Mastering the Green-Eyed Monster

June 20, 2022


Let’s start with an illustration that applies to every human being at some time or another. It’s called ‘Rowing a Boat that Goes Nowhere.’ 

Some sailors had been drinking. It was late at night, and they wished to return to their ship. They arrived at the place where they had left their rowboat and threw in the oars. They rowed and rowed and seemed to make little progress. Finally, the soberest among them discovered that they had never loosened the boat's bow rope from the pier. Just think. The sailors' only obstacle to their desired end was a rope they tied earlier that evening and then forgot to untie. 

Painter Mariam Paré, who specializes in making paintings by mouth after suffering a spinal cord injury, was asked in her later years what she would write to herself if she were 20 years old.  

"If I could talk to myself 20 years ago, I would tell myself to focus on my strengths and not on my weaknesses; on the things I could do and not the things I couldn't do; to strive to excel and hone those skills to the point of excellence. This was the best strategy to secure my future. I would tell myself that the only real obstacles you have are those you create for yourself." 

In other words, remember to untie yourself from the dock of self-inflicted oversights and offenses, and most likely, life will transport you to a place of contentment. 

Let’s ask ourselves some revealing questions about our current emotional outlook. "Of whom am I critical? Is envy or jealousy the root of this criticism? To whom am I comparing myself? Can I bear to hear others celebrated in my presence? What is the source of my criticism or the cause of my distaste for someone that seems unwarranted? Could it be that you are enviously going green? 

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, almost everything and everyone we hear and see in media and social media is creating mass envy. Envy is like the green-eyed monster which grows into jealousy and finally covetousness.

Did you know that envy was the earthly cause of the crucifixion of Jesus? "And Pilate answered them, saying, "Do you want me to release the King of the Jews for you?" For he knew that the chief priests had delivered Him up because of envy.” Mark 15:9-10. Envy is not your friend.  

Let's get some wisdom about envy, what it is, why it is, and what envy morphs into if not revealed and mastered. 

According to the dictionary, envy is a feeling of discontent or resentful thoughts based on what someone else has. Envy strongly desires to have the same things someone else has. The thing desired could be a quality, a possession, or an attribute that belongs to someone else, especially your perceived adversaries or idols. British philosopher Bertrand Russell said that envy is one of the most potent causes of unhappiness, which is two-fold. Envy makes people unhappy. The envious person wishes the other person would be just as miserable as they are.

Psychologists suggest that there may be two types of envy. Malicious envy is a negative emotion that wants someone ruined because of what he has. This type of envy wants the "hero" to suffer. Benign envy is the positive motivational force that wants to aspire to be as good and have as much as the "hero." Unfortunately, we seem more attracted to destructive envy in today's world. 

No matter the career field, if you see someone attaining favor and results that you intuitively know you could have also had but didn't take steps to get there, you get envious. Your feelings of inferiority, longing, resentment of circumstances, or wanting bad things for the person are caused by envy. If the monster of envy is not mastered, it morphs into jealousy. 

Jealousy is an emotion brought on by resentment against someone because of another person's success, advantage, etc. Jealousy often consists of one or more emotions such as anger, resentment, inadequacy, helplessness, or disgust. Jealousy is more toxic than envy. Jealousy can be either suspicious or reactive. That means a person can become jealous of another based on suspicions when there is no real reason to be jealous. If the monster of jealousy is not mastered, it morphs into covetousness. 

According to the dictionary, covet means to “desire something wrongfully without any regard for the rights of others.” To covet is to wish for another's property and possessions. To covet something is not merely wishing for it, but going after it, lusting for it, and working on getting it at any cost. A person can covet not only what belongs to others but to covet what belongs to God. 

“Thou Shall not Covet” is unlike any of the ten commandments in the Bible. The other commandments focus on outward actions. Covetousness reflects and reveals the condition of one’s heart. With coveting, the heart of the problem is the problem of our heart. 

Here's a quick comparison. ENVY says, "I like what you have. I want what you have." At best, envy says, “Show me how to get it too." At worse, it morphs into jealousy. JEALOUSY says, "I want what you have, and until I have it, you shouldn't have it either. COVETOUSNESS says, "I want what you have. I am more worthy of it than you. So I’ll do what I must to get what you have, including taking it from you."

Here's one final question. Can we let it go? Can we untether ourselves from the dock? Can we admit that in most cases, the only real obstacles we have are those we create for ourselves? Can we acknowledge that we need God's help in slaying green-eyed monsters? 

If you can admit it, you're on your way to quitting it. 


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Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com