By Andrew Shykofsky
Jealousy and envy are emotions tied to anger.
To covet means to long for or lust after something quite badly without regard for others. One of the commandments states that you are not to covet that which does not belong to you. If we were to covet the romantic partner of another, it would mean we would want that person and not care all that much how our desire may lead to pain and suffering for others involved. Anytime there is that disregard in the mix, anger is present. Anger is the predominant emotion that short circuits your ability to empathize with others.Jealousy and envy are emotions tied to anger.
In cases where we see something that another has that we want but can’t have (or believe we can’t have), we have a choice about how to react. If we don’t do any personal reflection though, we typically react subconsciously, get angry and slip into a jealous or envious state. The error begins in how we are perceiving the situation. Somewhere inside of us lives an idea that we can’t have what we truly want. As such, we tend to see the world through these murky lenses.
Wounding and pain from the past lead to the development of a jealous attitude. The reality is that with God, all things are possible meaning what you want can generally be given so long as it is in accord with Divine Law. Wanting the husband or wife of another person is out of accord with the Divine. Remember that unlike where our culture has gotten to now, marriage is meant to be a sacred covenant that lasts one’s entire life. To focus on a particular person who has already made that vow to another person is simply wrong. While you might have some innocent feelings about or towards a married person, being conscious means you discipline yourself to curb those feelings and realize they are never to be acted upon.
The difference between someone who gets jealous or envious and someone who doesn’t is the degree to which they believe in themselves, have faith in God and are willing to put the work in to have the things they want. Below the surface lies negative beliefs that need to be examined for this is where the problem begins. Through meditation and working with a teacher, these beliefs may become known.
You could say that jealousy and envy are lazier choices because we can default to them and perpetuate the idea that life is unfair. You look around the room and see someone who has what you want and rather than choosing to become inspired and seek to work for what you want, you fall prey to the temptation to become a victim.
Let’s talk through an example of someone who has a chronic tendency to compare themselves to others. This is always an egotistical act because our souls don’t feel interested in those kinds of competitive assessments. The soul is wiser than to enter into a competition that you can’t win. And you can’t win because there is no peace in pursuing success and accomplishments that are fueled by anger. The ego never lets us rest even if we do beat another and win what they have. It is still never enough.
From the spiritual perspective, giving over to jealousy, envy or entitlement is an act of pride. How so? Pride becomes active because we want something that we can’t have but feel entitled to or don’t believe we can have. That is a misunderstanding of God and the way that the dark forces tend to incite us against God. Think of Eve. The story of Genesis teaches that the serpent incited Eve to think that something was being withheld from her which wasn’t true. The snake told her to look around and see how the animals were allowed to mate and have children but that God was treating her unfairly. The truth was that she and Adam weren’t ready for the intensity of the sexual experience and so it was being withheld but the darkness twisted it into a convincing lie. She chose to believe the lie and to take something that wasn’t hers to take. As we all know, that ended badly for a lot of people.
Comparing oneself is a symptom of a lack of self-esteem resulting from an erroneous belief system. Somewhere we have decided to believe a specific lie that was reinforced usually throughout our childhood. That lie can take a few forms but essentially it touches on the idea that you aren’t good enough. If you bought the lie, eventually you began to create a life from that premise. The reinforcement from people in your life has been disempowering and without having the encouragement to try new things and succeed (and fail at times), one’s confidence is underdeveloped.
As discussed, the symptom is the unhealthy habit of thinking a certain way and coming up short in your own mind. The basis by which you compare yourself is corrupt meaning you almost always come up short or else you see yourself as better than the other as a compensation for ‘how you have suffered’. The mind and the ego are at play here because they want to emphasize your uniqueness and be special.
What about when we have a partner and we worry about someone else stepping in and taking them away from us? This is a form of jealousy that leads to possessiveness. It is rooted in the same belief system that we aren’t good enough to hold onto the thing we have and so desperately want. Someone who suffers from this fear puts a lot of constriction on their relationship unfairly if they aren’t able to discern if in fact there is any cause for concern.
Always remember that fear constricts while love liberates. If you are grasping onto your partner and petrified/infuriated every time you sense someone finds them attractive, you are holding on too tightly. There needs to be trust in the relationship that the commitment is genuine which is why God has ordained that love relationships move to a commitment and are not consummated casually. He knows that we need security in order to share ourselves so vulnerably.
In the case where your partner is allowing emotional leaks to your relationship, meaning they are enjoying the attentions of another beyond what is appropriate, you do have grounds to feel upset. It is selfish and inconsiderate to allow any kind of emotional or physical bonding to occur when there is even a hint of romantic energy when we know one of the people or ourselves are already coupled up.
So how does this get fixed? A lot of the spiritual work on the Path is about restraining yourself time and time again until the new pattern solidifies. We sometimes think that we will receive a miracle and the feeling of jealousy or envy will never bother us again. That could happen but we don’t count on it. That’s up to God. The initial work is to be vigilant and anytime you feel yourself moving into a jealous or envious mindset or noticing those feelings, you train yourself to stop the behavior and affirm the truth. And that truth is that you can have what you want and you can become confident if you learn these skills.
We have heard many people say they want to change and would do most anything to have the things they want in life. God is always poised to send abundant help to the serious disciple meaning the one prepared to discipline themselves. But upon reviewing the seemingly relentless amount of attention you have to give to change even one behavioral pattern, most actually give up. This is unfortunate.
In Wisdom School, we let go of the idea that changing a long ingrained behavioral pattern will be easy. Where’s the wisdom in that? By turning humbly to God and owning the fact that you have allowed yourself to indulge in jealousy and envy and have at times acted on these emotions, we move into a repentant frame of being and can be forgiven.
You must have compassion on yourself for the reasons you have been afraid or have lacked confidence. Just be careful not to become self-pitying or play the victim. Mistreatment in your life that led to low self-esteem is quite common. You have to accept your history and also accept the work ahead. Everyone has various challenges that we could all look around and find someone who seems to get it easy. But we aren’t asked to judge in this way. Accept your challenge and trust in God that now is the time for you to take it on.
Teacher: Andrew Shykofsky