The Nature of Jealousy

(I haven't posted in a while. Mostly because I've been crazy busy. Building Chalkboards. Running a Video Podcast for my church. Not doing homework. Doing homework. Meetings Meetings Meetings. Bible Studies and Small groups. Etc. Also my computer died over a week ago and after getting repairs I haven't had much time to just sit and write. Excuses aside, I figured I'd start out small to get back into the swing of things.)

The world would make you believe that in relationships there are two types of people: The Jealous Type, and the Non-Jealous Type. (Ok, the world does not really want you to believe that, but for purposes of this post I'm going to stick with that first sentence.) It would seem that most people's advice for jealousy is to simply "not get jealous." Like it were that simple. As if the person hadn't already thought of that before. How often have you ever heard someone start a story like this: "I know I shouldn't be jealous, but..."

There's always a 'but'.

Jealousy is not so cut and dry, in my opinion, and there is no such thing as a non-jealous person. I don't believe that jealousy is a choice, and to tell someone to "not be jealous" is basically telling them to not have any emotions whatsoever. Honestly I'm not sure I've ever met anyone who's told me "I choose to be jealous. I just like it. It keeps me feeling alive." So it confuses me when others talk about shutting it off, like a switch, or even propose that jealousy is wrong; when in actuality it's our response to jealousy that has the potential to be 'wrong' and not the jealousy itself.

Ask yourself, have you ever chosen to be jealous? or does it just come without warning?

It's like temptation, whereas our response could result in sin, but the act of being tempted is beyond our control. Reacting to our jealousy, however, is not necessarily a sin either, depending on how extreme we're talking, but in the majority of normal relationships your succumbing to jealous actions is not going to send you to hell; although it will be very un-beneficial to everyone involved. You could end up hurting a lot of people, including yourself, so keep that in mind.

The main problem with jealousy is not with its incarnation, but lies within the root of said emotion. Most commonly jealousy is the result of our own selfishness. We care so much about another person that we tend to claim them as our own, seeing every outpouring of affection not directed at ourselves as a potential threat pulling them away from us. We idolize our relationships to the point of worship, where nothing else matters, and by putting our identity within these constructs we become afraid of losing that person; essentially putting fuel on the fire before the spark of jealousy can even ignite.

Jealousy preys on our fears like a lioness waiting in the tall grass. She'll be there, always, waiting for your most lonely moment before she strikes, and once the chase begins you may not be able to stop it.

Do not believe you can't fight jealousy. You can. As long as you understand where it is coming from.

In our selfishness we require attention. Our girlfriend/boyfriend then becomes a product that was made for us. It becomes about what she/he can provide me. They are filling a void as a solution for our loneliness. Our selfishness is what gives rise to the majority of our jealousy. It's why you get jealous at a crowded table, when your significant other isn't sitting right next to you, but instead being friendly at the other end with someone of the opposite sex. You worry that they're going to share something you don't have. You start to think about the what ifs. You entertain the idea that they might not even love you anymore, and that's when it becomes just plain stupid.

Because you're too caught up with yourself. You act like you care but you're just being selfish.

(This is a good spot to mention that there is a difference to being selfish and red flags within a relationship. In some cases, even when you've approached the relationship in the right ways, there are moments that you have to be wary, and take notice of the warning signs. There's not time to delve into these differences however, so I'll just save that for another blog post.)

Or maybe you're not even going out yet. Maybe there is no significant other, just a common interest, or you've opened the door to "talking" (whatever you want to call it). At these times we begin to covet what is not ours, or we begin to hoard all these special moments with that person as if it is a matter of life or death. Here our selfishness becomes even more apparent as our jealousy reveals that we've claimed this person as our own without anyone's consent.

Either way you're wrong, because she is not yours, so quit being selfish.

Still believe you don't get jealous? Well perhaps you are like me, and you've been hurt in the past even despite your attempts and never acting on your jealousy, so in subsequent relationships you've decided to approach things differently. You choose to go the opposite direction of selfishness by not giving any sort of special attention. You let them do whatever they want while you keep yourself at a respectable distance, because if you don't get too close you can't get hurt. The problem is that this is just another form of selfishness. Suffice to say you don't really care about this person, and you're being too afraid to get close shows that you care more about your own feelings than their own. You're using them, again, to satisfy your loneliness in various ways, whether it's just having that person as an entity in your life or through physical intimacy, but in any case it has less to do with them and more to do with what you want.

If you haven't gotten jealous, or if you just "choose not to", then I would venture to say that you haven't really been in love, or at least in a semi-healthy relationship.*

Which leads me to believe that some jealousy is actually a good thing. I know that may be controversial, but if you're still with me this far then hear me out. There is, in fact, a positive form of jealousy that I'd like to point out. I call it "recognition".

The moment you recognize the reason that person makes you smile.
The reason they make you laugh.
The reason they make you happy.

It's the recognition of what it is about that person that you like about them so much.

Recognizing the gravity that draws you into their orbit.

Jealousy, in this light, is no longer about what we have to do in order to keep them, or to assure we don't lose them. Instead it is about why we decided to trust them in the first place. It's about why we sacrifice our own selfish desires so that we can find ways to make them happy. It's giving of ourselves, our time, our energy, and our love, while allowing them to subside our fears by replicating the same actions.

Finding a love that works, a relationship worth keeping, doesn't necessarily mean that jealousy goes away. When we get to the root of our jealous nature and turn it around, then our response to jealousy is a recognition of the truth of why we love that person in the first place.

And it makes us smile.

*Which isn't to say that if you've never been in love, or if you're waiting for the right person, that there is anything wrong with that. In fact, more power to you, and I hope you'll never have to deal with the evil sides of jealousy.