“It’s not fair,” my granddaughter insisted. “He’s playing with the toy I want!”
Jealousy. It’s inextricably woven into the fabric of family life. Siblings constantly compare who has the biggest or the best, who is most loved or most favored, who got the largest piece or the lesser penalty.
“It’s not fair!” Indignance radiated from her stance. Eyes glared. Lower lip pouted. Elbows flared from her hips like flying buttresses.
Jealousy springs from the sin-infected core that festers in us all. It’s more obvious in children because they haven’t learned to mask it as well as adults. It’s apparent in the seven-month-old who doesn’t want anyone else, even Dad, to hug Mom. It’s in the twenty-seven-month-old who insists that the toy he tired of ten minutes ago still belongs to him. It’s in the seven-year-old who has learned to cover over her jealousy by calling for fairness. It’s in the seventh-grader who didn’t make the cut for the basketball team and is angry with those who did. It’s in the seventeen-year-old who contends he alone, of all his friends, lacks a cell phone.
“It’s not fair!” she shouted again. This time her right foot punched against the floor . . . once, then a second time.
You might expect some advice at this point about helping kids recognize how jealousy has clawed out of their hearts, but this article is heading in another direction. A more personal, introspective direction.
I’m uncomfortable seeing jealousy in my grandkids because I know that I wrestle with it. We never outgrow sin’s selfishness, so none of us ever outgrows jealousy. Worse, jealousy is more infectious than the flu. I recognize that I teach everyone around me more about being jealous of others than about being content with the gifts my heavenly Father has given me.
I have to face it: my granddaughter’s selfish indignance was, to some degree, a reflection of the jealousy she had seen in me. I taught her how to grumble about a friend who has a larger bedroom, a newer doll, or a faster computer. I demonstrated for her how to express pained injustice when someone else stole “my parking place” at Walmart. She might have even seen me pout when the family voted down my choice for the last Netflix movie.
Helping my grandchildren overcome jealousy means I must face my own jealousies. My apology for failing to set a better example will go farther than the wag of an accusing finger. Even better is rejoicing together over God’s forgiving grace. But why stop there? Think of the power in teaming up against jealousy. My grandkids and I can commit to encouraging each other to be content, whatever our circumstances. How wonderful to hear, “Papa, quit complaining. Jesus always provides everything that’s important.”