8 Things We Can All Do When We Struggle with Jealousy

Contributing Writer
8 Things We Can All Do When We Struggle with Jealousy

Scripture mentions two kinds of jealousy. The first has to do with God’s character and is motivated by His passion for us and our worship.

“Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14).

But the second type of jealousy is a human emotion that has very little to do with the Lord. It is defined as, “resentment against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage, etc.” It is a strong, stinging emotion that takes our minds and hearts in a negative direction.

“You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?” (1 Corinthians 3:3)

Jealousy sometimes washes over us like a tidal wave. Other times it sneaks up, catching us off guard. What makes this emotion tricky is that it’s very personal - what stirs up jealousy in you might not bother someone else. Luckily, God knows each of us intimately, and wants to show us how to have victory in this area.

Why Do We Wrestle with Jealousy?

Many people compare themselves with others, whether in terms of personality, talents, achievements, or material possessions. This habit is practically an invitation for jealousy to enter into a person’s heart.

“And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:4).

If a person feels insecure with who they are and what they have, it can look as if others are more blessed. This quickly brings on a sense of jealousy and a desire to grab for what they want.

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another” (Titus 3:3).

Jealousy is often connected with envy and coveting in the Bible. And God’s view of those is clear. In fact, He addresses them in one of the 10 Commandments to the young Israelite nation. 

“‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor’” (Exodus 20:17).

8 Things to Do When We Struggle with Jealousy

It’s one thing to understand that jealousy is unhealthy. But it can be hard to figure out what to do right when we’re feeling it. Here are a few ways to cool down the heat of a jealous moment.

1. Take a Breath

Intense emotions usually cause us to become tense physically, which in turn affects our ability to think clearly. So the act of taking a few deep breaths can be enough to diffuse the feeling a bit.

2. Acknowledge What You’re Feeling

Though it may be hard to admit to dealing with jealousy, being honest with yourself is an important step to breaking its hold on you.

3. Lift Up a Prayer 

Remember that God already knows your struggle and is ready to give you what you need - forgiveness, grace and wisdom for what to do next.

4. Question the Feeling 

Once you are aware of being jealous and are feeling a little bit calmer, you can ask yourself if the emotion is necessary, or if it is benefitting you in any way. (Hint: The answer is usually no.)

5. Talk about It 

Sharing our battles reassures us that we’re not alone, so don’t hesitate to find a trusted confidant who speaks truth and encouragement into your life.

6. Replace It 

Letting go of a negative mindset leaves room for something better, so as you release jealousy, try to express some thanksgiving and contentment for ways that God has already blessed you.

7. Write It Out

The act of putting our feelings on paper (or computer) can help us sort out what thoughts and attitudes lead us in that direction, and will be a resource for you if jealousy flares up again.

8. Learn from the Feeling

The clearer you can get as to why you felt jealous or what triggered the feeling, the better you’ll be able to catch it the next time before it takes hold of you.

Scriptures about Jealousy

The most effective tool we have in any battle with jealousy is God’s Word. Here are some verses from both the Old and New Testament to study and tuck away into your mind.

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30).

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant…” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:22-24).

“Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:9).

People in the Bible Who Dealt with Jealousy

Accounts of people who didn’t handle jealousy well share similarities: Jealousy was connected to their fear of losing something they had or not getting something they wanted. Jealousy led to them commit destructive actions against others. Jealousy resulted in them being separated from God.

1. Cain

“The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast” (Genesis 4:4-5).

The first sons of Adam both brought sacrifices to God, but only Abel’s was accepted. Being rejected stirred up jealousy in Cain’s heart, which led him to murder his brother.

2. Joseph’s brothers 

“When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him” (Genesis 37:4).

Seeing the special treatment Joseph received from their father Jacob, his brothers became resentful. Out of jealousy, they devised a plan to kill him.

3. King Saul

“Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had departed from Saul” (1 Samuel 18:12).

Because his heart had turned away from serving the Lord, Saul lost favor and his kingship. An evil spirit of jealousy took hold of Saul, leading him to try to hunt down and kill David, his chosen replacement.

4. The Prodigal Son’s Older Brother 

“‘Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant…But he was angry and refused to go in’” (Luke 15:25-26, 28). 

Offended by the celebration for his younger brother’s return, the older brother felt jealous. He stayed outside and complained about not getting the same opportunity to throw such a party. His words and actions saddened his father, and distanced him from his family.

God clearly wants us to learn to quickly recognize the signs of jealousy. And as we release it to Him, we’ll grow to love others more.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/francescoch

Heather Adams 1200x1200Heather Adams is an author, speaker, and singer living in Connecticut. Heather’s passion is to equip and encourage believers to seek more of God’s truth and to experience more of His joy each day. Her book, Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper is a practical, 30-day devotional about worship based on the writings of King David. Heather's blog, Worship Walk Ministries, offers weekly Scripture passages and insights to ponder. A native New Englander, Heather is settling into her home in the South, trying out local foods and watching for the alligators that live nearby!