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“Ask a Priest: What Can I Do About Feelings of Jealousy?”
Q: I have a habit of constantly comparing myself and my life with others. I will feel happy if I feel like I am better than someone else, and I feel sad and sometimes even depressed when I feel other people’s lives are better than mine. I had to delete myself from social media because it would give me anxiety and cause me to get slightly depressed when someone posted something great in their life, such as a nice vacation or a happy family photo. This is when I will begin comparing everything in my life, such as my job, my husband, even my child, to other people’s husbands, jobs, and children. I myself feeling jealous a lot lately and then I have to constantly remind myself what I am grateful for in order for the jealous emotions to leave my thoughts. I know this sounds like I’m an evil person, but I really want to change this about myself. – J.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It is good that you want to change this part of yourself. Left unchecked, jealousy and envy can eat away at you and be a constant source of anxiety.
The basic root sin here seems to be vanity. You are putting more emphasis on the opinion of others than on God. The root of this is insecurity. You think that the good qualities of others will somehow tear you down.
You already know part of the solution: Cultivate a spirit of gratitude. You probably already have a lot more than most people in the world, if you give it a moment’s thought. You are probably living in relative security and comfort, not worried about your next meal.
A few other steps might help.
First, learn to shift your attention whenever an envious thought starts to arise. Pray a Hail Mary, offer a little “thank you” to God for something. Don’t wrestle with the envious thought; you will only get more entangled in it.
Second, cultivate a sense that all people are your brothers and sisters, and remind yourself that all good things come from God. When you see good things in others, give praise to God. Those good qualities enrich all of us.
Third, and this depends on what you notice in others, try to see them as models to imitate. If you see someone who is kind, try to imitate her. If you see someone who is humble, do the same. See these people as part of God’s gift to you. Their presence can lift your life.
Fourth, remember what Jesus has done for you. He suffered and died a terrible death to redeem you. What he is hoping for in return is your love and your desire for holiness. You might want to go deeper in your personal prayer life, in developing a daily “God-time,” for example. The truth is, you are already loved and valued infinitely by God, and discovering that truth in prayer is the long-term solution to your insecurity.
Helpful resources for your prayer life could include Father John Bartunek’s The Better Part and our Retreat Guides such as “You Matter” or “Who You Are.”
Last but not least, pray for the grace of thinking well of others.
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Father Edward, thank you so much for this insight. Your explanation has come at a very critical time in my life and has shed light on a mindset that I have been struggling with since my childhood; and pondering about since college. I knew there was something wrong and I couldn’t quite explain it. The evil one leveraged vanity and insecurity quite strongly in my life to lead me down the path of death and desolation.
But, now I with this critical piece of understanding, and through God’s grace, I can work on fixing the issue.
Many thanks again, God bless : )
Thanks also to the person who opened up and asked this question.