If love tastes like the sweetest honey, then jealousy tastes like bitter, sour grapes–like sinking one’s teeth into a big ol’ lemon. If that’s the taste we get when we taste jealousy, why do we continue to partake of the same sour fruit?
When I get jealous, I feel my face turn ugly. I’ve actually looked in the mirror and allowed myself to let the green-ey’d monster inside of me grow bigger and bigger. I thought that if I could actually see the physical transformation, it would deter me from getting jealous. It didn’t. When I get jealous my eyes turn dark, the wrinkles on my forehead get more prominent, and my body gets hot. God knows I don’t want to look ugly, but at times, it’s as if the jealousy overrides my mind and my body.
My latest episode happened a few days ago when my husband’s phone pinged. In that split second I saw the name and the message. He never hides his phone from me, nor do I not know the women who text him. He’s a manager in charge of managers, so he works closely with other women. The texts are necessary and appropriate, but still, the moment the text came I felt jealousy grow. Just prior to that text, we argued about something I can’t now remember. Because I was irritated, it was harder to shake the feeling. Sometimes I can release it, so it doesn’t cause any strife between us, but other times, I just can’t, and it can get ugly. I’ll question him, have him explain the text, all the while evaluating it for truth.
No one wants to admit they get jealous, but it’s a universal emotion–everyone experiences it to some degree.
As common as it is, we can’t make excuses, or underestimate its strength. Jealousy alienates and isolates, divides and conquers. We steal, lie and cheat in the name of jealousy. We feel embarrassed, crappy and find every reason to beat up on ourselves, but still as hard as we try, there are times when we can’t seem to shake it. The Bible warns, “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot” (Proverbs 14:30). Cain and Abel, Leah and Rachel, Joseph and his brothers illustrate the destructiveness of jealousy. Mankind fell because of Satan’s jealousy of God’s love for His people. Buddhists teachings say jealousy is a form of attachment in something out of our reach. Teachings say we cannot have unity by being attached. Allah calls jealousy the first sin. No matter where you look or how it is described, one thing is constant: jealousy is a choice. It sounds absurd that we choose to feel pain and ugliness, but we do.
As long as we live on earth, we’ll never permanently get rid of jealousy, but we can do things to stop the monster in its track. Here’s the process:
Recognize when we feel jealousy growing. When I saw my husband’s text, I could feel it getting bigger. I could feel my body get hot, my eyes squint, and the lines between my eyebrows get deep. We must recognize the feelings, and the physiological effects on our body. We must recognize why it’s there. What insecurities and worries are causing the jealousy? Sometimes I feel so alone that I depend on my husband to make me feel I’m worthy, and to give me attention. Anytime that I need the attention and it’s being focused on something else, I get jealous. I think the attention belongs only to me. Recognizing the irrationality in your thoughts is the first step to getting rid of jealousy.
Re-evaluate and replace the invalid thoughts. When I took a long, hard look at my thoughts, after seeing the text, I realized the thoughts were wrong. I acknowledged the invalid thoughts and replaced them with what was true. I didn’t need my husband to validate me, or to make me feel worthy. I talked myself through the irrational feelings. I reminded myself of all of my accomplishments. I ran down the long list of characteristics that make me a great person. I took deep breaths.
Release yourself from guilt and shame. Jealousy, and every other destructive emotion is unfortunately a part of the human condition. After I was able to talk myself down, I released myself from the embarrassment. “I am human. I felt jealous, just like everyone else does. I know that it is a part of the human condition, and that I can choose to overcome this. I will not condemn myself for having a human emotion.” And of course, because I’m a Christian, I know I am the righteousness in Christ Jesus.
Relive for joy. Once we’ve released ourselves from the guilt and shame, we must declare joy over our lives. What’s great about every moment, is that in it, we can choose to start over. We have authority to choose to live in peace and happiness, thanking God, for our blessings.