Envy: implies wanting something that belongs to another and to which one has no particular right or claim
Jealousy: may refer to a strong feeling of envy, or it may imply an intense effort to hold on to what one possesses; it is often associated with distrust, suspicion, anger, and other negative emotions
The above definitions come from my on-line dictionary. There are 43 occurences of the word "jealous" in the Bible. Even God is said to be jealous, but then He has the right to be jealous of our attention and to desire our faithfulness because He created us.
I had never considered myself to be a jealous person until God opened my eyes to seeing the truth about myself. In my mind the things I wanted out of life, like a close-knit family, were something one should desire and was my "right" to claim. I always felt that to be envious meant you wanted what someone else had even if it meant they had to give it up in order for you to have it. I've never begrudged someone else their success, but instead am glad for them while wishing the same success for myself. This could not be jealousy.....could it?
Then last week I began to think about the memoir I wrote last year. I'd spent several weeks going through childhood diaries, photographs, letters, and memories and several of the stories I told came to mind. They were instances of what I now must call jealousy and in the midst of those memories I realized I had decided early on I wanted a "normal" happy family when I grew up--just like I saw on Father Knows Best, a TV show in the 1950's. In that moment I realized I was jealous of families who cared for and were involved in each others' lives. I realized that it had been this jealousy that fueled my hopes and dreams. Could it be my whole life has been based on jealousy?! When I look at the above definition of jealousy--an intense effort to hold on to what one possesses; it is often associated with distrust, suspicion, anger, and other negative emotions--it would seem so, because this characterizes my reaction whenever my family did not act like the family I'd always envisioned--the one I was jealous of on TV.
Then early this morning I listened to Discover the Word on the radio. The subject was "How to see God's goodness through the cracks of our family relationships." The first crack occurred when Cain became jealous of his brother Abel when God favored Abel's sacrifice over Cain's. It was then I realized that what I had no right to was a perfect family. My sin was not that I wanted a close-knit family but that I felt I had a right to a perfect family. As an adult my head knew that there is no such thing as a perfect family, but my heart still clung to my childhood fantasy. The radio program helped to remind me that God uses our imperfections to draw us closer to Him. He is the only Perfect One and He is desirous of our love and worship--and that is a good thing!
Father, letting go of life-long ways of being does not come easily. Help me to keep my eyes on You so that I do not expect perfection elsewhere.
Link to scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:4