On Jealousy

Jonathan Scolare (’18)
Thursday, September 17, 2015

I WANT her clothes! I WANT their singing skills! I WANT his muscles! I WANT his salary! I WANT her internship! I WANT his girlfriend! I WANT their language skills!

I am not mad. Yet jealousy is maddening. It infests itself in the mind, gnashing and clawing at the soul until it evolves into pure, organic hate.

You see, jealousy is based in present. You cannot be jealous over someone’s past, although you can be envious of it, nor can you be jealous over someone’s future, because it has not happened yet! So I repeat: jealousy is based in the present.

The ultimate problem with jealousy is that it makes you despise your present situation. This is the pungent, ugly side of jealousy. You begin to ignore and lessen all that has been given to you because that one thing eludes you. This one thing can be something small and trifling like seeing your neighbor’s dog doing back flips while your dog pees during thunderstorms; it is being jealous of the youth group that has praise bands with dozens of faithful followers…while your youth group attracts the same six people every week. Yet it could also be something big. “I want her GPA! I want his abs! I want their ability to sing!” When someone else has that one thing, it can lead to a resentful emotion towards this person, which, if fed, can grow into hate.

Jealousy fights against gratitude and thankfulness because jealousy is the desire to have something not currently in possession. So the simplest way to conquer jealousy is to be thankful and appreciative of all that you have. However, this depends on your “field of vision.” It ultimately comes down to what you see, don’t see, and what you want.

I believe that a key component of the human condition is this constant search for a place where one may love and be loved. For example, a boy who lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo runs away from his family to join a violent rebel group because his impoverished family is not able to provide for him. Similarly, a young lady begins college where she is, to an extent, independent from her family for the first time in her life. She feels completely alone and alienated in her new chapter of life.

These two people, I believe, are looking for the exact same thing. They are looking for a place where they may love and be loved; a place where they may serve and be served.

One of my biggest pet peeves – and believe me, I have many – is when I encounter a college student whose typical outfit consists of only highly-priced, name-brand shirts, whose shoes can’t be bought more than a year ago lest they appear “old,” and who has the audacity to say, “I’m just a poor college student!” I want to scream in their face, “You are wealthy! You have so much! Look at your clothes and how well your family has fed you. How can you say that you are poor?” In this situation, this person and I have two different “scopes.” He sees only what he wants and doesn’t have – in this case, money – while I look at his clothes, his shoes, his hair, his physique, etc.

In this evening’s gospel, Jesus teaches us to reevaluate our scopes. Instead of chasing after materialistic ambitions – a new car, a higher salary, a girlfriend or boyfriend who is higher up on the “hotness scale” – we need to be seeking God’s kingdom, we need to be seeking His will, we need to be pursuing justice and peace, not our own agendas or trifling wants.

Now, that being said, there is nothing wrong with ambition. Christ calls us to better ourselves, which means there is nothing inherently sinful about pursuing a 4.0 GPA or a six-figure paying job. But it is sinful to worship your dreams instead of the God who gave you a brain to think such dreams. It is sinful to pursue a girl as if she is only an object to be won instead of the God who designed the both of you. It is sinful to idolize that one thing.

You see, when we demand these things – clothes, cars, money, sexual sensation – we place ourselves in the center of the universe as we are to be worshipped and served. Only the creator of a great work may receive veneration, therefore only God should be worshipped because He created the earth and all that is a part of it. We must worship the Creator, not the creation.

This is far easier said than done. I try to keep the first commandment, yet I still become jealous of people who dress better than me because I want that one shirt, or those shoes, or those muscles. I mutter to myself, “God, I just wish I had that one thing!” At which point I imagine God belting in my face, “Why do you need that one thing? Look at all that you have: two loving parents, three meals a day, fantastic friends, a warm bed, and a chance to pursue a university education. How can you say that you are poor?” When I weigh all that I have against all that I want, I am in awe at all that has been gifted to me. In doing so, I become grateful, thus vanquishing my jealousy. It’s gone. Poof!

And as for our lavishly dressed friend, I’m going to challenge you love and serve him. It’s hard. It’s cliché. It’s worth it! The moment we expel our hatred, the moment we let go of our jealousy and replace it with love, that new shirt, those fancy shoes, or having a girlfriend just doesn’t add up. All that you have been blessed with and have been gifted far outweighs all those things that you want.

So don’t grow mad with jealousy over what you don’t have but your friend does. Instead, look at all that you have been blessed with: an accepting and reconciling community, a smile that makes this world a little brighter, and a chance to love and serve those who have been tossed aside like broken things.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, we are in a city and in a country that pursues materialistic goals. All through this city we see people who sacrifice their health just to make a little bit more money or impress others just a little bit more. May we live and work for Christ and for His Kingdom.

It is well. I am not mad.