Dealing with jealousy and envy

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Dr. Lin McLaughlin, professor of educational ministries and leadership from Dallas Seminary:

Definition of jealousy: Hostility toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage.

Definition of envy: Painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another, joined with the desire to possess the same advantage.

I experience those emotions and/or sin, and behavior, and I have been a little disturbed to see how much it pervades my life. I am acknowledging this before you, not that I want this to be. The problem for me is that these emotions are very toxic. What that means is that they are also very likely to contaminate. It really starts to interfere with my relationships. The other problem with jealousy and envy, to the extent that I have it, or to the extent that I act on it is that it can be very wounding. It can wound other people. Sometimes I see it, sometimes I don’t. Maybe some of you can identify, either being on the sending or the receiving end of those wounds, because of jealousy and because of envy. This is problematic for me, this temptation, these emotions, because what I find I do amass them. I am very quick to rationalize and justify them as warranted criticism of others. That from my vast ministry experience, or on the basis of my credentials, or my expertise in a given area, or that because of my mastery in a certain subject area, or a particular kind of leadership in a church- my criticism is warranted.

But, that is not what is really going on, on a deeper level with me. And that’s my challenge to you: to examine and be self aware of what’s happening. Commensurate with the definitions that we’re given, one of the things I find going on with me, that’s a signal of a problem is that I start to see colleagues and peers, and maybe friends, as maybe rivals. And so, a kind of rivalry starts to set itself up in my mindset and my thinking. What’s really underlying that is a jealousy, a resentment for that person, toward that person because of recognition, because of achievement, and it’s particularly strong when I’m at my most insecure, or when I have, myself, experienced a failure in ministry and a failure in leadership. In an attempt to somehow band aid that hurt and that pain I elevate myself. In my own mind and my own thinking that’s what I’m doing. And that could even spill over in my conversation with others about that person, which of course is gossip. That’s the nature of the toxicity of these emotions, these struggles for me.

Of course, Scripture is really clear about this being a problem. I’ve got something to share with you from Paul from 1 Corinthians 3:2-3  And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?  AND 2 Corinthians 12:20 – For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. James 3:14-16 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 

It is real clear, that around jealousy and envy orbit this constellation of other destructive behaviors actions and emotions. And that’s one of the reasons that it’s so problematic for those of us who deal with it and for those others who are around us. Concerning envy, Proverbs 14:30 says this: A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.And it really, actually feels like that is happening at times when I’m in the throes of these emotions.

PRAYER – So, what do we do? How do we try to counter these? Well, honestly, the best one I found is prayer. I just have to go to the Lord and acknowledge (that) I’m just getting whipped by this, and I just don’t think I can gain the upper hand. And I really need for You, through the work of the Spirit to put to death these emotions. I’ve tried just about everything I know. I admit and acknowledge there’s no place for them in my life. And I need for You to take them out of the way, because this ends up interfering with my ability to love others, which is what we are principally called to do- and edify them, and support them.

SELF AWARENESS – Self awareness is another thing that can help us. That is just living the examined Christian life. But, being able to catch those indicating emotions and thoughts that signal to us, that queue us into the fact that really what’s at work here is our own problem with jealousy and envy. And that can help us, perhaps, reverse those tendencies or at minimum to pray about them. Because, you see, we are very much a puzzle to ourselves. And that puzzle about ourselves, and of ourselves can lead us to deny that this is actually happening or taking place. It can lead us to self justify and rationalize, as opposed to getting to the root of the problem.

Celebrate others – Finally, I would say this: Celebrate others. One of the things I’ve been trying to do is a counter to these emotions and the pull of them when I sense them coming on, and this happens especially when I see someone else getting recognition for their achievement, when I see them getting an accolade. Does that happen to you? I mean, do you think to yourself, „Why  isn’t that happening to me?” But, celebrate others. By that I mean, as I sense that happening, I ask myself,” Hold up, wait a minute, how can I enter into the joy of this person’s achievement and success?” I just try to work on my thinking. I try to say, „Lin, put this envy aside and just think about the joy of what this person is feeling and experiencing, and vicariously enter into that.  I shared with my class, earlier this week, we have a number of works, theologically, on the pleasure of God. The pleasure of His being and His person, rightly written. I don’t think we have enough on the pleasure of people. And as Christians, that’s what we are to enjoy. We often talk about what a pain people are, but I don’t think we talk often enough about the pleasure of people, the sheer joy of people.

In closing, I submit this thought to you: Most of the pleasure of this life, that we can experience is to be vicariously experienced. We We usually think about pleasure for us that which is directly experienced in our own life. But it could be that there is a vast amount of pleasure that’s waiting to be experienced vicariously as we enter into the pleasure of others and just celebrate them. Try to avoid the eye of envy and the eye of jealousy, and ask the Lord to help you overcome those things.

Dr. Lin McLaughlin, professor of educational ministries and leadership, talks from his own personal struggles about ways to combat jealousy and envy. VIDEO by dallasseminary. Jim McLaughlin from Dallas Seminary:

2 comentarii (+add yours?)

  1. Costin
    iul. 08, 2013 @ 04:29:31

    Isn’t the God of the Old Testament a jelous and vindictive god? I think the God of Christianity has always been guilty of not following what he/she is preaching, and for me it is quite surprising that people would even take into consideration what such a „person”/entity would have to say about anything.

    • rodi
      iul. 09, 2013 @ 09:48:54

      first of all I apologize for answering you so late. I was working off my mobile phone and although I had absolutely no problem accessing Facebook, I could not do much with my wordpress access.

      Most Christians also struggle to understand God’s attributes, but we are limited human beings who understand as much as our limited brains will allow.
      However (once you allow that for the fact that God ‘is’ and therefore, no matter how much man tries to sweep aside the idea that God has created us, it ultimately has no bearing on the reality that God exists (if in fact He does, and I and many others believe this is so) and that in the end His attributes are His attributes and we may not fully understand them unless He decides to share this knowledge with us.

      The following quote might help. It is from Dr. John N. Oswalt (PhD, Brandeis University) Visiting Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary:

      ***How can a sinful human being ever share the character of a holy God? If you don’t know the Old Testament, you don’t know that. Well, the Old Testament is laying these foundations: God is transcendent. He is absolutely holy. He’s beyond anything we can imagine in His essence and His character. He is just. This is a cause and effect world. He is majestic, He is glorious. Salvation is to be found in community. Righteousness is to be lived out in a society. Revelation comes through historical narrative. The other points are there: His immanence, His love, His grace, the reality of an individual relationship with God, the reality of personal righteousness, revelation through teaching- they’re there. But, they’re minor points. The New Testament just reverses that order. The New Testament says, „OK, you got the point now: God is transcendent. Let us talk about His immanence. Let us talk about God having come here. You understand about God’s absolute holiness, now let us talk about His love. And so forth… down that list, just reversing them. If you know your Old Testament, the it fits together. Then, it is awesome Good News, that the awesome Holy God, who could fry you alive by looking at you, loves you. But, if you don’t know the Old Testament, then what you’ve got is a friendly little god, who says, „Oh honey, that’s all right. It doesn’t really matter, it’s okay. A little god, who exists under my bed, to answer my prayers.

      A religion that is purely individualistic, about me and my righteousness, and interestingly, a religion that’s primarily through teaching, that actually, whether this stuff happened or not, it’s not that important. In other words, all too much of modern evangelicalism.

      ***God’s jealousy in the OT. (2nd video, 10 min. mark) We need to constantly help people to understand that God’s rage, especially in the prophets is the flipside of His love. We’ve lost a good word in English: Zeal. As you know, it’s one word in hebrew: Zealous and jealous are the same word. Unfortunately, in English, jealousy is now a petty emotion. My wife smiles at another man, and I get bent out of shape, because I’m jealous. But jealous and zealous go together. And I think of Jesus cleaning out the temple. And what did the disciples remember? „The zeal of Thy house has eaten me up.” God is so furious because He loves His people so much and is so broken over what they are doing to themselves, and so I love to say to students and to others: „You know, the most frequently quoted 2 verse passage of the Old Testament in the Old Testament is Exodus 34:6-7 – TheLord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation. This gets quoted explicitly 6 times, and it’s alluded to another 11 (times). So you say to the Hebrew, „What’s your God like?” „Oh, He’s gracious and compassionate, slow to anger…” Ha? Looks to me like He got angry a lot!” And they say, „Yeah, He should have! That’s not surprising. What’s surprising is He hasn’t.” We need to have people understand: You can’t have His love without His rage. He is a fully impassioned person.

      You can listen to his explanation (on video) here –

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