The jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves. – William Penn
So this will make for three woeful posts in a row. Or if not woeful, then certainly not upbeat. At least I’m blogging right? Haha.
I assure you that I’m not as melancholy as I seem. There have been a lot of good times lately, and life these days is generally less stressful than it has been in years. But when something is prickling at me it helps to write it out I guess.
So the other day I had a pretty cool moment. I learned a little lesson about myself, and I simultaneously received an answer to a question I’d been having in my heart for sometime. The question had to do with 1 Corinthians 13 which is one of my favorite verses in scripture, and it is all about love. I first encountered this scripture as a young adult and new Christian. I was attending a lot of weddings at that time, and because this verse is so pretty, and about love, and brimming over with beautiful ideals, it is frequently read aloud at weddings. I got to know it as the wedding verse. A few years later, in one of the more challenging times of my life, I rediscovered 1 Corinthians 13 when I realized that it wasn’t intended for married couples at all. This verse is given as a teaching on how the church – Christians – are to treat one another. I actually think it describes what our approach to all other people should be. And when you take the time to consider each description separately, and really meditate on what they means for your own life, it is actually incredibly challenging. For several weeks that spring I took each point and tried to focus on each one for a week at a time, and tried how to emulate it better. I’ll never forget that season. I learned a lot. I loved a lot. I grew in love.
But that was years ago, and I have forgotten the verse! And this has been the question on my mind – how, exactly does that verse go again? I’ve got the first two points down pat: Love is patient. Love is kind.
Again. Love is patient, love is kind, love is patient, love is kind, love is patient, love is kind.
I have my moments but I feel like I’ve maybe even mastered these two – okay, maybe not mastered. As I said, I have my moments. But I do think on these two and exercise them regularly. And I do know what some of the others are: Love never gives up. Love doesn’t put itself before others. I understand the general gist of the scripture. I have a lot left to learn, and I’m far from perfecting love, but I try and live by these truths everyday.
So it was nagging at me that I didn’t have this very central and pivotal verse memorized. I want to know them all as well as love is patient love is kind love is patient love is kind, so that I can be mindful of them and try and live the life that Jesus modeled for me.
Which brings me to the lesson I received the other day. I was thinking about my life, and how it’s pretty good. And I was trying to get to the root of why I don’t feel awesome and fulfilled in spite of having it pretty good. I was mentally evaluating all of the things in my life that nag or bother me or that I consider my “problems,” and it suddenly dawned on me that in every case that I feel a great sense of dissatisfaction, or worry, or fear, it is because I feel jealous of someone.
Actually, wait. That’s not how it happened. I just remembered that I was reading in scripture when the jealousy issue dawned on me. In church we’ve been learning about our identities in Christ. In 1 Peter chapters 1 and 2 it says, among other things, that we are chosen, that we are a royal priesthood, that we are a holy nation, and all kinds of other wonderful, almost unimaginably wonderful things. So I was back in those scriptures trying to get a handle on how those truths apply to me (because I certainly don’t feel some of those things). Reading through chapters 1 and 2 that morning, I noticed that it also says, essentially, that because we are all these things, we are called to holy living and should “show sincere love to to each other as brothers and sisters,” and also to “get rid of all evil behavior” such as “deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy and all unkind speech.”
And that’s when my jealousy problem dawned on me. You see, when I think of evil, I think of slave traders and rapists and murderers. Maybe even the sins that have to do with lust and greed. Abuse. Things that we, in our society, would consider truly vile acts. But scripture is often a mirror, and there was nasty jealousy staring me back in my face. I quickly realized just how deep and far-reaching I had let it creep through my heart and my life. I immediately began searching for a solution.
The remedy, I thought, must be love.
So I flipped right to 1 Corinthians 13, thinking it must have advice to offer. And there it was, Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous. Yes. The very next item on the list. I might have laughed out loud. God is a wonderful parent and teacher, and I delight in his ways!
So that’s where my focus is now. Rooting this nasty weed out of the garden of my heart.
It might be slow going. That realization occurred almost a week ago, and just today I tried to express my feelings of inadequacy to my husband. In so many areas of life I feel like he is awesome and I am mediocre, and I feel like it’s not fair. Yep. He’s so awesome that I got upset at him for it. After the fact, I remembered, Oh yeah. I’m trying to work on that.
Have any of you dealt with this before? Do you have any advice? I feel like I’m going around in a bit of a circle. The antidote to jealousy is love, but the instructions on how to love well say not to be jealous. And the first two commands of love – be patient, be kind – are positive actions and attitudes. Don’t be jealous is presented as a negative. How does one not be jealous? Appreciation maybe? Thankfulness on the other person’s behalf?
Dear husband: I’m so thankful, on your behalf, that everything you touch turns to gold, and that everything you attempt transmutes into unbelievable success!
Dear neighbor: I’m so thankful, on your behalf, of you thin tan legs, your enormous rack and your fun loving, easy going approach to life. And your kayaks.
Dear co-workers: I’m so thankful, on your behalf, that you are invited to participate in the staff meetings. Especially you, the eighteen year old summer intern whose paycheck is bigger than mine (To be fair, it’s because of summer -intern – government- grants that the church receives, not a reflection of reality. But still.) I’m brimming over with happiness for you!
Wow. I’m really wearing my immaturity on my sleeve today! Clearly I need to somehow move from sarcasm to genuine care, here.
I decided to look up some quotes for inspiration. Some of them were downright depressing, like the one I started this post with (although it is certainly true!) Here are some more:
“Jealousy is, I think, the worst of all faults because it makes a victim of both parties.” – Gene Tierney (ouch!)
“Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius.” – Fulton J. Sheen (Yep. I covered that one already.)
“Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo.” – H.G. Wells (ouch again!)
“Jealousy is the jaundice of the soul.” – John Dryden (Okay. I’m starting to get the point.)
And some of the quotes offer a little more good advice and hope:
“The surest route to breeding jealousy is to compare. Since feeling jealousy comes from feeling less than other, comparisons only fan the fires.” -Dorothy Corkville Briggs. (I don’t know who you are Dorothy, but this is a good reminder to weed out comparative thoughts.)
“To jealousy, nothing is more frightful than laughter.” – Francoise Sagan (I don’t see the direct link, but more light-heartedness has got to be good.)
“Magnanimous people have no vanity, they have no jealousy, and they feed on the true and the solid wherever they find it. And what is more, they find it everywhere.” – Van Wyck Brooks (If that is true, I should aim to become more magnanimous. As soon as I look it up in the dictionary. )
“Jealousy would be far less torturous if we understood that love is a passion entirely unrelated to our merits.” -Paul Eldridge
“Jealousy contains more of self-love than of love.” – Francoise de la Rouchefoucauld.
Those last two remind me that the answer of real love lies in being less focused on self. The more I recede in importance in my own regard, the less I will be bothered by my own shortcomings. If I can focus on others with appreciation and thankfulness without comparing myself to them, I can transform my jealousy into love. because I’ll be thinking about them. And not me.
What do you think? Am I getting close?