Jealousy

Sep 29, 2010

While I was taking photos in the hills of North Carolina last week, I noticed my shadow. “Wow! These are the legs I’ve always wanted,” I thought.

As a 5′ 3″ dancer, I spent years in ballet studios envying the young women with the long, willowy legs up to their armpits. After realizing I’d never grow long limbs, I decided to like my short ones. My short legs had strong, pointy feet at the ends of them. They were good for quick, allegro combinations. Acknowledging and being grateful for the gifts of my particular body type was a step in the right direction. But instead of just loving the power and speed of my short legs and admiring the fluid beauty of long legs, I wanted my type to be superior. So I’d enter into some jealous rationalizing. “My ability for jumps and speed is way more interesting than the lovely, elegant lines of those gangly legs next to me at the barre.”

Jealousy is not a modern concept. In book after book, the Bible is full of tales of envy and jealousy. Cain killed Abel when God accepted Abel’s animal sacrifice but rejected Cain’s offering of crops. Rachel, the more beautiful of the sisters, was jealous of her sister Leah’s ability to produce heirs for Jacob. Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him—the favored son of Jacob– and sold him into slavery. Moses’ followers were jealous of his prophet status with God. And on and on….

Proverbs 14:30 (NIV) says, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” When I can finally let others have their gifts and be unqualifiedly happy for them, I’ll know I’ve made some spiritual progress. The few times I’ve managed to do this without envy and without finding some other way to feel superior, I have felt genuinely happy and at peace.