I used to think jealousy was a victimless crime. I thought it only hurt the perp. And that might be true as long as it stays a soul-gnawing emotion. But, as I shared in a previous post, once it takes action it does all manner of damage.
So how do you get jealousy under control? How do you transform a gnarly thought before it morphs into a gnarly action? Here’s what I do:
1. I remind myself that there is enough to go around. I used to scratch my head at my older sister’s manipulative attempts to push my other siblings and me out of our mother’s heart. She seemed to believe that if we weren’t there, there would be more room for her. Her logic made no sense to me. Even as a small child I knew that mom’s love for one would not diminish her love for the others. A mom never runs out of love. And a Father never runs out of blessings. You fulfilling your dream does not mean I cannot fulfill mine. God has enough for us both.
2. I remind myself that we are a family. The Baptist church is full of rugged individualists. Our emphasis on a personal relationship with God seems to have corroded into an exclusive relationship with God. It’s just God and me and no one else matters. So we trample and claw as we race to the head of the class. But I want to live in a healthy family, a family that spurs one another on toward love and good deeds, a family that is proud of and celebrates the successes of one another. I want to live in a family where, when something good happens to one member, the rest rejoice in the knowledge that good is possible.
3. I remember Payne Stewart. For those who don’t know golf, Payne Stewart died in a bizarre plane crash four months after winning the 1999 U.S. Open. It was an exciting and iconic win. After beating Phil Mickelson in a playoff, he took Phil’s face in his hands and put it all in perspective saying, “You are going to be a father!” Phil had almost dropped out of the tournament before the final round because his wife was about to have their first baby. Payne was a classy guy. And Phil Mickelson was/is a classy guy, too. But what if he wasn’t? What if he had let jealousy tarnish Payne’s last trophy?
Several years ago I had the privilege of speaking at a week-long conference. It was a huge and exciting opportunity. Three days before traveling to the conference, I sat in my doctor’s office trying to process strange words. Why was he talking to me about Gilda Radner? We decided the exploratory surgery would wait until I returned. This added a whole new dimension to my huge and exciting responsibility – a dimension I shared with no one but my husband.
Two women from my church, who had traveled to the conference as part of the ministry team, did their best to wreck my little chance to shine. I ignored their whispered “Who does she think she is?” I graciously took their barrage of criticisms and suggestions under advisement. And in my spiritually weaker moments I wondered whether they would feel guilty/sorry if I died. Would they suffer at all knowing they had spoiled my one and only chance to “feel God’s pleasure”?
Thankfully, it wasn’t cancer. But I remember that week any time even a smidgen of jealousy tries to sneak into my God-loving mind. “Let her enjoy her turn”, I tell myself, “We should all get to take a turn without someone wrecking it.”
© The Reluctant Baptist, 2014