“Thou Shalt Not Covet” made the 10 Commandments Of Motherhood as number six, because we all struggle with this sensation from time to time, especially when we compare our less-than-perfect lives to someone who seems to have it all together as a mom. To covet means to “yearn to possess or have” and this strong desire can lead to jealousy and envy in motherhood.
But let’s dissect these two words so we can have a true understanding of this conversation. Jealousy and envy are usually confused with one another and to know which of these two emotions you are feeling is the number one step to help you deal with it.
The Difference Between Jealousy and Envy
Psychology tells us there is a clear distinction between “Jealousy” and “Envy” and it lies on whether you have some claim on what it is you desire.
The definition of “Jealous” is “fiercely protective or vigilant of one’s rights or possessions.” You feel jealous of something or someone you already have. You can be jealous of things you currently possess and feel an extreme desire to protect and hold on to.
The definition of “Envy” is “a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.” You are envious when you are simply not happy that someone else has or enjoys a superior quality, achievement, or possession that you desire and lack.
The reaction of envy involves two parties and the reaction of jealousy requires three parties. And we can feel jealous and envious at the same time because sometimes the rival we are jealous of usually possesses or enjoys that which we envy.
To sum it up: I can feel jealousy over my things. I can feel envy over your things.
Jealousy is a very potent emotion, because it causes us to feel outraged by a sense of betrayal, threat, or attack, and leads to rivalry, resentment, and defensiveness. Envy is much more sneaky, subtle and harder to recognize. Envy is referred to as one of the capital sins. What they do have in common is that both jealousy and envy come from a feeling of lack, insecurity, and scarcity, in other words, fear.
When we feel jealous or envious, we feel powerless to keep or obtain what we want, which can lead to frustration, irritation, and misery.
If we go deep into the etymology of “Envy,” we find that it derives from the Latin verb “invidere,” meaning “to look askance upon,” and that its previous uses include “malice” and “spite.” The feeling of envy causes you to “view or regard something in a disapproving or distrustful manner.”
Envy can lead to judgment, criticism, and even demonization. If you find yourself being overly critical of another mom, undermining what she does, or even sabotaging her in some way, it is possible that envy is at the root of it.
“For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.” Matthew 27:18
Both envy and jealousy can eventually lead to anger, hatred, and misery, spiral into depression, and even cause behaviors we may later regret.
Do you ever feel envy or jealousy in motherhood?
When I said “thou shalt not covet another mom’s life,” I didn’t necessarily mean that you are not to feel jealousy or envy ever. I have felt jealousy and envy countless times, especially “mom envy,” when someone enjoys a close relationship with her own mother.
And since I don’t claim to have found the cure or think I’ve reached any level of perfection or enlightenment where I won’t ever feel jealous or envious, what I’m proposing is that we know the difference between jealousy and envy, identify exactly where we are feeling envy and where we are feeling jealousy, and to use tools to manage and deal with these emotions in a healthy way.
Coveting is considered a sin by many, but we are not punished FOR our sins, but BY them. Because jealousy and envy are raw human emotions and common in motherhood, making jealousy and envy be a wrong sensation that we are not allowed to feel, is going to result in a catastrophe. The real sin is to suppress, disown, or invalidate what we are feeling, because it will result in harmful, and sometimes devastating, consequences.
Because jealousy is fearing that someone else is going to take something that we hold dear to us, as moms we feel jealous of the relationships and friendships we value, the attention we get, the reputation or position we uphold as it relates to something or someone.
If you feel bothered that Jenny posted pictures hanging out with another friend and didn’t invite you, you’re feeling jealous.
If you are worried about your love interest acting affectionate with another female, you’re feeling jealous.
If you are hurt that Carla posted a lovely comment on Jacqueline’s picture on Facebook but didn’t even “like” yours, you’re feeling jealous.
When it comes to the “green-eyed monster” of envy, it is very common in motherhood and it can probably be dubbed the root of all motherhood evils, because you are focusing on another mom’s life, possessions, relationships, and personal traits and wishing you had them, whether you openly admit it or not.
You envy her appearance – you know, her good looks or her fit body. How can she look like that after having kids? Or maybe she wears the best shoes, the sparkliest jewelry, and the latest fashion trends.
You envy her possessions- her house…the size, the location, the way it’s always spotless when you come over! Her bank account, her travels, the designer bag she has…
You envy her relationships – her husband seems more supportive or like a better provider. Her kids are so polite and so well behaved… or maybe they eat their vegetables or are good at sports. She actually has girlfriends – or maybe hers are more supportive than yours.
You envy her personality – she seems to get along with everyone and everyone likes her. How come she gets so much attention?
You envy her abilities and strengths – she’s a great cook, she can sing, she can write, she can garden… she seems talented at everything. It’s like she has “the Midas touch.”
You envy her advantages and lifestyle – she “doesn’t have to work” and you envy her position or situation in life, or maybe she was born rich and you envy her wealth… She seems to have good fortune or even more blessings, favor, and miracles in her life.
You envy her success – her blog is more popular and she gets more sponsored opportunities, or she keeps getting promoted, getting special recognitions, and making more money…
Envy and jealousy make you feel inadequate and like you’re not good enough or don’t have what it takes, because in your mind something positive about someone else means something negative about you, or you are diminished when something is added onto them. When left unchecked, these feelings can creep into every aspect of your life, so let’s talk about how we can make feeling Envy and Jealousy a positive experience in motherhood.
How to deal with envy and jealousy in motherhood
Identify your envy or jealousy. The first step to managing our envy or jealousy in a healthy way is to identify whether what we are feeling is jealousy or envy. When we notice, label, and acknowledge our emotions, they lose power because we take ownership rather than decide to feel shame.
Become Curious. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that “envy is ignorance.” When you find yourself feeling envy or jealousy, the remedy is not confession or visiting a psychologist or psychoanalyst. Some people do feel envy and jealousy as a sign of deep-seated issues of low self-esteem and low sense of self-worth; however, an envious or jealous reaction could be a helpful opportunity to learn something valuable about your life.
Envy and Jealousy can illuminate where you are feeling lack in your life and what matters most to you, what you cherish and treasure. The Bible actually refers to God as being jealous (zealous) to illustrate love.
Envy and Jealousy can reflect your core values, your life principles, and standards. You can look at what values are being threatened to identify your noble ideals and act in alignment with them.
Envy and Jealousy can reflect your deepest desires: you may find yourself feeling envious of someone because you have been holding back and want similar results, but haven’t acknowledged it or taken action toward it.
Make It Positive. Jealousy and Envy are only wasted emotions if you choose them to be. As you allow yourself to feel envy and jealousy
if when it comes up, rather than feeling guilty and trying to battle or overcome it, you can shift your focus, reframe it, and figure out the action steps you must take to fix your own proverbial grass rather than wishing it looked as green as it does on the other side.
Remind yourself that perfect people aren’t real and real people aren’t perfect, so rather than spending time glorifying another mom, decide to appreciate your own imperfection.
Validate yourself by telling yourself it is okay to feel how you feel and to be where you are at. Say it out loud – and make it a routine to say it consistently in front of the mirror.
To vanish feelings of lack, turn inward and focus on what is going right in your life and find something to be grateful for. I promise you you already have what you think you lack! I always tell my youngest daughter,Eliana,: “If you look long enough, you’ll find what you’re looking for.”
Force yourself to bless the person you envied and felt jealous of. Say a silent prayer of gratitude for the clarity they are giving you in your life, for now you know the exact direction to the path where your happiness, purpose, and potential can be found. Cheer her on, support her, celebrate her success, and be grateful for the news that model of what you intensely want or need actually exists!
Now turn outward and find something you can do or give to help someone else. We can find happiness when we lose ourselves in the service of others, because we focus on what we have in abundance. As someone who follows Christ, I’ve learned that He blessed others when He was in great pain, distress, and suffering himself.
Our predisposition to feel Envy and Jealousy is not a curse so we can feel ashamed of how evil or sinful we are – that makes matters worse. Envy and Jealousy are tools that serve us get to know ourselves a bit more, grow, and learn, and as we do, they will naturally dissolve without anxiety or stress.
How do you deal with envy and jealousy in motherhood? Share your examples and experiences with us!