I will never forget the very first time I experienced jealousy.
I passed my sweet playground-friend, Susan, in the hallway of Northside Elementary school.
I waved to her before looking down at her shoes.
We were wearing identical boots, something that should have made me smile.
Instead, I was filled with jealousy.
Because the rest of Susan’s outfit was so much cuter than mine.
Her white cowboy boots matched perfectly with her blue jean skirt and cute tee, while I think mine were paired with some weird Pentecostal-looking long skirt and a shirt I feel confident came from Roses in West Jackson.
Not to mention that Susan’s hair was perfectly pinned back with a barrette, while my bangs were not only hideous and huge, but also lopsided because they were cut one-handed in our kitchen while my mom held a cigarette in the other.
Also I smelled like that cigarette. 24/7/365, I smelled like I worked in a tobacco factory.
When you’re young, you don’t have words for the concepts of jealousy and judgment.
First, you understand that you feel someone is better than you or has more than you.
Then, you understand that someone thinks they are better than you or has more than you.
You soon learn what to call these feelings, and then it requires an extra amount of falsehood to cover up what makes us self-conscious.
Some are really, really good at covering over insecurity. You honestly never know they go through anything at all because they make it their life mission to make sure you don’t.
Others (and by others I mean me) wear struggle as a badge of honor. My parents got divorced so I… I was abused as a child so I… I was bullied so I… SUSAN HAD BETTER HAIR so I… are all part of their daily conservation, both alone and with others.
I’ve wondered since having my own kids what makes one person a victim and another a victor.
I’m learning that at each end of the victim/victor spectrum lies two emotions:
FEAR and ENVY.
On one end, fear tells us to HIDE, to pretend like we’ve had the perfect life, lived a flawless existence, made all the right choices.
Or, on the other end, fear tells us to TALK. To make sure every person we come into contact with knows our story and feels our pain. That way, they don’t expect too much of us, you know, because we’re damaged goods.
Many of us don’t realize that both of these behaviors stem from ENVY.
I joke that my give-a-care about social status broke a long time ago.
Moving to my town five years ago, however, showed me this wasn’t entirely true. Insecurity brought a great deal of fear to the surface of my soul, which is why I write about it so much.
I saw that I’d buried a lot of hopes and dreams deep within me and covered them with the dirt of failed expectations and bitter emotions, such as anger, sarcasm and cynicism.
And jealousy. Envy, we call this deadly emotion.
Envy is deadly because it destroys GRATITUDE, the lifeline to our Creator.
But envy is also deadly because it is so sinister. It hides so that you don’t always see it for what it is. And if you don’t see your envy, you can’t fix it.
As former pastor Pete Wilson said in his 2015 sermon “Green with Envy,” jealousy presents itself in a number of ways:
- Criticism, which Wilson called a cowardly form of self-praise
- Self-pity, a defense mechanism
- False-praise, which happens when we build up those we are secretly envious of
- And Avoidance, the final part of envy, when we just avoid a person or situation altogether
These disguises allow us to hide our envy under false pretenses, and none of them are good.
I have to be honest: I’m guilty of envy, especially envy disguised as criticism, self-pity, false-praise and avoidance.
How about you?
Do you belittle others, either to their face (“Oh, I’m just playing with you!”) or behind their back?
Do you secretly love when they fail?
Do you keep up with the Joneses? Do you seek to be around certain people because of who they are?
Is hating that others have more than you keeping you from enjoying what you have?
The sad fact is, making choices out of envy and fear lead you to have even more envy and fear.
You parent your children from that ugly place. You envy what other mothers are able to do, how other children dress, how athletic they are, smart they are, or how many friends they have.
Your child feels that. All of it. They absorb the shame you feel, and they carry it on their tiny shoulders. Trust me.
And some of you, the ones who spend your whole life making sure people don’t know how envious or fearful you are, will make sure your child is the best, has the best and is semi-worshiped by other kids. (And other mothers, too, which is pitiful. Let’s stop worshiping other people’s children, y’all, and be thankful for our own.)
Nothing wrong with having a beautiful, successful life. Not wanting one is almost as bad as wanting one too much.
But let’s be careful that we don’t teach our child their worth is found in the tangible.
Because that’s really what jealousy and fear are all about.
We come to this flawed Earth with a longing to be wanted and needed.
And we are put into situations—pretty much from Day One—in which the great majority of us will almost certainly be let down.
Life’s hardships chip away at our feelings of worthiness.
We question why a good God would bring us here only to suffer.
We forget that He said He died for us to have life abundant because His idea of abundant life and our idea of abundant life are two completely different things.
So we attempt to find value in the fleeting, in items and people and places that could be taken away from us in an instant.
We marry for money.
We live through our children.
We refuse to put away our glory days.
We run the hamster wheel of keeping up.
Who else is exhausted? (If you live in my town, you are probably beyond exhausted!)
Not only do I not want to continue being envious of what I don’t have, I want to hop off the treadmill of comparison, striving to succeed, and fear of failure.
I want to enjoy social media for what it should be—a great way to connect—and not for what it has become (and we all know what it has become).
I want to raise up children who are secure and confident in exactly who they are and what they bring to the table of life.
I want to love my friends and family fearlessly and without abandon, instead of constantly judging them or worrying that they’re doing the same to me.
And speaking of friends and family, I want to hold on to the genuine ones, the people who build me up, want to spend time with me, make me feel good about who I am.
And most importantly, I want to find my value in God alone.
I can now admit: Susan might have had a better outfit to go with our identical boots.
But she had no more value than I did, not in our Father’s eyes.
And teaching my children—and myself—that very simple concept might be the most difficult task this flawed gal ever takes on. 🙂