Sunday, June 19, 2011

"Why Can't I Be More Like Her?": Why Moms Compete & How to Stop

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.
-Proverbs 14:30

Jealousy is ugly. Not only does it consume and destroy the closest of friendships, but jealousy arouses feelings of doubt about our own self-worth. Many times we do not even recognize that we are jealous of another person; we just know that we feel empty, lacking, and not good enough.

As moms we feel an intense pressure to do more and be more for our children: we want to give our kids the best of everything so that they will be successful in life. And when we meet other moms, it's easy to compare ourselves with them, our kids with their kids, our homes with their homes, our lives with their lives. But instead of seeing our own blessings, we can only see what we think we are missing, which leaves us feeling pretty icky.

It never fails that after I spend time with another mom, whether a close girlfriend or someone I have just met for the first time, that I will walk away feeling inadequate, wishing I had her life rather than mine. Maybe she has more money and a bigger house, or maybe she's more fit or wears nicer clothes. Maybe her children behave better than mine or maybe she just seems so relaxed and "together." Whatever it is, it doesn't take long to find areas in my life that need improvement, and I start to resent this woman. That's when jealousy rears its ugly head.

Jealousy creates irrational feelings in us. We perceive only that our friend has something we want and neglect to see that maybe she lacks several things that we have! Maybe she has a great job, but her husband doesn't treat her with respect or her children have bad attitudes. What I mean is that we don't see the full picture. We think she has the perfect life but she doesn't. And you know what? While we're looking at her with envy, she may actually be envying us!

The thing about jealousy is that it comes across as little more than a character flaw. I mean, jealousy is hardly in the same ball park as murder, right? Wrong! Paul includes jealousy with other sins like sexual immorality, idolatry, witchcraft, fits of rage, selfish ambition, and drunkenness. What is the punishment for those who practice these things? Paul says they "will not inherit the kingdom of God." Galatians 5:19-21 Jealousy is not a mere trifling sin. If we are continually jealous of others, we risk losing our salvation.

Why do we women feel that we have to compete with each other? We're all in this mothering role together, and yet instead of banding together, working to help each other, we are competing. Instead of spurring one another on to good works, we are pushing each other down so we can get ahead. Why can't we let go of our insecurities and simply be happy for the mom whose child wins a coveted scholarship or rejoice with the mom who has lost 40 pounds instead of letting jealousy eat away at us. Why can't we lend a hand to the mom who's struggling with her children instead of gloating? We moms need each other; we keep each other sane. Only we can understand the importance of a good nap or empathize about sleepless nights with a newborn.

So, what steps can we take to curb our jealousies of other moms?

1. Recognize that everything we need comes from God. As Meg Meeker states in The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers,
Once we do this, we can be content knowing that who we are and what we have is plenty enough. If we can recognize our value as mothers and treasure everything we do have in our lives, we are complete and can enjoy other mothers for who they are (81-2).
We must stop listening to the world (greed) as it tells us we need to do more, to have more, to be more, and start listening to God (love) who provides all our basic needs.

2. Be proactive. Jealousy will quickly vanish when we acknowledge its presence and strive to eradicate it. Much like the weeds in my garden, jealousy cannot survive when we cut off its life source. When you realize you are having jealous feelings, nip them in the bud then and there! Specifically identify what is bugging you and tell yourself that you will not allow those feelings to take hold. It sounds too easy to be true, but try it! It really works.

3. "Count Your Many Blessings." Sounds simple, eh? But have you ever really done it? I mean sat down and wrote out a list of all the blessings God has given to you. My mom encouraged me to do this when I was going through a rough time in my life, and I have found that whenever I start to feel sorry for myself, I just need to sit down and count my blessings. Then, I will see that I have absolutely nothing to be jealous about; I am so richly blessed.

4. Show Love. If you can redirect those jealous thoughts towards saying or doing something kind for the person you find yourself envying, then you will effectively stop jealousy in its tracks. As Dr. Meeker states:
One of the best ways I know to ward off jealousy is to speak well of the woman who has something we want. This is akin to praying for our enemies, if you will, and it is really tough to do. The more competitive we feel with another mom, the more we subconsciously dislike her and the harder it is to not criticize her, let alone say nice things about her. But this is exactly what we must do. And, after a while, it feels good. Giving praise to someone you have hard feelings for--particularly when you do it sincerely and to her face--heals all sorts of ills. (86)
When we praise and encourage other moms instead of criticizing or ridiculing them because we are jealous, then our jealousies go away and relationships blossom. If we can serve a mom we envy, then we curb our desire to compete with her, and we help rather than hinder our friendship.

Let's stop competing and start supporting each other. I need other moms. Don't you?

Do you struggle with jealousy? If so, how have you handled it in an effective, loving way?

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