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“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:10). Let’s begin this discussion on jealousy, covetousness, and envy by defining what these words mean. Since their meanings are similar, we often use them interchangeably, but let’s look at how they differ.
Jealousy is a feeling of unhappiness, uneasiness, anger, or resentment against someone because that person is a rival. Jealousy is mental anger or uneasiness from suspicion, belief, or fear of rivalry directed at someone or something you love and includes fear or suspicion of unfaithfulness from someone you love. Jealousy is the fear of losing something that you feel already belongs to you.
Envy and covet have meanings that are so similar that many definitions are exactly the same. These words are even listed as synonyms for each other. It is a feeling of wanting what someone else has, such as success, advantages, wealth, a job, or a spouse that you think you should have and the other person should not have. A slight difference in definitions suggested by some authors is that envy is the desire to have something that is not yours and you begrudge the person who actually possesses it.
Covetousness is the desire to have something that is not yours, and it either lies outside your ability to get or is unattainable because it belongs to someone else. The main difference between envy/covetousness and jealousy is that envy/covetousness is an emotion of wanting what someone else has and resentment that the other person has it and you don’t, while jealousy is the emotion of fear, anger, or resentment that someone else is trying to take away from you what you already have.
Even though envy/covetousness and jealousy have different meanings, they all make you feel bad, sad, angry, resentful, fearful, inadequate, and stressed.
All of these words describe specific emotions of want or fear of loss of something. All of these emotions are dangerous because they include feelings of resentment, fearfulness, and anger. Yes, those emotions are all emotions that increase our stress. Remember, the emotion of fear is part of the definition of stress.
These emotions can be exacerbated by use of social media. People tend to post either the very best or the worst of their lives on social media. When we see pictures of all the trips people take, their new cars, the remodel of their kitchens and how many likes they get when they post a selfie, it is easy to become envious of what others have. Most people don’t even recognize the feelings emerging in their emotions until the feelings become overwhelming.
Unfortunately, these feelings damage or destroy relationships, alter our priorities, change our focus from gratitude to greed, and shift our behaviors from love and service to self-indulgence and selfishness. Joseph B. Wirthlin cautioned us against having these emotions when he said, “Beware of covetousness. It is one of the great afflictions of these latter days. It creates greed and resentment. Often it leads to bondage, heartbreak, and crushing, grinding debt.” So true! These emotions do not lead to the best in us but rather lead us to more stress.
President Gordon B. Hinckley also gave very strong counsel regarding these emotions:
“I wish to discuss a trap that can destroy any of us in our search for joy and happiness. It is that devious, sinister, evil influence that says, ‘What I have is not enough. I must have more.’ I have observed that there are many in our present generation who with careful design set out on a course to get rich while still young, to drive fancy automobiles, to wear the best of clothing, to have an apartment in the city and a house in the country—all of these, and more. This is the total end for which they live, and for some the means by which they get there is unimportant in terms of ethics and morality. They covet that which others have, and selfishness and even greed are all a part of their process of acquisitiveness… Let not covetousness destroy our happiness. Let not greed for that which we do not need and cannot get with honesty and integrity bring us down to ruin and despair.”
There is no question that there are times when emotions of jealousy or covetousness sneak up on us. There will be times when someone else gets the very thing you wanted. There will be occasions when others get recognition, praise, jobs, winning lottery numbers, or great bonuses that you would love to have, or maybe even things that you really need to have. But please do not give in to feelings of envy, covetousness, or jealousy. In spite of needing some of the “advantages,” we are not diminished when someone else receives them. We are only diminished when we let feelings of envy, covetousness, and jealousy run away with us.
Once we recognize that we are feeling these emotions, we need to shift our focus to Christlike emotions of love, service, selflessness, and gratitude for what we already have.
What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments!