Jealousy is a destructive anxiety and a poison which divides communities, said Pope Francis recently, and families too I would add. We see its impact in the first pages of the bible, as the reason for Cain’s murder of his brother Abel. And we see it in the news headlines every day.
But what about within ourselves? We can’t cultivate peace in our hearts or our families and be full of jealousy at the same time. I know because I’ve tried it. The two are incompatible!
Years ago when I was home every day with one young baby and a toddler, I used to fill out entry forms or invent catchy phrases to try to win free holidays or special items on competition websites.
Once I had my heart set on this particular prize, two night’s stay at a newly opened luxury health retreat. I looked at the pictures and read all about it on the website and envisioned myself and my husband at this beautiful resort and spa.
We’d never been anywhere like it before. I thought through the babysitting plans, and imagined myself so deserving of a break away and so unable to afford one ourselves that the prize just had to be mine.
I didn’t win the holiday and I was disappointed. About a month or so later someone told me very casually that she’d just returned from the very same place, and that it hadn’t been particularly special.
I was too sick with bitter envy to say anything, it was like vinegar on a wound to me, that this person could afford to go just on a whim AND hadn’t even appreciated it!!
I felt so sorry for myself and I had a sudden surge of dislike for this person I’d only ever liked and admired before. It was horrible – and the next day I promised myself never to let myself become so sick with envy again. (Though I’ve sure been tempted!)
Luckily the antidote to jealousy is gratitude and it is easy to find things to be grateful for if you look for them.
Gratitude is such a healing approach to life, and it is also prescribed in the Bible. The book of Tobit ends with the angel Raphael giving advice to Tobit and his son Tobias to praise and thank God always.
If jealousy is causing sadness and division in your family, you could try the practice of writing down before going to bed five things you are grateful for out of the day, and thanking God for them.
Have you done this? How do you foster gratitude at home or just within yourself?