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Battling the Green-Eyed Monster

By April 24, 20087 Comments

When William Shakespeare coined the above phrase in his description of jealousy, he hit the nail right on the head. Jealousy is a monster that will eat you alive if you only give it the chance. The more I think on it, the more I am sure of that truth, which is why we Christians must wage war on this beast. If we do not, it will consume us.

Few things have poisoned my friendships and robbed me of joy in life more than jealousy. If a friend started dating a guy that I liked, I let jealousy rule the day–things became awkward between us, I wasn’t happy for her when the romance flourished, and eventually the relationship withered.

Similarly, jealousy has led me to become incredibly dissatisfied with the life God has given me. If someone married the kind of man I wanted, or if a friend’s career was really taking off and he was making lots of money, or if another friend’s ministry was thriving more than mine, I was unable to share in their joy. Instead, I felt frustrated that things hadn’t come so easily to me.

And don’t even get me started about when I drive over to UNC’s campus to meet with students. For some reason that school is populated with an inordinate number of tall, skinny blonde girls who always look adorable, even when it’s early in the morning. As soon as I look at them, I immediately wish I had their legs, hair, nose, teeth, etc. Then I look at myself and think, “Why them? Why can’t I look like that? Why is my life so boring and mundane compared to those other glamorous and successful people?”

(I don’t know how I make the jump to thinking that they’re glamorous and successful based on their appearance alone, but that’s just the kind of distorted perceptions that come from jealousy)

That said, the time at which my jealousy becomes most abhorrent is when someone receives a gift or blessing that they don’t deserve. (Or I should say, in my opinion they don’t deserve) Then, the entire world seems entirely unjust–how could God reward someone for work they have not done, while I am busting my butt to get ahead and I receive nothing?

This form of jealousy can be particularly nasty because we feel more free to gossip about the person. It’s one thing if our jealousy is focused on a nice person (it’s hard to complain about someone who experiences a success that they earned), but if the person of whom we are jealous is unfriendly or has blatant moral short-comings, then we feel a liberty to complain more vocally: “I just don’t understand why all the guys like her when she’s so high maintenance” or “I don’t know why they would make her a lead singer in the choir if her personal life is so sketchy” or “I don’t understand why he got a raise when he’s so lazy.”

All of these thoughts stem directly from jealousy. They also take root in our hearts, growing fruits of discontentment as we become increasingly dissatisfied with the lives God has given us. The grass always seems greener on the other side.

But the big question remains: Where does this jealousy come from? Why is it so difficult to be happy for another? Shouldn’t our friends’ joys be our joys? Shouldn’t we desire good things for those whom we love.

Thr truth is that there are many reasons we feel jealous–we are selfish, we love ourselves more than others, we have deluded ourselves into thinking that other people are happier than we are, simply because of material comforts, and we are not trusting in God’s perfect plan for our lives.

But perhaps the greatest reason for jealousy is a profound misunderstanding of the grace that has been extended to us in Christ. Not only has God given us infinitely more than we could ever deserve (think of the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant), but He has also given us more than we could ever need.

Our salvation is not one good among many. It is not some sort of starting point from which we can begin to live the good life. Salvation in Christ is the good life. It is all we will ever need for complete joy and satisfaction in whatever we do. To think that someone else has a better life than you, simply because they received some temporary success on earth that will quickly pass away, is to cheapen the depths of the riches of God’s grace. If we are jealous, then we don’t know what we have. We don’t understand just how rich we are.

If jealousy is something you find yourself struggling with, then fight it, and fight hard, because it can easily overtake you. Consider what this jealousy says about your relationship with God, and then ask Him to overwhelm you with the knowledge of His love and grace. Otherwise, jealousy will only draw you into the rat race that every other American runs. It is never-ending, and there is nothing to be gained by it. It only promises heartached and disappointment, as you continually find other people who have what you desire.

Instead, resolve to be joyful for your sister when she meets the man of her dreams. Congratulate your friend when he gets a raise at work. Those are wonderful gifts, but they are not the ultimate gift. When they become ultimate, they have become idols. Do not allow them to have such power, because it is then that they become monsters.

*Bonus points to anyone who knows what play the phrase “green-eyed monster” comes from. I’m such a Shakespeare nerd…


  • Phil says:

    Othello FTW!

    Yet another insightful post. I am soooooo enjoying your blog.

  • Anonymous says:

    “To think that someone else has a better life than you, simply because they received some temporary success on earth that will quickly pass away, is to cheapen the depths of the riches of God’s grace.”

    …love it. 🙂

  • Nicole says:

    Thanks for writing this honest and insightful post! I have almost exactly the same feelings when I walk across UNC’s campus, and it’s great to read a reminder that I already possess the Ultimate Treasure of Christ and His amazing love…anything else He chooses to give me (or not give me) is just gravy.

  • Jessica says:

    “Othello,” of course!

  • Marcy says:

    “Salvation in Christ is the good life… If we are jealous, then we don’t know what we have. We don’t understand just how rich we are.”

    so incredibly true! thanks for always challenging me to see things as I should.

  • Anonymous says:

    When I first saw this entry I skipped right over… “I’m not a jealous person, what do I need to read this for?” HA! Back up to Wednesday and the Wachovia Cup here in Charlotte at Glen Eagles. I was invited to a home to experience this golfing tradition. I’m not much a golf person, more into action sports really, however, I don’t like to miss out on anything so I went.

    Nothing could have prepared me for the wealth I was about to experience. I grew up in South Charlotte, so I have seen wealth and driving around the Queen City I am reminded daily of just how blessed we all are to call this life ours.

    However, I was totally unprepared for the extravagance and size of the homes in Glen Eagles. I felt like Little Orphane Annie walking into Daddy Warbucks mansion for the first time… leaving the orphange behind. I was wide-eyed and not at all comfortable. Talk about being out of your element… I had just entered a different world and it felt like the twilight zone to me.

    A group of us walked around the entire golf course and I could not help but be appalled at the size of the homes that surrounded the green. This is so ostentatious I thought, and acutally voiced that to my friend that had invited me. All I saw was an unmearsurable amount of money being wasted on homes… I was sick thinking about the
    5,000+ homeless in Charlotte that wouldn’t be homeless if these rich folks would just pitch in and help out… they have the money, but choose to pour it into homes the size of a small college campus.

    Oh the judgements were racing through my head and the self righteous thoughts pulsed through my veins. I felt sick.

    Later in the day after speaking to a friend about all I’d seen I was asking her why did I react this way? Why couldn’t I just enjoy myself? It was a beautiful day and I ruined it for myself. Why had I spent the entire morning judging people I didn’t even know! Perhaps some of these folks have foundations that help fight AIDS? What if the individuals that live out there donate huge amounts of money to St. Judes? What if … what if… I never even thought about the “what if’s” because in REALITY I was wondering what it would be like to have a home like that, a full time maid, cook , nanny and yard crew. I wondered what it would be like to live a life of ease like they must live. I wondered what it would be like to live a life where money was always readily available.

    Yes, I was jealous, very jealous.

    Only now do I realize how green with envy I was turning that day. I must have almost blended in with the golf course.

    The saddest part about my thoughts and feelings is that I may have missed out on why God had me there… what if I was suppose to witness by word or action to someone that day? I blew it! What if I was suppose to be listening for God to whisper something to me that day? My thoughts were so loud that God’s thoughts didn’t stand a chance to be heard. Yes, I blew it.

    I am glad for this though. I am glad I have realized this about myself… I am still processing it all and hope that I will come to truly realize and embrace that all I REALLY need I was given at the Cross. Daily I am offered the chance to accept peace, joy and contentment into my heart and soul. God has given me a loving family, a wonderfully God-filled husband a beautiful healthy son and a job where I make good money, have flexibility and am surrounded by loving people. I want for nothing. I have a home, two cars, food on the table and clothes on my back… I am so blessed and I took my eye off of that fact on Wednesday.

    Yes, jealousy is the green-eyed monster indeed… one of Satan’s many full-time employees working overtime to turn our thoughts to him. YUCK.. now THAT is what should really make me feel sick… and it does!

    Thank you for your entry, it really helped drive an important message home with me.

    Anne Steppe

  • Rose says:

    Good one. Read more on green-eyed monster and ways to solve the same:

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