I have confessed to reading the syndicated advice column called "Ask Amy" previously. I finish my paper each day with a handful of my favorite comic strips and her column, which I view as a comic strip equivalent. Monday's column was headed by a letter from a women who signed off as "Jealous in Jersey." In her letter she described how Facebook drives her into fits of uncontrollable jealousy. To give you the full impact of her letter I quote it in its entirety here:
"My cousin and I are both married with kids. I am generally a happy person, but when I see her updates on Facebook I am filled with envy. She does not have a college degree and went from a retail position to a high-level executive position in a short time, while I have a degree and am struggling with my career. She owns a beautiful house, while my family is cramped in an apartment. She is an amazing cook, is beautiful and thin, while I have a few extra pounds. She goes on amazing vacations in exotic locations, while we cannot afford to go away. Recently in response to a post, her friends and family gushed about how generous, kind, etc., she is. I wanted to scream. I keep wishing that something bad happens to her, and I hate feeling this way. This jealously is consuming me. My husband says I need to just get over it, but I cannot. This is not the type of person that I am, and I am not sure what to do."
How do you think Amy answered this person? How would you answer this person? Amy's advice was for her to recognize that Facebook is now known to cause "depressive symptoms" (not just in California by the way) and for her to stop looking at the Facebook posts of her cousin. Then she exhorted her to spend some time with people who will spend all of their time thinking and talking about her as well as being, if possible, inferior to her. What horrible advice that is. If only Jealous in Jersey had written the Mad Welshman. Then she would have a chance at rehabilitation. So, on the outside chance (really no chance at all) that this envy-filled woman might read this blog post, I present the Mad Welshman's answer to Jealous in Jersey.
Jealous seems to have a hard time figuring out what sinful emotion or behavior she is expressing. She goes back and forth between describing herself as jealous and envious. Allow me to enlighten her. The Bible gives us three emotions and their associated behaviors that are often mistaken for one another. Jealousy is the desire to exercise control over something you have no right to exercise control over. Jealousy can be either sinful or morally proper, depending upon the circumstances. A mother can be sinfully jealous of her daughter when she unsuccessfully attempts to control her behavior to make her feel better about herself. A husband can be morally jealous of his wife if she is committing adultery with another man. What Jealous in Jersey is describing has nothing to do with human jealousy.
Envy and covetousness are the two sins being described by Jealous. Although these two words describe two different behaviors, they are also frequently used synonymously. Coveting is forbidden in the Ten Commandments. To covet something is to see something that your neighbor has and want it for yourself, without reference to how your neighbor obtained or uses that thing. Covetousness is often directly related to the sin of materialism since most people covet material things. Envy takes covetousness one step further. Envy not only wants to have what the neighbor has but envy also wants to destroy the neighbor for having it. An old Russian proverb illustrates envy well. A genie appears to a man one day and informs him that he can have one wish for anything he wants. The only condition placed upon the granting of that wish is that whatever he wishes for himself will be granted to his enemy in double abundance. The old Russian thinks about it for a while and then informs the genie that he wishes to be blind in one eye. When Jealous declares that she "keeps wishing that something bad happens to her" we have a pretty clear-cut case of envy. So let's focus our attention upon her sinful envy, shall we?
The first thing Jealous has to do is repent. Like all sinners, and especially like envy-filled sinners, she sees herself as a victim of her cousin's success. Also, like all envy-filled people, Jealous claims that she is not an envious person despite all of the evidence to the contrary. Her entire life is consumed by envy and yet she has the audacity to proclaim that "this is not the type of person that I am." Wrong! Being an envy-filled sinner is precisely the type of person you are and if you do not repent it will only grow worse. The Lake of Fire is being prepared for people just like Jealous and if she does not repent that will be her future. She needs to stop whining and complaining and blaming others for her own sinful thoughts and behaviors and repent before it is too late.
Jealous also needs to repent of her materialism. She has made material success equivalent with happiness. She believes, as so many sinful people do, that having more things will make her happier. That belief is a lie. No matter how much Jealous might accumulate in the future she will always be able to look to someone else who has more. Once she finds and obsesses upon that person who has more she will be able to cultivate a powerful hatred for that person just like she has for her cousin today. This cycle will never stop until she repents.
Jealous also needs to mind her own business. Does anybody remember that phrase? I remember growing up and being told to mind my own business all the time. It was a phrase that people used all the time and it was generally understood that not minding one's own business was a bad thing to do. Today it seems as if minding the business of others has become a cottage industry. Jealous minds the business of her cousin obsessively. What does she care what her cousin does, where she goes, how much she makes or what others think of her? She can't control any of those things, nor should she be able to control any of those things. All Jealous can control is herself and her own sinful reactions to the success of her cousin. If Jealous spent just half the time she obsessively and sinfully spends envying her cousin on seeking to control her own sinful behaviors she could become one of the nicest people in human history.
Jealous needs to stop blaming others as well. Playing the victim is anther modern behavior that is well entrenched in our sin-ridden society. If her cousin is skinnier than she is and she wants to be skinny, then go on a diet and starve yourself to death. Stop complaining about the fact that you have a "few extra pounds" and get rid of them. These first world problems always amaze me. How selfish, how egocentric, how stupid they all are. If Jealous wants to move to a better home, find a better job and make more money so you can. Stop looking at others and start looking at yourself and you will be much better off.
Of course this entire rant is just my suggestion on what to do to help Jealous. I have no intention or desire to control the behavior of Jealous. As a Welshman I realize that self control is the only possible form of human control and the only control of any real value. And as a human I have plenty of things to work on myself before I am ready to fix everyone else.