I could never tell the difference between envy and jealousy. I suppose I’ve experienced this nasty pair spawned by years of insecurity more than I’d like to believe. Shrugging it off and distancing myself from the people and the situations that “caused” these emotions seemed to be my default in dealing with it. What I have learned about this duo is that envy occurs when we lack a desired attribute enjoyed by another, such as their ability in a skill I do not possess. But jealousy occurs when something we already possess is threatened by a third person, as in the case of a marital relationship or a friendship threatened by the loyalty or love of another.
“Beware my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.”
William Shakespeare penned the above quote which cuts to the heart of the matter. No matter how we justify it, jealousy and envy will destroy us along with damaging those around us. Take for example King Saul. This guy had it made. He was the way good-looking king of Israel, standing “head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land”. He gladly displayed himself as “mighty warrior”. But when David came into the scene (at Saul’s beckoning) that monster started rearing its ugly head.
“When the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed the Philistine, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul. They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals. This was their song:
“Saul has killed his thousands,
and David his ten thousands!”
8 This made Saul very angry. “What’s this?” he said. “They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!” 9 So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.” –1 Sam. 18:6-9
And so began the sad decline of King Saul. His focus was on David’s accomplishments and apparently he saw himself as falling short of the expectations he put upon himself. Whatever the underlying insecurities were, they now came out in full force. In addition to “keeping a jealous eye on David” a little insanity crept in and he decided he would be much happier if David was clearly out of the picture. Check this out: “The very next day a tormenting spirit from God overwhelmed Saul, and he began to rave in his house like a madman. David was playing the harp, as he did each day. But Saul had a spear in his hand, 11 and he suddenly hurled it at David, intending to pin him to the wall. But David escaped him twice”.-1 Sam. 18:10-11. The passage goes on to say that Saul attempted to position David in battle in order for him to be killed there, but his plan was thwarted once again.
Ok, I can’t relate to the extent that Saul’s jealousy and envy drove him to, either.
But have you ever felt a tinge of happy when a friend doesn’t succeed at something she/he’s been attempting to accomplish?
Have you secretly compared your service (in the church and otherwise) with those around you and felt you fell short of some arbitrary standard?
Do you wish someone else’s husband/wife/life was yours?
Do you feel a constant sense of competitiveness with a sibling? The feeling you have to prove yourself? A one-upmanship game that is played one too many times?
You get the point. And I’m sure you could add your own features to these envy/jealousy faces. I’m also sure you want this out of your life. But how?
A sure-fire way to stave off this monster is to live in gratitude for all that God has blessed you with. Intentionally thanking Him as a way of life will take our minds off of what everyone else has and is doing, and place them on what’s right in front of us. As we focus on our purpose, instead of what others are doing, our joy capacity will grow and our peace of mind can return. I’m struck by the crazy that King Saul had to go through (“tormenting spirit”, “raving like a mad man”). I wonder how quickly his obsession with David’s successes led to his mental demise.
It’s incredibly unfortunate that Saul existed in this paranoia. If only, like David, he had severed the head of this monster, how different his life could have concluded. How different our lives can be?
It ain’t easy, but that shade of green just doesn’t look good on you.