overcoming jealousy

Admit it. For us girls, it’s just so easy for our hearts to get jealous.

I’m not talking about jealousy in a relationship (though that can happen). I’m talking about the jealousy that grows out of comparison.

I don’t know if it’s generic sin nature for woman, but far too often, you and I get caught in the comparison trap– looking at our friends: their looks, their lives, their money, their relationships, whatever and we get caught up in comparing our own situation with theirs. We want to be happy for them. We love them. They are our friends! But far too often we end up comparing ourselves to them and then suddenly jealousy creeps in. That nasty, sneaky twist where we go from being thrilled for our friend to feeling crummy or bummed that we don’t have the same thing going for us.

Let me give you some real-scenarios:

Scenario 1: A friend of mine has been hoping for some specific career opportunities that haven’t become available to her. Instead, she is watching a friend with similar interests find a lot of success. Each time her friend shares a new achievement with her, it’s like a dagger in her own chest. She wants to be happy for her friend–she is happy for her–but the sting of jealousy and hurt is greater. Why isn’t her career advancing like her friend’s?

Scenario 2: Another friend of mine has been in a season of engagements and weddings. It seems like there is a constant flow of save the dates and “will you be my bridesmaid?” asks. While she is glad for her friends, the sting and hurt of her own recent breakup is stronger. Each wedding invitation is a reminder that the man she thought she would marry, rejected her and she is, once again, single.

Sound familiar? We’ve all been there.

I don’t know about you, but I do not want to be a jealous friend. I want to be a friend who is the number one CHAMPION of my friends’ success. I want to fully rejoice and celebrate with them, without giving one second of thought to comparison or allowing the jealousy monster to creep in.

So what are some self-defense moves to overcoming jealousy?

1. Confess the jealousy.

Jealousy is a crazy monster who grows larger and larger when we ignore him or try to hide him in our closet. But when we bring him into the light, the exposure makes him shrink. I’m not saying you should tell your rejoicing friend that you are jealous (in fact, 95% of the time, that’s probably not the best option) but you need to confess your jealousy first to God and then to a trusted friend. Ask your friend to pray for you. Ask her to follow up with you and ask how you are doing every week or two. When we admit our jealousy to God and a trusted friend, we release its hold on us. The jealousy probably won’t disappear altogether, but by confessing it to another, you are immediately diminishing its power over you. Hidden jealousy will rule over you. Confessed jealousy allows you to be master of it.

2. Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. (says Jon Acuff)

Often times, when we see someone else experiencing something we want (a meaningful dating relationship or marriage, career achievements, financial success, etc.) we are looking at the middle of their story. But we are only at the beginning of ours. You can’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. It’s an unfair comparison that will lead to even more jealousy and false expectations.

3. Ask God to give you a genuine joy for your friend, bundled right up next to your own hurt and disappointment.

What a beautiful picture when we can fully admit our own sadness, while fully embracing joy for our friend. And it is possible! “Rejoicing with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15) does not mean we have to pretend we are ok. Your Savior wants you to bring all of your feelings to the table. Feelings of hurt, sadness, and disappointment are all things He knows and intimately cares about. And–unlike jealousy–those feelings are not sin! They are our broken, human response to the imperfect world we live in.

It’s easy to rejoice with others, when you too, are in a state of rejoicing. But it rarely seems to go that way, does it? Yet if we confess our jealousy and quit the comparison game, I know God desires to give us genuine joy for one another–especially in the midst of our own disappointment. And when we accomplish that, when we are able to live in the tension of joy and hurt, I think our rejoicing with each other is all the more sweeter.

(This is an update version of an old blogpost. I was recently reminded of this post by a friend, and realized I also needed to sit in these thoughts once more. So, I thought it might be a good time to brush the dust off, update it, and repost for new readers who may not have seen it before.)