Mary was a wonderful friend. I could tell her anything and even the most mundane, innocuous conversations would be treated by her with total confidentiality. She loved her faith, had a finely tuned sense of humour and was always ready to help anyone who needed it.
Sadly, there was an individual who, because of the work in which they were both involved, came into almost daily contact with her and proved a constant thorn in her side. If Mary’s name was mentioned in her presence – or if it appeared in newsletters, circulars, etc – it was sufficient to stir the green-eyed monster.
Mary’s many achievements had to be understated or, by her own request, not acknowledged or recognised publicly because of her fear of the inevitable repercussions that any accolade would trigger. Jealousy and envy are very negative emotions and are highly destructive. Proverbs 27:4 says: ‘Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?’
A jealous or envious heart is never at peace and is always driven to undermine rather than praise or encourage. While we may struggle with jealousy at times, once we recognise it for the invasive, pernicious emotion that it is, most of us will try to rise above it. If we allow it to take a hold, it corrupts our spirit and destroys not only our own equilibrium but also impacts on those around us.
Jealousy never recognises the achievements of others, nor takes pleasure in their joys and successes. Instead, it feels insecure and views everyone as a threat or as being in competition with them.
Jealousy begrudges others their possessions, appearance, intelligence, career and relationships. It latches greedily on to gossip and likes to perpetrate it. In order to pacify a jealous person, the people on the receiving end will continually attempt to appease, and modify their own responses and behaviour to avoid triggering the inevitable reaction. This makes jealousy a bully.
It is difficult enough to deal with a jealous person who actually has insight into their own behaviour, for they can at least attempt to rationalise it, put it into perspective and try to overcome this failing. However, a jealous person who lacks such insight is infinitely harder to cope with. Jealousy often arises from a sense of entitlement and they consider their actions to be entirely justified.
We do not have to cope on our own if this sort of behaviour is impacting negatively on our lives, regardless of where it is happening – and especially not in school or in the workplace. We must not be afraid to seek the help and protection to which we are entitled, which, sadly, was not available in time to help my friend. No-one should put up with a toxic environment and, exposing such behaviour can often diffuse the ‘power’ of the perpetrator.
If we cannot avoid being in jealous company we should still try to be compassionate but it is vital that we continue to focus on what we want to achieve and not allow our dreams to be derailed or our progress stunted because of fear of unpleasantness.
Difficult as it is, we should try to pray that they will cease to wade in what must be the sheer misery of their envy, and hope instead that they will discover – and thank God for – the blessings that are to be found in their own lives rather than continually focusing on those of others.
A thankful, generous heart is rarely a jealous one.