Cattiness, jealous, envy, pride: all oft-used synonyms for what we call “the green-eyed monster.” Valentine’s Day, or “Singles Awareness Day” (not my favorite term, despite my single status) is coming up and is likely to bring out in some of us the envy of our friends who are married or in relationships. And please remember, that while I’m writing this, I’m speaking in generalizations. We are all jealous or envious (pick your favorite term) from time to time in our lives. I will speak of it as a lifelong battle for all of us because all of us will need to improve upon it, in different ways, throughout our lives, whether single or married.
I think that I need to bring up that “cattiness” is often brought up as a frequent negative aspect of relationships between women because it is unfortunately true. Sometimes we can be wonderfully supportive of each other, and sometimes not. Whether it’s because of our chemistry or more because of sociology, I’m not sure, but women do seem to tote around the unnecessary burden of jealousy and act accordingly more than single men do. If I were to write a “Top Ten list for Women” the same way that my former bishop, Steve Lang, did for the men, I’m afraid that I’d think this was probably up there pretty high for the sisters. Not that I could count myself out of that, of course! The realization of it hits all of us from time to time, including the men. Whether it gets us all in the same areas, including dating, is probably not the case. But, we all deal with it. I think all of us could come up with examples of times when others treated us poorly out of envy or jealousy, and times when the tables were turned and we were the green-eyed monster, whether we were completely conscious of it at the time or not. One difficulty of this subject is, of course, is that marriage and companionship are righteous desires. Of course these are good things for us to want! So how do we deal with the disappointments and resentments when they come along, and learn better each time how to not take them out on others? I think that the first thing to remember is that dating, like life, is not a competition. Remember that the Lord knows what we need, and that “what is for us will not pass us by.” It is, undoubtedly, difficult to watch so many friends, family members, and strangers get married without the temptation to wonder why, to try and compare ourselves to them, and get angry at life and at Heavenly Father. But we can have faith that there is a way through the trial, and eventually we will have our most righteous desires, even if sometimes that seems to be so far in the future that it will never come.
Another deep-seeded belief I think all of us have to some degree, but that we deny the existence of until it comes out because of an additional trial in our own lives, is that if we do our absolute best that we will be able to avoid some of the trials that we fear the most, which often end up coming true. I think almost every person reading this has at some point denied this, but as in learning the principle of patience, it ends up being a continual lifelong lesson. Fear of the unknown is a strong pull for every child of Heavenly Father. We don’t want to be the person who still isn’t married at the end of our lives. Even though we know that (especially in our thirties and forties) we, personally, may still be unmarried, despite our own best efforts and self-perusal for faults, we start to pick at others in our minds (and sometimes verbally, and unasked) for the reasons why they’re still not married, or why they shouldn’t be dating that person we think might be better for us. Sure, we don’t do it all the time. But do these thought pop into our heads occasionally, to make us feel better, but enough to keep us from the occasionally painful “cleaning out” of our own faults that get in our way of improving? They don’t have to get in our way of marriage possibilities to cause us harm to our spirit. Another lie that Satan tells us, and tempts us with in distorting (paradoxically) the good goals of self-improvement is that if we could just be better (in ways that causes despair or point us in the wrong direction) or if someone else could just be worse, maybe our dating lives or relationships could improve and we could get relief from the justifiable difficult loneliness that we often feel. These feelings of false inadequacy can, in the extreme, make us feel unlovable to other and even make us feel as if God doesn’t love us. They remind us of more worldly comparisons rather than the more just standards that our caring heavenly parents and our loving Savior Jesus Christ judge us by. These feelings also keep us from pursuing better methods of overcoming the feelings of loneliness: love and concern for others, reaching out to others in service, learning to make deeper friendships or new friendships and being grateful for the things the Lord has given us. As President Packer said,
I’ve had to evict some thoughts a hundred times before they would stay out. I have never been successful until I have put something edifying in their place.
I do not want my mind to be a dumping place for shabby ideas or thoughts, for disappointments, bitterness, envy, shame, hatred, worry, grief, or jealousy.
A lot has been said in the media, and not just in church settings lately, about gratitude. In addition to gratitude, though, I will propose that learning to more fully rejoice with others when they receive blessings that we do not have can be a difficult but extremely valuable tool in overcoming pride and jealousy. As Elder Holland said, “Brothers and sisters, there are going to be times in our lives when someone else gets an unexpected blessing or receives some special recognition. May I plead with us not to be hurt—and certainly not to feel envious—when good fortune comes to another person? We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. We are not in a race against each other to see who is the wealthiest or the most talented or the most beautiful or even the most blessed. The race we are really in is the race against sin, and surely envy is one of the most universal of those. Furthermore, envy is a mistake that just keeps on giving.” entire talk here
Also, if you’re constantly thinking about “the one that got away,” (see #7 on this list!! applies even if you’re female of course) you need to stop looking back. Sure, there are always things to learn from past relationships and sometimes even past crushes, but as President Monson has told us, we need to live in the present.
“Sometimes we let our thoughts of tomorrow take up too much of today. Daydreaming of the past and longing for the future may provide comfort but will not take the place of living in the present. This is the day of our opportunity, and we must grasp it.”
That same attitude can cause us to compare perhaps too much why we think we would be better off with some potential date than someone else we see them with . Yes, it can be amazing sometimes how we compare ourselves and how we get stuck in these comparisons. Learn to recognize them when you see yourself doing it. Pray to figure out how to overcome these things. Be patient with yourself. It is a lifelong process for all of us, but if you have some of these comparison traps in yourself, (and some of them may be deep-rooted), start again now.
And this, of course, leads us to the other side of the coin. Sometimes we envy, and sometimes we’re on the other side, where a stranger (or even a friend) is envious of us. Spouses sometimes envy each other. (Nope, getting married WILL NOT cure it, sorry. You’ll still have to work on it sometimes!) Again, jealousy is something we will work at overcoming our whole life. We need to learn to forgive and let it go. If it’s someone we really care about, we may need to communicate with them honestly about our feelings and let them do the same. And when it comes to dealing with people who seem bent on hating us, it may be that the best thing to do is let them go.