Let’s Talk About Jealousy (Designed: Emotions)

 

 

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Her looks, his money, her fancy house, their marriage, those kids, his success, that ministry, those accomplishments….or even my relationship, my friendships, my belongings, my rights, family: You name it and I can be jealous over it.  Sad to say I am no stranger to this life sucking, vision clouding, strife producing emotion.

We all experience jealousy at one time or another, it is one of the many emotions we experience because we are designed in the image of God but living in a sin filled world in a fallen state.  Our feelings are part of how we are created in the very image of God.  However, it is what we do with our feelings that make a difference.  Remember, feelings are not good or bad; they are simply present.  If I allow my thoughts to feed my jealous feelings then I may take damaging action that is irrevocable.  I may speak words that I later regret or hurt someone in such a way that the relationship is irreparable.  We have a right to feel jealous, but a responsibility to choose to respond in a manner that will help alleviate the pain of the emotion.

Up to this point in the Designed Curriculum we have examined, God, identity, along with the roles of our physical being, our thoughts and our emotions.  Now it is time to see how they are all connected together just as a tree is connected with it’s roots firmly planted in the soil and extending up through it’s trunk.

So, exactly what is jealousy? Jealousy is a secondary emotion that is a combination of sadness, anger, insecurity and fear.  It is defined as:

  • Feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages.
  • Feeling or showing suspicion of someone’s unfaithfulness in a relationship.
  • Fiercely protective or vigilant of one’s rights or possessions.

Here are some of the potential indicators of jealousy:

Physical response:  Crying, increased pulse rate, shaking, lack of sleep and sweating. Sometimes accompany the feeling of jealousy are racing or ruminating thoughts.

Thoughts about self:  “I am not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, rich enough etc.”,   “I deserve more.”   “I should have gotten that.”   “I have a right to…..” “This is not fair.”

Thoughts about God:  “God won’t take care of me or meet my needs.”  “God doesn’t care about what I want.”

Our action/tendency/response:  Belittle the other person. Brag about self or accomplishments. Protect at all costs. Attack the other person. Wallow in despair or hopelessness.  Try to “correct” the situation by getting whatever we think we deserve regardless or the cost.

Communication: Jealousy says: This is not fair.   This is mine. I deserve more or better.  I can’t have what I want or need.

Sometimes when our emotions get out of control, or are suppressed, we end up with what I describe as an emotional infection.  An emotional infection is similar to a physical infection.  When a person receives a physical wound and doesn’t engage in measures to protect from infection or seek the proper treatment there is a risk of infection.  The result of the infection can result in varying degrees ranging from mild symptoms to amputation, to death.  Emotional infections are similar to physical infections.  Many times we will be in a situation where we receive an emotional wound.  If we do not attend to that wound our emotions can become inflamed and can result in varying degrees of relational difficulties ranging from increased personal distress, to relational loss, and ultimately to death.  Therefore it is important to pay attention to the state of our emotions and engage in healthy emotional regulation and distress tolerance.

Infected Jealousy.  Jealousy is not a pleasant emotion to experience.  If we let jealousy have free reign in our hearts and continue feeding it with our thoughts it can cause tremendous damage inwardly and outwardly. Inwardly one can experience bitterness, rage, hatred, extreme anxiety, depression and self-loathing.  Outwardly one may end up lying, stealing, or hurting someone.  In some cases jealousy has even led to murder!

As we learned in our last lesson all emotions are designed to give us important information about our needs.  So exactly what does our jealousy indicate and how can we get those needs met?

Jealousy may indicate a need to learn to trust, to be content, or to develop an improvement plan.  Here are some examples:

You may need to learn to trust God.  That he is who he says he is and will do all that he has promised to do.  You can trust him to meet your needs and to provide discovery or protection as necessary.

You may need to learn to trust an individual or process.  If you are worried that a loved one may be cheating on you it can be difficult to trust them because they may not be honest with you. Their behavior or confession will eventually show the truth of what is going on.     By expressing your feelings, thoughts and needs you are allowing the other person an opportunity to help meet those needs.

You may need to learn to be content.  Celebrate what you do have and learn to live without the things you don’t have.  Situations are temporal, they change.  Sometimes you will have a season of plenty and other times a season of want.  You can choose to be content in both scenarios.  Often times it is through the difficult process of learning to accept things as they are in the moment that we learn valuable life lessons, develop strength of character and gain the power that comes from being able to let go.

You may need to develop an improvement plan.  This is a case where jealousy, when correctly focused, can help spur you on to achieve goals or dreams.  Perhaps you are jealous of some one who has attained a goal that you were hoping to obtain.  In this case you may need to learn to press into your goal or revise your plan for obtaining your goal.

So what can I do?  The important thing with jealousy, as with all uncomfortable emotions, is to 1.) acknowledge the emotion, 2.) uncover what is fueling the emotion, 3.) express the emotion in appropriate ways, and 4.) wait for facts before responding with irrevocable actions.

Dealing with JEALOUSY?  Here is your challenge:

1.)  Which of the 3 definitions of jealousy listed above best define they type of jealousy you are experiencing?

2.)  Exactly what are you jealous of?

3.)  Review the list of indicators listed above.  Which ones are experiencing? (If you are experiencing things that are not listed include them as well.)

4.)  Take a moment to reflect on your jealousy.  Are they symptoms of infection?  If yes, what are they?  (If necessary take some time to review the lessons on forgiveness and take appropriate steps.)

5.)  What needs is your jealousy indicating that you have?  What can you do to get those needs met?

6.) Practice expressing your emotion.  If the emotion has given you a lot of pent up physical energy engage in some healthy physical activity like running, walking, biking, swimming.  If it has given you a flood of emotional energy write out your emotions and thoughts in your journal in a prayer to God.  Try expressing your emotion to a trusted friend or loved one using the statement: “I feel jealous when…..”.

7.)  Take action.  Seek God. Get the facts.  Accept reality.  Make changes as necessary.

PRAYER: 

Heavenly Father,

I confess that I struggle with jealousy.  It is so easy to compare myself to others and find myself coming up short.  My insecurities will often overwhelm me if I let them.  Help me become so content with what you have given me that I am able to honestly and truly rejoice over the success of others.  Help me to keep my focus on you and build my faith in who you are and who you say I am.  Help me to trust you and to act in obedience to all you have said.

I can’t thank you enough for loving me.  I acknowledge that you are a jealous God and in your jealousy there is no sin.  Thank you for making me your beloved.  Thank you for your fierce protection of me and your vigilance over me. Help me to reflect your character when I experience the emotion of  jealousy.  Show me how to be more loving in my interactions with others, more truthful with myself, and more honoring to you.

In Jesus Name-Amen

SCRIPTURE:

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong.  (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

A heart at peace gives life to the bod, but envy rots the bones.  (Proverbs 14:30)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.  (Philippians 2:3-4)

Where jealousy and selfishness are there will be confusion and evil of every kind.  (James 3-16)

MEDITATION AND ENCOURAGEMENT:

PSALM 37:1-40

Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord , and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord ; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken. Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. The blameless spend their days under the Lord ’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. But the wicked will perish: Though the Lord ’s enemies are like the flowers of the field, they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke. The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously; those the Lord blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be destroyed. The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing. Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed ; the offspring of the wicked will perish. The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever. The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just. The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip. The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, intent on putting them to death; but the Lord will not leave them in the power of the wicked or let them be condemned when brought to trial. Hope in the Lord and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it. I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a luxuriant native tree, but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found. Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace. But all sinners will be destroyed; there will be no future for the wicked. The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord ; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.

Perspective: Encouragement For When Life Is Unfair

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She sat and stewed about how he had gotten away with it…with all of it.  How he was able to hide his sins, how he was able to skirt the legal system, how he was able to get everything he wanted; money, assets, attention, a whole new life and all she could think about was how unfair it all was.  Her thoughts were consumed with his actions and her emotions were inflamed with bitterness, jealousy, and anger.

Does this sound familiar?  I know it certainly does to me.  If you have ever been through a break up or divorce you know what it is like to struggle with things being unfair and hopeless; you know what it is like to have your ex consuming space in your mind, creating negative emotions and casting a shadow on even the best days.

Recently I had one of those days where seemingly everything goes wrong.  I had received some bad news regarding some financial and legal matters.  Then I discovered yet another “situation” regarding my ex, which left my head spinning in a million directions and fueled an enormous amount of bitterness.  Then, the last straw was that the car I had just put a bunch of money into broke down, and when I say “broke down” I mean beyond repair.  I felt powerless, hopeless and alone.  I sat in my room in tears trying to figure out solutions.  I could feel the anger building in me as I rehearsed how unfair everything was.  I sank deeper and deeper into my hole of self pity and jealousy.

In my earlier years I would have stayed in that place isolated and alone trying to find solutions.  I would have much rather been isolated then appeared weak, vulnerable, or incapable of handling situations.   I would have prided myself on my independence and on my ability to somehow make it work.  However, I am no longer a person who can do that.  I chose instead to reach out to a few faithful friends, explained my situation, asked for their suggestions and for them to pray for me.  They had some wise ideas and also “carried some of my burden” by doing some of the research for me in finding solutions.  Through their prayers and my desperate cries to God I was able to get some answers, and as usual they were not necessarily the answers that I was expecting or wanting.  Here is a glimpse of what God showed me, and what I think he may want to pass on to you:

1.)  It’s not fair.  God is not about fairness.  He is about justice, love, mercy and grace.  “I have told you these things that you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart?  I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)  He has given us all of scripture to speak truth to us, to remind us that we are his and that one day all accounts will be settled, and that we will overcome, just as he overcame.

2.)  You are a masterpiece in progress.  Through your trials God is maturing you so that you will be equipped and mature.  He does not want you to lack anything!  “Consider it pure joy brothers and sisters when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish it’s work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  (James 1:2-4)  God knows our journey; past, present and future.  He knows exactly what we will need in the upcoming days and is providing it through the lessons we learn in our trials probably even more so then in our triumphs.

3.)  You do not have to go it alone.  God himself will stand up for you and he has given you people in your life that you can risk reaching out to in your time of need.  The truth is we are weak and vulnerable when we choose to allow our pride or shame to isolate us from one another. Bravery is reaching out to your community, risking being known and allowing them to help you.  “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing: but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” (Psalm 68:5-6)

4.)  His plans for us are greater than our own plans.  In my case I had a vision of how I wanted things to be, where I wanted things to go, but God saw it differently.  He allowed me to make plans, but faithfully intervened to set me on the course that would be far greater than I could have set for myself with my limited vision.  “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

So as I sit here and ponder what to do about my car situation, and all the other situations that are so seemingly unfair, my heart is a bit lighter as God encourages me with his word:  “Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice.” (Proverbs 16:8).

Heavenly Father,

I ask that you help each one of my dear sisters as they continue in their journeys and fight their battles.   Encourage them with your words and lead them by your spirit.  Lift them out them up out of the pit and give them your renewed perspective that includes hope, life, and an excellent future beyond anything they have known to this point.  Remind them that through these challenges you are laying the ground work now for all the good you have in store for them.

In Jesus Name-Amen

 

Developing Your Tribe

AirBrush_20180120181758In this age of isolation, introverts and social media it is hard to make real life connections with people who are available to hang out, grab coffee, talk about life, and help in a jam.  Regardless of whether you are single, happily committed, or in a “complicated” relationship, it is important that we develop our support systems; our tribes.  This is an essential piece to developing a healthy and happy life.

There are some people who you will meet who will stay in the large outer circle of your tribe.  These are people who you may interact with in your neighborhood, at work, at church, or at your child’s school.  You may be friends on social media and hang out on occasion, but they are not the people who you would pour out your heart and soul to simply because you do not know them well enough.  Maybe they are “inner tribe” worthy, maybe they’re not, only time and testing will tell.  For now they are on the outskirts of your tribe.  They are people with whom you have something in common and that you enjoy or find helpful on some level.  While they are essential and enjoyable, they have not yet earned the right to be in the inner circle of your tribe.

Then there is the inner circle of your tribe.  These are the people who love you and who you love.  These are the ones who will do anything for you, who will tell you the truth even when it hurts, who will always have your back.   It is this inner circle, this core group of people, who will help clarify who you are and who you are becoming.  They will help you solve problems and create an atmosphere where you can grow and flourish.  These people are your inner tribe.

If the people of this inner circle are not carefully selected and the deep friendships not cultivated, then you risk being isolated and lonely, or deeply hurt and betrayed.  That is why it is so important to carefully choose who you allow into this sacred part of your heart.  That being said, here are some things to consider:

1.)  How big should your tribe be?  There is no magic answer to this question.  Typically I suggest cultivating around three or four really close friendships at any given time. The longer you live and practice the process the more close friendship you may end up with over the course of time.

2.)  Where do I find these people?  It would be fabulous if it were super easy and we could just go to the mall and grab a few that met our criteria.  Unfortunately that is not the way friendships work.  They take time to develop and require that we develop a history.  So examine the people in the outer circle of your tribe.  Who do you have some history with?  Who do you admire or enjoy?  From that group of people begin to select a few that you think might make a good inner circle for you.

3.)  Is she safe?  Let’s face it, if you are going to open your heart to someone you want to know that they are safe.  A key factor in determining the safety of someone is watching how they handle the hearts of others who have entrusted their secrets to them. Does she break confidences? Does she gossip about other people?  Does she tolerate listening to gossip from others?  Does she tear people down or build people up?  It’s a pretty safe bet that if she does it to others she will do to you.

4.)  Do you have similar values?   Since you will hopefully one day be coming to this person for their advice and opinions you are going to want to make sure you have similar values.  Are you on a similar page when it comes to dating, marriage, parenting, partying, fun etc.?  If you have totally different values in practically every area then it could pose problems when you come to her for counsel or advice.  While she may make a wonderful friend, and a great person to bounce ideas off of for a different perspective, she may not be the person you want to go to for advice regarding upholding your own values and morals.

5.) Do you trust their judgement?  By choosing this person to be a part of your inner circle you need to be able to trust them.  Have they demonstrated that they will do what is right concerning you and your relationships?  Do they seek to make good decisions in their own lives?  Have they consistently given you good advice even when it was not what you wanted to hear?

6.) How do they handle conflict and confrontation?  It is important to notice how they handle these things because with out a doubt this will become a part of the relationship.  This will ultimately affect how you deal with others as well as how you and she deal with interpersonal issues between the two of you.  Does this person handle conflict in a way that you would like to imitate?  Consider what a confrontation with them look and feel like if you were on the receiving end.

7.) Are they loyal and available?  There is really only one way to test this out.  Ask them to be involved.  Now I don’t mean straight up ask, but I do mean test things out.  Send them a text or call them.  Invite them to an event or to get coffee.  This is how you will learn if they are available.  If they consistently turn you down, or don’t respond, I would suggest that they are not available to cultivate a friendship with you at this season in their lives.  As far as loyalty watch to see if they keep their promises.  Are they ditching others to spend time with you or vice versa?  If so that is a good indicator that at some point you will be the one being ditched.

8.) How often and in what ways can you invest in each other’s lives?  Let’s face it we only have so much time that we can truly give, that is why it is so important to intentionally invest in these relationships.  Figure out how frequently you can check in with your friend and be faithful to do it.  Find ways to connect with them, bless them, pray for them, encourage them, and celebrate them.   This is an investment that will have great rewards for you and for them.

A couple other things to think about.

While it is important to find the people you want in your tribe, it is even more important to be the kind of person you want in your tribe.  Re-read through the list and evaluate how you are doing in each of those areas.  Make a plan to improve in areas where you are weak.

No one is perfect.  People are messy and relationships are messy.  To have these kinds of friendships you have to be willing to take some risks knowing that the possibility exists that you may get hurt.  You also need to be willing to try to work through things showing the same measure of love and grace that you would want to be shown.

These kinds of relationships take time to build.  Be an observer of others.  Choose carefully with whom you will begin to share and build a relationship.  Offer little pieces of your heart at first and evaluate how they handle it.  If they do well, offer more.  If they do not do well, then you can always address that with them and use that as an opportunity to develop your own conflict resolution skills, which will make you an even better friend in the end.

Sometimes people are available only for a season in your life.  Allow the natural flow of life to move some people in and out of your life.  Treasure them while you have them and continue to connect when you can.

If you are currently in a destructive relationship it is likely that your partner will hinder your attempts to reach out to other people.  Building this support system is critical to your emotional, mental, and possibly even physical health!

Bible References:

Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Proverbs 15:22 “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Proverbs 13:20 “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”

Proverbs 27:5-6 “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”

1 Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals”