The Bible is a book about relationships, the ones we have with God and the ones we have with each other. Jesus summed up all of Scripture with this command about relationships: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31).
Like any goal worth reaching, this standard of living sets a high bar. And yet, in His wisdom, the Lord has revealed to us an answer to the problem of jealousy — when we live with our eyes fixed on loving Him and on loving each other, jealousy has no room to grow.
What Is Jealousy?
Everyone feels jealous or envious of someone at some point, whether over someone’s looks, possessions, status, or advantage. Jealousy and envy are two sides of the same coin.
Jealousy is based on fear while envy is based more so on resentment. For purposes of this article, both terms will be used interchangeably.
When we feel jealous, we perceive that someone has something desirable that we don’t. Many times, jealousy is based on our own misperceptions. For example, think of a time when you’ve felt jealousy creep in while scrolling through your social media pages.
Realistically, you know that the pictures you see online are often meant to showcase curated or even staged events. But that may not have stopped you from being gripped by jealousy that is actually based on a resentful fear.
More specifically, you fear that because of what someone else has, you don’t measure up in some way, or you’re at risk of losing an important relationship or position in your life.
When viewed this way, it becomes easier to see that jealousy is about perception, and perception is something you can change with a little effort and mindfulness.
5 Ways to Overcome Jealousy
1. Trust in God’s plan for you. When you’re jealous of someone, you feel that that person’s “wins” in life highlight your perceived “losses.” You may grumble that a friend’s spouse is more thoughtful than yours, that a friend’s kids are more successful, or that a neighbor’s career is more impressive.
By feeding these jealous thoughts, you’re averting your eyes from the God of hope. God promises that He has a plan for you, a plan to prosper you and give you a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
The Lord also has His own plan for your friend, your neighbor, and anyone else whose business you may be minding right now.
However, it’s your job to stay focused on where you think God is leading you in life. You can do this by acknowledging jealous thoughts before they start to steal your energy and bring down your mood. Instead, make a conscious effort to trust your eternal God over your temporary emotions.
2. Pray and study Scripture for guidance. God wants to comfort you in your worries and guide you through your daily struggles. Like any caring parent, God wants to be the voice that tells you which path to take when you’re at a crossroads (Isaiah 30:21). Also, like any caring parent, He can’t help you if don’t share your problems with Him first.
Talk to God in prayer and lay your worries at His feet. Seek the way to be your best self by meditating on the Bible, which is the greatest life manual we have. Remind yourself that God promises to bring good out of every situation for those who put their trust in Him (Romans 8:28).
3. Count your blessings. It’s normal to feel some measure of envy of others. However, when you stew in resentment over someone else’s blessings, you may inadvertently be shrugging off your own.
Sagely, the Bible warns us that if envy is left unchecked, it can cause you to sow seeds of discontent for yourself, as “envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30).
Rather than minimize the value of the many blessings God has already bestowed upon you, take a moment to count them. From your health to your job, your loved ones to the roof over your head, sit and really consider the ways in which you are more fortunate than others. Don’t do this in a self-satisfactory way, but in a way that praises God for His goodness.
4. Wish others well, especially the people you’re jealous of. Everyone is made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). We are made good because we’re made in His image, but we are flawed because of our free will to make human choices.
When faced with someone who has something you want, you’re faced with a choice: resent the person or wish them well. If you can’t wish the other person well for their sake, then wish them well for your own.
In particular, the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Luke 6:45). If you allow jealousy to fill your heart, your words and actions will soon reflect the low state of your heart.
You’ll find yourself making condescending remarks and doing things to tear others down as a means of propping yourself up. That’s no way to live and, more importantly, it’s no way to give witness to your Christian faith.
Rather than going low when your jealous feelings are stoked, simply say “good for them,” even if you have to do so through gritted teeth. Then, move on and redirect your jealous thoughts to more positive things. The more you practice wishing others well, the easier it becomes to do and the quicker you can get back to living your best life.
5. Quell your jealousy by improving your life. Envious feelings of others can often serve as indicators of where we need to improve in our own life. Study what triggers your jealousy and ask yourself what positive changes you can make to address the root cause of that jealousy.
For example, if you’re jealous of someone’s looks, consider what healthy changes you can make to your physical appearance to feel better about yourself. Using jealousy as a prompt to eat better and exercise more turns the negative that is envy into the positive that is improved health.
Likewise, you may resent someone’s circle of friends or successful career. Acknowledge this resentment and then use it as a launchpad to invest more in your social life or take steps to pursue greater professional success.
What Does This Mean?
When it comes to jealousy, you can’t keep the green-eyed monster from darkening your door from time to time. However, what you can do is make an action plan to keep harmful jealous thoughts from taking up residence in your mind.
The more you study Scripture with a humble heart, the more you realize that Scripture gives us a roadmap on how you can best conduct yourself before your Creator and your neighbor alike. Scripture boldly declares that we are not made with a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).
Armed with that power, love, and self-discipline, make a choice that you are going to overcome jealousy. You can do this by trusting in the Lord’s plan for you, praising God for your many blessings, and wishing those around you well as you focus on being the version of yourself the good Lord has already equipped you to be.
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Dolores Smyth is a nationally published faith and parenting writer. She draws inspiration for her writing from everyday life. Connect with her over Twitter @byDoloresSmyth.