Escape the Jealousy Trap
by James Hilt
Like metal to a powerful magnet, our attention is constantly drawn to whatever or whoever provoked the jealousy. As a result, our vision narrows. Our field of consciousness is constricted. In the meantime, because the mind can entertain only one thought at a time, reflections of a positive or wholesome nature are tossed out. Our thought life becomes negatively charged.
Moreover, as the mind becomes fixated on the object of jealousy, angry feelings are unleashed, forcing us to fixate even more, thereby provoking even deeper feelings of jealousy. Can you see how the whole process becomes a vicious circle?
Caught in this vicious circle, our minds become increasingly irrational and bitter toned. Think back to a time when you were jealous of someone. When jealousy reigned, didn’t your angry feelings eventually turn into lasting bitterness? Bitterness grew like a root toward that person who, in your mind, overshadowed you.
A drive then emerges to somehow get even, to strike back. Proverbs 6:34-35 tells it like this: “For jealousy enrages a man, and he will not spare in the day of vengeance. He will not accept any ransom, nor will he be satisfied though you give many gifts” (NASB). Proverbs 27:4 reads, “Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, but who can stand before jealousy?” (NASB). A prime example of this would be King Saul’s murderous jealousy of David, discussed earlier.
As bitterness takes root toward the envied other, it normally grows toward a second object with as much tenacity as it did toward the first. I am referring to oneself. When beset with bitterness toward another, don’t we end up feeling the same way toward ourselves as well?
Why? Self-directed bitterness emerges when one person lacks what the other is or has. It forms because of falling short and having to wallow in another’s shadow. This bitterness can become so controlling and intense that one might resort to afflicting themselves for the sake of retaliation. Let me illustrate. During my youth, I had a close friend, Pete, who had what is called a charismatic personality. And, in my mind, his was much more appealing and humorous than my personality. I felt mine was rather dull by comparison.
Eventually my jealousy began to crop up toward Pete, causing my mind to fixate on his personality. Particularly when we were together, I dwelled on the obvious contrast between his personality and mine, much to the exclusion of positive, wholesome thoughts.
Consequently, anger swelled within, forcing me to fixate even more, leading to increased jealousy, and thereby closing the vicious circle.
Next, with this vicious circle remaining unchecked, my periodic bouts of anger turned into a solid root of bitterness toward Pete. Driven by a resulting instinct to get even with him, I began to emotionally cut myself off from him, which, one day, led to the sudden, unexplained termination of the relationship altogether.
Prior to this termination, though, I became embittered toward myself as well as Pete for falling, as far as personality was concerned, into his shadow. Then, agitated by my seeming deficiency, I became increasingly self-critical as a form of self-directed attack. Thus, when speaking of the havoc jealousy produces in the mind and relationships, I can speak painfully from personal experience.
I am thankful that since then God has encouraged and enabled me to be content and comfortable with the personality He has given me. I have learned that building Christlike qualities formed into Christian character is far more important.
As a result, I no longer compare my personality with others. Becoming like Christ is what’s important, not cultivating a charismatic personality. So we can see why Paul readily identified jealousy as part of Satan’s camp. Filling the mind with darkness, it shuts the door to the light that Christ longs to shine in.
If you’re jealous of someone, consider the havoc it will produce in your mind and relationships. Think of the described mental fixation, constriction of your field of consciousness, and bitterness held toward others and yourself that will come in its wake. What might happen to you if this green-eyed monster keeps you firm in its grasp?
Then engage in spiritual breathing. First, exhale. Confess the sin of jealousy to Christ. Do not try to justify or expect to gain from it. Confess it.
Next, inhale. Breathe in God’s forgiveness. Allow the Holy Spirit to banish jealousy from your mind. Spiritual breathing complies with 1 John 1:9, which reads: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Having engaged in spiritual breathing, be sure to avoid temptations demanding the resurrection of jealous passions. Rather, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5), leading to a fortresslike stand against jealousy.
Excerpted from How to Have a Better Relationship with Anybody: A Biblical Approach by James Hilt (Moody Publishers, May 2020).
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