Compare and Contrast – Freedom From Jealousy

Facebook – a wonderful tool that allows us to keep up with friends from the past and the present, and a way to present only what you want the world to see or know of you.

I was having a discussion a couple of months ago with my wonderful and wise mother-in-law about the joys and perils of Facebook. We eventually got into talking about how it is an arena where you can present your life almost exactly how you would like it to be presented to your social network. In my age group, I see a lot of people posting their amazing photos from their travels, or wonderful wedding pictures, and statuses about how amazing their young marriages or new babies are or how great it is they can head off to some fun city for the weekend. In my Mother-in-law’s age group, she explained there is a lot of information posted about how wonderful so and so’s children are doing, the trips they plan to take, and pictures of housing projects or new babies.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with this. Actually, I think Facebook can be a great extension of our selves, or a way to present our selves, almost in the same way creating something can be (like writing a poem, a song, or painting a picture) to others outside of us. We all have that side of ourselves that we like to present when we first meet someone (think first impressions), and Facebook can be a way to develop that image and share it with multiple groups at once.

Often, with all that presenting of self going on, Facebook has this scary, negative affect—at least for me. I find myself unintentionally using it to compare and contrast myself against other people in my social group. I mean, as people, we do this all the time when we go out in public whether that is to the grocery store, at a show, at work, or even at church. I often find myself strolling about thinking, “I wish my dress was a nice as hers” or “I wish I had that hair!” or “That print as a shirt? Really?” It’s a pretty awful problem.

Consequently, with Facebook, I am not just comparing myself when I am out in public with others, I am doing it at home in my spare time! How weird?! I find myself strolling through the news feed thinking things like “look at their new house! I wish I could buy one right now” or “their wedding was much nicer than mine” or “I wish I had their job” and so on.

Worse yet, I can have very prideful thoughts. So prideful, I would be completely embarrassing myself to give examples. Thoughts that can sound like “I am better than…” or “I can’t believe that they…” etc. You know those thoughts, because you too may have thought them. I kind of feel sick in those moments when I catch myself with that sort of attitude, and quickly realize it is the wrong sort of thinking.

These thoughts centered around comparing and contrasting are indicators of my personal insecurity and pride that rise to the surface when I attempt to place my value in things of this world or outward beauty, rather than my worth and identity in Christ and focusing on His Kingdom. It is so easy to get all caught up in the temporary things of this life (marriage and family, houses, jobs, money, beauty, intellect, material things) that I can forget where my focus should be—in turn, a couple months ago I found myself struggling with a lot of jealousy and pride.

I believe these feelings stemmed from being discontent with what God has already given me (attitude of entitlement and un-thankfulness, maybe?) and having this idea that I earned everything good that I have on my own (pride, you think?). It is the worst to allow jealousy or pride to get in the way of loving and serving others, and that is what these feelings were doing! It was kind of making me feel gross (as sin does) so I prayed about it—I repented and asked God for His help in overcoming these feelings daily.

God answered me with a command: take action. Take action against these feelings (I mean, let’s call it what it is: sin—I was being sinful by being prideful and covetous) and combat jealousy and pride by doing the opposite.

What did “taking action” to defeat sin look like for me? I started complementing and encouraging others in areas of their life that I was previously jealous of (note: If I have complemented or encouraged you it doesn’t mean I am jealous! Haha! I truly enjoy encouraging others, but I found that I was specifically not encouraging those I was jealous towards). I also started humbling myself before those I had been prideful towards, and started learning important lessons from them.

Guess what? God, in all His infinite wisdom and grace, was right! It worked. I repented from my sin of pride an jealousy towards individuals, and took action to defeat it in my life, and it wasn’t an attitude present in my daily interactions anymore! It was pretty freeing and allowed room for me to love others more as God has called me to love them.

I love when bad attitudes are replaced with good ones!

Jealousy, I think, also can stem from pride. The fact that I could feel so entitled to having what someone else has that I coveted it is perhaps a form of pride in my life. My sister-in-law, Natalie, recently shared a verse that was a good reminder to have humility in all things:

For what gives you the right to make such a judgment? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift? 1 Corinthians 4:7 NLT

Amen, Natalie!

It is important to not get so used to bad attitudes or sin or whatever being present in our lives that we just live with it. (I actually thought to myself a couple of times, “being jealous or prideful isn’t that big of a deal, it does really affect anyone else but me.” On the contrary – it was getting in the way of me serving others… big time). I recently heard someone in the healthcare industry say that sometimes we get so used to feeling unwell or sick that it becomes the norm, and we completely forget what it feels like to be truly healthy. If we are not careful, couldn’t this happen in our spiritual lives? I know it has happened in mine before. We can get so accustomed to being full of worry, jealousy, pride, bitterness, lust, un-thankfulness, etc that we can forget what it is like to be free of those things – and then we just surrender and learn to live with it.

We throw around the word and attitude of jealousy like its not a big deal. Often I will hear girls in conversation squeal, “Oh, I am so jealous!” like it is a complement to the girl they are jealous of. I have found through my own struggle that it is not an issue or an attitude to take lightly. Actually, Proverbs 27:4 mentions that jealousy is downright dangerous—and Paul, in my favorite warning about jealousy that I have found, disciplines a group of believers that have jealousy and quarreling among them by stating, “are you not acting like mere humans?!” (1 Corinthians 3:2-4 NIV, emphasis mine for dramatic effect). Humans are so silly. Truly, we are – if you think about it, most things we might be jealous or covetous of don’t even matter in the big scheme of God’s plan and Kingdom and eternity and all that jazz.

Instead of being ridiculous or keeping our sin around and getting accustomed to it, let’s take action against it!

Back to talking about that wonderful website that allows us to craft exactly what others view of our lives… Facebook.

I think I might have to restrict myself to having a sort of “Facebook Fridays” or something, where I only allow myself one day a week to check up on things (again, I don’t think Facebook is a bad thing, it just sometimes has a negative affect on me personally). Although I probably will deeply miss the wonderfully funny viral videos that go around during the week, I’ll gain some free time. And even better, maybe I’ll spend less time comparing and contrasting the lives of others to my own, and spend a little more time enjoying mine for what it is.

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