Thursday, April 12, 2018

ABC Day 11--How to be Happy When You're Actually Jealous

Your sister-in-law "Rachel" just had her fifth baby. When she found out she was pregnant, she cried.  When she got nausea for 3 months, she complained every day. Meanwhile, you are single and childless. Or maybe married and childless, month after month, year after year, quietly, endlessly grieving.

You call the printer to discuss printing costs for your latest book. "You want us to handle the shipping too?" hollers the printer guy. "We can do that, you know. We just had an order this morning for ten cases of Linda Byler's new book! She's doin' real well."
"No. Thank you," you reply, exhaling just a bit of venom into the phone. You've been working at this writing stuff for years, and if someone orders ONE case of books, it's cause for celebration.

At a ladies' weekend, your friend "Karen" asks if anyone has a safety pin.  "This skirt is too big and I'm afraid it's going to slide off my hips. I keep losing weight with my IBS." You, on the other hand, need the safety pin to add another inch to your own waistband. You leave the top half of the zipper unzipped and use the pin to bridge the two sides, and tug your sweater down over it. Karen can find her own pin, thank you very much.

A woman your age that you met at a ladies' retreat just friended you on Facebook. You click on her profile and there is the obligatory header photo of a wedding, with the happy young couple in the middle, mom and dad to the right, siblings and in-laws and grandchildren to the right, to the left, before and behind, out in a sunny field. You think of your crew, all functional adults and all determinedly single. You click "friend" to be nice and "unfollow" because you don't need to see her grandbaby posts.

Your friend Dorcas is once again complaining about how busy her husband is. You can't help it: you turn to her and say, "Be thankful your husband has a ministry and a good job." Because your husband is a farm laborer with no ambition for better things, and your own ministry gifts are buried in the hard work of surviving.

Dorcas also likes to go off about her amazing grown kids and how well they're doing in college and what a great time she and her daughters had on their trip to Seattle. And you think about what might have been if your son or daughter had not moved out and turned to alcohol. Or if they had lived.

You're at a lovely outdoor wedding. Everything is sunny and happy and decorated with beauty and creativity and, it must be admitted, money. The young couple has an air of innocence. You inevitably think of your daughter who is pregnant, unmarried, and living with a man who scares you. A verse comes to mind: ". . .to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away." [Luke 19:26 NIV]
You sigh and are glad this is the summer's last wedding.

All the above are based on actual incidents I experienced or heard about, and more or less modified.

You've been there, I'm sure. The happy announcement, the excited phone call, the whispered news, the good fortune made evident in travel and new purchases, the funny anecdote, the grand celebration. 

Half the time these lucky people have the audacity to complain. The morning sickness, the crazy-busy with the new business, all the decisions with this wedding!

Once again, the good things didn't come to you, and you feel overlooked, left out, passed over, disappointed, unlucky, and less than. Again. And again.

But once in a while it IS you! Overwhelmed with your good fortune, your unexpected blessing, your wonderful news, you turn to friends and family, bubbling over with the joy of it. And you are met with cold faces, a flickered eyebrow, and resentment. "Well. Aren't you lucky. Must be nice."

And much of the bubbling joy goes instantly flat.

Having been on both sides of these stories, here are some things I try to remember:

1. Joy and sorrow are best shared in a caring community. "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep," the Bible says. Good news shrinks to a quarter its size and becomes almost meaningless if you can't share it with someone who will be happy for you. Sorrow unshared swells and becomes overwhelming.

2. You're a grownup. Adults are people who know it's not all about themselves. This is your friend's moment. Let her make the most of it, and don't steal any of it. It's not about you.

3. Entering into the joy of another makes you vulnerable. It can make you feel your losses more sharply and upset your sense of fairness and rattle your fragile identity. But this is the price of community, and friendship, and personal growth, and eventually redemption.

4. It's not a zero-sum game. More weddings in your family don't mean fewer in mine, except for the highly-unlikely case that if your child hadn't got in the way, my child would have married the same person. More book sales for me don't mean fewer for you. The same with babies, and money, and so much more.The pounds she loses do not get glued to your hips. When the time is right, there will be plenty of success and blessings to go around.

5. Rejoicing can be a deliberate act. As already quoted, "Rejoice with those who rejoice;" And from Deuteronomy: "There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you."
I take from this that, instead of being based solely on how you feel, rejoicing is a decision and a deliberate act. Does that mean you have to pretend? Possibly. But if you choose the behavior--squealing and smiling and hugging and hopping up and down--the emotions can't help but follow. This is an investment in your own growth and in the people who love and support you.

6. You want to be This person, the one that people can't wait to tell their news to, because you will exclaim and affirm and make it such fun to tell. And not That person, the one that people avoid telling anything to, because of the inevitable flattening of all their joy, and the sighs and jealousy and snide comments that reach out like a corsage pin and pop your happy balloon.

7. You are not forgotten. You have a Heavenly Father who sees and knows, who weeps with you, who is truly with you in the waiting. He asks you to believe and hope and obey when you can't see a thing. This is like a pregnancy. Something beautiful is growing, all unseen. Every day is crucial to its development.

8.Your turn will come, and when it does, you will want to call up your sisters, post pictures on Facebook, tell all your friends, and put the news in the church bulletin. Your joy will be affirmed and magnified if others rejoice with you, hugging and laughing without resentment or jealousy. So do the same for them now, as an act of faith that when the time is right, the good things will come to you as well.

And even if you never have a happy announcement of any kind, you will find that your deliberate rejoicing paid off in personal growth, healthy friendships, and unexpected redemption.

[This post was inspired by two of our kids leaving early this morning to fly to a wedding in Missouri. I am too happy for everyone involved to be jealous--my friend Darlene the mom, her son Travis the groom, Christina the lovely bride,  and everyone who is there to celebrate with them.
Travis volunteered with a prison ministry in Oregon for a year and a half and did a lot of hiking with Ben and came to our house for Sunday dinners. He and Christina came for Thanksgiving dinner last year. When I set the pies on the counter, Christina quietly told me that there is a hair on the apple pie. She calmly removed it. And then she cut out a slice of that same apple pie and ate it!
People, she is a gem of unusual quality, and I am rejoicing for her fortunate new husband and in-laws.]


  1. I can remember having feelings of jealousy when a friend has announced her 7th pregnancy when I wanted to be having my fourth but couldn't because I had a hysterectomy.

    I get jealous when I hear of a family has left their worldly Protestant church to join a Conservative Mennonite and I desperately want that to be our family.

    1. I want to say I'm always happy when a friend is announcing her pregnancy. When I was younger it was hard though because there was some guilt anger anger with God over the hysterectomy.

      And I get very excited (though I'm still jealous) when my friends find Biblical churches. I'm grateful when the Lord provides the opportunity to visit our friends at the Conservative Mennonite church. I feel blessed when I'm amongst covered, modestly dressed sisters.

    2. I think our feelings are valid. A hysterectomy is a loss. So is not being able to be part of a church where you feel at home. Somehow we have to find ways to rejoice with others even while we grieve.

    3. Wow! What excellent thoughts And so very true! Rejoicing (and thankfulness, I might add) are choices. I have sometimes felt fake in choosing them. But as we choose to be obedient the feelings will eventually follow. Thanks for sharing this (and your many other writings)! You have such talent!

  2. Thank you. I needed to hear this today.

  3. Yes, yes, and yes.
    It takes a largeness of soul to rejoice with someone when I would rather pout, or to be sensitive to someone when I'm rejoicing and they're not--but that is the kind of soul God is wanting to grow in me.

  4. 'The pounds she loses will not be glued to your own hips'.... (heehee!!:))
    This post was EXCELLENT! Very insightful! Thank you, Dorcas, and God bless you as you deal with your own joys n sorrows. You're a blessing to us.

  5. These words stood out to me: "grow" and "act of faith". Choosing to rejoice is a sacrifice that gives praise to God & encourages our sisters. I once heard a speaker say that too often we women look at life as a competition & try to be on the top of the pile. For so many years that defined my relationships. When I began cheering for my sisters even when I felt jealous God amazingly turned my heart! Even though some circumstances may never be mine, God wants abundant joy to be mine! It isn't a competition to see who can get the most joy...He spills it out generously to anyone who seeks Him, and that is beautiful! Now I will get down off this soapbox.

  6. This is just so good, Dorcas. Thank you for sharing. I want to be the person who rejoices and weeps with my friends as they walk this journey called life. Bless you for your ministry. I love the things you share with all that humor mixed in.

  7. Thank you so much so sharing this post. It is exactly the type of reminder that I needed to hear right now. May God help us to rejoice with our sisters and not be snarky even when we feel forgotten and passed by in life.

  8. Well written! ...and your examples are good examples. I needed these reminders.

    "They that compare themselves among themselves are not wise." When I compare it usually fosters discouragement or pride. Rejoicing with and and weeping with others is a win-win. Romans 12:15. LRM

  9. No.3. YES. Seven and a half years ago, I lost a baby to miscarriage. I already had 9 healthy ones and did not expect to grieve. Surprise. I grieved intensely. A short time later, my husband told me his fellow pastor's wife, who was due close to the same time as I had been, was carrying twins. I was so happy for them! And suddenly, so sad in my own grief.

    About the time my baby would have been due, we had revival services. The speaker spoke of the ten lepers; how Jesus gave them an assignment and obedience brought healing. I said, "God, I want to be healed. What do you want me to do?" He said, "Go see those moms when their babies are born and pray for them." It was remarkable, the healing that brought, even tho I cried the whole way there and home. For the set of twins, when I went to visit, the mom was in bed and her sister was caring for the twins. Relief. I don't have to do this. But... they caused me so much grief,...until finally I held them in my arms at a ladies Bible Study and prayed for them and their mom.

    Also. I just came in from watching hundred of runners during a local marathon. Here in Lancaster Co, you are sure to see some of your own church people run by, as well as Amish men in button down shirts and black pants. Or Mennonite girls in skorts. Even an Amish girl in traditional garb. I bet they were all too busy pushing their own limits to get jealous of each others. And all the people standing on the sidelines cheered for anyone they saw. At the end, there will mostly be a sense of shared accompmishment.

    1. And- I saw one young woman ask her supporters on the sidelines if they had any food. No. A runner close by dug into his own pocket and passed her a wrapped bar. Another told her friends, "I started puking at the 4 th mile." (Her run was going to be over 13 mi) "You're still going!" they said. The church could learn something from marathon runners.

    2. Verna--thanks so much for sharing your experience with praying for others' babies. That is both heartbreaking and beautiful. And yes, we could learn from marathon runners!

  10. Reminds me of when our next door neighbor had something like 6 babies while we tried to have one! But after we adopted our son, neighbor was a total blessing and wealth of information to answer my every question. When I get jealous, I try to remember how many blessings I have, and that goes a long ways towards changing my attitude.

  11. I really, really appreciate this post. So much good stuff here. I especially liked the part about more for somebody else does not mean less for me. That is something I want to always remember. Lately I've been really struggling with a consuming guilt over having but not deserving what somebody else would like to have. Maybe it's a husband and children and I have a single sister or friend who longs for that too. Or it's the healthy pregnancy and baby but somebody else's baby won't live after it's born. I doubt the guilt is a healthy place to stay, but it's hard for me to know how to come to terms with it all. To my shame I still find myself being jealous over somebody else's success or happiness despite the many good things in my life. It's a challenge for me to enter fully into somebody else's joy as well as their sorrow. I think both take a lot of vulnerability.

    1. I agree, it takes a lot of vulnerability to enter into another's experience. And I understand that guilt for having the good things when a friend doesn't.

  12. So much wisdom here. Envy and jealousy are something I constantly struggle with. One of my "pet" sins I guess you would say. So good to know others deal with it and tips on how to get yourself out of that pity party funk. I found your blog by accident when I was looking up info on how to alter a pattern. So far I love everything I've read. Sorry about having to post as Anonymous, but I'm doing this from work (have a job with a lot of downtime, so the boss lets me scroll)and can't log into my google account. Anyway, I've already sent several of my friends links to your blog because I've enjoyed it so much. Also, I just ordered "Upstairs the Peasants are Revolting" as soon as I finish the book I'm reading, I'm going to start it. Keep up the good work.

    Sincerely not Anonymous,

    Shannon Combs
    Sapulpa, OK