You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor… says Exodus.
And this is where we run into trouble.
I was recently reading this article on jealousy– well, really it was more of the same “community of motherhood” promotion. Just to reiterate- I am ALL for this but calling for a non-judgmental stance at the park or the pool or pediatrician’s office, where ever we moms happen to cluster, is kind of the new “Friday!” I was really hoping to pull a bit more from the jealousy part. Specifically, I wanted Grossman (author) to dig a little deeper into seeing jealousy as an important part of who we are rather than understanding it solely as a weapon of mass destruction, which of course, it can be.
My concern is that we fossilize jealously as “bad” without explanation: “That is hers. You have yours. Don’t be jealous (insert angry, sad, or afraid.) Be grateful for what you have.” I also don’t take issue with gratitude, I just think we’d do it much more of a service if we raised our thankfulness from a place of honesty.
Our warnings against jealousy don’t stem from unfounded anxiety; if you’ve been a citizen of this planet for at least five years you’ve witnessed the to-the-bones kind of pain that’s a byproduct of such covetous acts, whether it be a stolen toy, a complicated divorce, or someone shooting their untended needs at your heart like a novice carnival knife-thrower.
But what if we acknowledge that we have the capacity for pause, that we can use these “bad” things to get a better look at ourselves and our relationships? What would it be like to invite our jealousy to sit down with us for a minute and teach us something we’ve yet to learn?
Well, friends hold on to your (not your neighbors’) hats! And allow me to share with you the Hebrew translation of the tenth commandment, “Thou shall not covet“:
`Thou dost not desire the house of thy neighbor, thou dost not desire the wife of thy neighbor, or his man-servant, or his handmaid, or his ox, or his ass, or anything which is thy neighbor’s.’
Oh how I love this. I love, love, love, love, love this. I love this in bold! This is one of those things that helps me feel like we are not doomed to our own perpetual stupidity. It reminds me that there is wisdom in this world! It assures me that we are good from “go.”
The glow-in-the-dark fears of what could happen to those we love most lead us away from the truth that we are a very good people from the moment we’re even a thought and that we have in us an unimaginable ability for good. We forget this. And so, we create hard and fast rules, commandments, to be aligned with for fear of punishment. “Thou dost not desire…” or in other words, “No silly! You don’t actually want anything of your neighbor’s. Look deeper. What is it you really desire?…SEE! I told you it wasn’t that ox!!“
Once we do this, we get together with our jealousy and get real about what need in us is growing or changing, we get to a place that’s more in touch with the truth. And that is the best place we can work from to offer real support and love.