Everyone has had at least one “Stacey” in their lives. You know, that girl that you just can’t help but hate. It’s not that you’re a bad person and go around hating people, it’s just that she is so beautiful and everything seems to fall into place so easily for her. You become consumed with jealousy, making it impossible to even think about wanting to befriend her. It’s just easier to not like her.
So I didn’t.
My relationship with Stacey was circumstantial. We shared a few friends and volunteered for the same organization. But our lives didn’t really intersect. I didn’t really “know” her. I just knew what I saw. And what I saw was flawless.
I’m sure we had some okay conversations over the years, but looking at how her life seemed to unfold effortlessly before me caused me to feel a sadness for myself and my own pitiful life in a way that I knew I could never compare. I could never measure up. Why was her skin always glowing? How did she have such graceful cool style and the actual perfect figure? Why was her husband attractive in a movie star kind of way? And why was he so darn handy around the house? Even their side hobbies were cooler than mine.
I was okay with our non-integrated existence and I even boldly proclaimed to a few friends that I hated her. They knew I was joking and didn’t actually hate her, but I figured since she was so enviable it was a justifiable joke. She didn’t really bother me in my day to day life, it was only when our paths crossed that un-checked jealousy reared its ugly head as offence.
If she didn’t have any obvious flaws then I was going to find the hidden ones.
I wouldn’t have said it was my mission to bring her down. And it wasn’t. I just kept watch for any way in which she was less than perfect and subtly pointed it out to anyone who cared. When her bathing suit at summer camp appeared to be less than the regulated one-pieced I merely pointed this out to those in authority. What? The rules were in place for a reason! Looking back a dozen years later as I wear my own floral clad two piece I realize both my hypocrisy and my jealousy were on as big a display as my mid-section.
Side note – why do we always see the error of our ways in hindsight? Lord I pray I would learn to be more discerning of my own flaws in real time and not through the rear view mirror of lessons learned.
Many years after bikini-gate I was pregnant with my first daughter. After a fateful bump-in at the midwife office not only did I discover that Stacey and I shared a midwife but also a due date, or at least it was close enough we might as well make a reservation at the hospital together. (That’s not a thing by the way, but it sounded cool to write.)
I had my labour plan typed and printed (as you do with your first child). I read all of the books on how to have a pain-free and even euphoric labour experience. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to need any drugs. I mean, how hard could this whole thing really be? Women have been doing this since, well, forever right?
The days creep slowly with anticipation when your first child is due. I googled “how to get your baby out faster” and proceeded to do all the things. I drank the tea, I went for walks, we did ALL the things. Let’s not talk about it ok?
And finally, FINALLY, my water broke. Well according to the movies we should hop in the car incredibly confused and excited and run a few red lights getting there because this baby was basically going to fall out any minute right? Right?
The midwife arrived and did the old, “let’s check and see” which is not fun for anyone. Apparently this baby wasn’t going to just fall out. But her other client was progressing quickly so she had to go attend to her. Other client? Oh, right, Stacey.
I kid you not, Stacey was also in labour and things were going really well for her. Mentally I gave her another tally in the categories of ease and perfection. Things slowly began to progress for me but it would be another 48 hours filled with needles, drugs and an emergency C-section before I would hold my precious little girl in my arms for the first time. I don’t think I knew what was happening with Stacey’s labour, only that in between the time my water broke and I was under the knife she had enjoyed a bath, sipped tea with our midwife, and gently pushed once or twice from the comfort of her own bed before her own beautiful little girl arrived in her arms. At least that was what I read from her Facebook post about the experience.
To be honest I don’t really know much about her life after that point. Anytime I brought up something negative about her my husband tried to explain that she too had some struggles. She had experienced difficulties in childhood and other relationships. He tried to convince me that her life wasn’t perfect and maybe, just maybe I should cultivate some perspective. I didn’t really care. She looked perfect and I had made up my mind.
A few years passed and I found myself face to face with Stacey at a mutual friend’s birthday party. We each had more kids, more wear and tear on our bodies and souls, and thankfully, I no longer cultivated offence towards her or others. For the first time I was able to see her, really see her for who she was. And I still saw a beautiful woman with a killer smile and a beautiful and enviable life. But I also saw pain. I also saw doubt. I saw a real-life human. A mother that was doing her best to raise her kids, a wife that was trying to keep her marriage burning bright despite the stress of a mortgage and kids and all the other things vying for her attention. And I saw a child of God.
The filter of offence that covered my eyes in the form of jealousy had hindered me from really seeing her.
As I drove away from the party that night I realized that I had not hurt her all of these years with my dislike and disdain. I had hurt myself. I had allowed feelings of being “less than” to turn me into a less-than person. A person driven by anger and bitterness. By jealousy and hate. As I saw my gross sin displayed right before my eyes I knew this was not how I wanted to live my life.
I knew I would continue to be jealous of others. I knew others would continue to appear to have easy lives. And I knew that behind each of those pictures of ease were women who were hurting, broken, in pain, and in chains. Women who needed true and real friends. Women who needed others to look them in the eyes and ask questions and listen. But I had been too busy feeling insecure to be one of those people. No more.
When that twinge of jealousy began to rear its ugly head, I began to ask it questions. Why are you here? What are you afraid of? And then I began to listen for the real answer. I would sit with Jesus and give it to Him. Here is my fear. Here is my sin. Here are the reasons my heart has leapt to jealousy. Here it is. Take it. Replace it with compassion, replace it with love, replace it with understanding. And then I pray. I pray not only that Jesus will have my jealous heart but I pray for the person that has sparked the jealousy. And as my forced prayers become sincere, my heart begins to change. This is not an easy process or a light one. When we’re used to operating in a certain way these kinds of changes take time. But they also take the transformational power of Jesus. And when we partner with Him, when we give Him the darkest, grossest, deep down thoughts and feelings, then He is able to make something beautiful with them.
I found out a year after our last bump-in that Stacey had gotten a divorce. I don’t know what happened and I may never. I wept over the news. It turns out her life wasn’t a fairytale like I had assumed. Looking back I regret that instead of seeing Stacey as a fun friend to invest in, I had viewed her as a threat and kept my distance. I missed an opportunity for friendship. I wonder what would have happened if I had chosen to pursue friendship instead of offence?
Did this story bring up any of your own stories of jealousy in your own life?
Who is a “Stacey” in your life? Are they still in it or were they from the past?
Right now you have an opportunity to pray for Stacey. To begin to offer your jealousy to God as a sacrifice and begin to pray for opportunities to show Stacey love. Allow your prayers for her to change your heart.