Written By Jehn Kubiak, USA
There’s a bitterness that has lingered deep inside my soul and infected it with poison. Its name is jealousy, and it took over my life for far too long. However, I didn’t realize its chokehold on my life until this past month.
As a student at the Talbot School of Theology near Los Angeles, I’m required to take three semesters of Spiritual Formation classes. These classes include weekly prayer projects with various prompts. Our latest project focused on targeting a sin we struggle with and developing a discipline that will help counteract it.
I wasn’t exactly sure what sin God wanted me to focus on at first, but it wasn’t long before I realized that it was jealousy. Jealousy is dangerous because it breaks the body of Christ apart and inhibits us from humbly serving others, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:16).
I didn’t actually consider myself a jealous person until I started thinking about it. I started by wondering why I always hated people who treated me kindly and loved others around them, and eventually realized that it all boiled down to jealousy.
My cohort leader said that sin can affect various aspects of our lives, and I have found that true of myself. Jealousy made me feel bitter all the time. Jealousy damaged my relationships with other people—I hated them, even though they didn’t personally hurt me in any way. Jealousy damaged my self-esteem—I was never satisfied with myself or my own work. Jealousy damaged my relationship with God—I was not satisfied with what He had given me. I wanted to control my life and make my own plans, instead of letting God take control and trusting His plans for me.
I was jealous of people who got everything they worked for, because I hardly ever got anything I worked for. The student magazine rejected me three times, and I could never move beyond position of staff writer on the student newspaper, even though several people have said that God had gifted me with a natural writing ability.
I was jealous of people who had lots of friends, because I am less outgoing and have an extremely difficult time making new friends. Plus, it seemed like most of my good friends would move away at some point.
I was jealous of people who were naturally gifted at everything, because I have to practice all my skills several hours a week. My teacher said that most music students practice five or less hours a week, while I practiced eight to 12. Despite all my practicing, I remained in last chair for Wind Ensemble.
I was jealous of people who were confident, because I’m highly insecure.
I was jealous of people who hadn’t faced significant health problems, because I dealt with a serious physical health problem last year and still struggle with mental illness.
I could go on and on. But what could I do about my jealousy?
I once read the book Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, a Christian theologian. The book analyzes several key spiritual disciplines that early church fathers developed. This book stuck with me, and I picked two of the disciplines it introduces. One was the traditional discipline of confession, and the other was the discipline of helping others.
First, I wrote down all the people I was jealous of and why I was jealous of them. Underneath that, I wrote down truths about them and how I could bless, instead of curse, them. Instead of keeping these blessings to myself, I made sure to share them with these people. For instance, I told the student who received the features editor position at the campus newspaper—which I had applied for—that she would be a great editor.
Secondly, I listed the ways I felt inadequate and, next to those, wrote the way God actually sees me: a hard-worker with a fiery passion for excellence, a great listener with a desire to sit with others battling difficult emotions like depression, a loyal friend, a creative artist, an innovative intellectual, and a warrior in His kingdom.
Lastly, I wrote a prayer asking God to help me develop a beautiful heart and remain satisfied with the life He’s given me.
Confessing this jealousy freed me from a prison of bitterness. Although I sometimes still find myself becoming bitter towards others when God blesses them, I’m now conscious of this attitude and tell myself to bless, instead of curse, them. I can congratulate them on their accomplishments instead of feeling down about my inadequacies.
I am also trying to develop a positive self-esteem, even if it means repeatedly telling myself something until I believe it: “God gave me the gift of writing” or “God made me quiet so that I can listen well and counsel others”.
I still write in my journal at least every other day, because I see the transformation that God has caused in me.
Do I still struggle with jealousy? Certainly at times, but this regular practice of confession holds my thoughts accountable.