how to use what I do have for the benefit of people who are less fortunate.
Tell you one thing: It’s a lot easier to just scowl at Paris Hilton, than to acknowledge I’m being a jerk.