Truth, Inspiration, Hope.

Untangle the Ties of Jealousy With Wisdom

Ila Bonczek
Ila lives in the Garden State with her family and four chickens. She has been growing produce and perennials for 20 years, and recommends gardening for food and fun, but not for fortune.
Published: June 17, 2023
Time, the Virtues, and Envy Freed by Evil. (Image: Giovanni Battista Zelott via Wikimedia Commons Public domain)

Jealousy: a complex concept

While jealousy is most commonly understood as a negative emotion directed at a rival in a relationship, it goes far beyond this narrow scope. In Chinese, jealousy is represented by two characters: du (妒) and ji (嫉). They can also be used in reverse order — or even separately — and encompass our western concepts of envy, jealousy and hatred. In this sense, jealousy can be taken as the ill-will felt towards anyone who has something or threatens to get something you believe should be yours. 

All the major religions view jealousy as a wicked and harmful emotion that needs to be overcome if one is to make spiritual progress. It reveals a lack of faith and can lead to sinful behavior; yet jealousy seems to crop up everywhere, undermining our good intentions and lofty pursuits.

Where does jealousy come from?

The root of jealousy is fear, often based on unfounded notions. One might be anxious over losing something they believe is theirs, or fearful that a lack of something others have makes them incomplete. 

When we compare ourselves with others, we might feel jealous over love and attention, material possessions, talents, success, looks — or even spiritual insights — because we feel that what others have somehow devalues what we have. This deep-seated insecurity is amplified by modern thinking. 

Today’s focus on individuality breeds an inflated sense of self and entitlement. Meanwhile, we have adopted a set of impossible ideals defined by appearance, success and indulgence. We unconsciously divide the world into winners and losers, always in competition with one another. 

This false notion leads to, and is reinforced by jealousy. Seeing others getting ahead, a jealous person perceives himself as the loser, and proceeds to fulfill that estimation.

Runner (Bronze) found at Harbour of Nemrut (Kyme) Late Hellenistic Period 50-30 BC. The statue found in the open shores of the ancient city of Kyme portrays a nude athlete. (Image: Murat Bengisu via Wikimedia Commons Public domain)

A Greek legend illustrates this point perfectly: 

A young runner who placed second in a race became jealous of the first-place runner, who was honored with a public statue. Although the race was long over, he kept a bitter conflict alive in his heart by slowly chipping away at the statue each night. Finally, one night the statue fell, crushing the hateful young man to death. Rather than being satisfied with the honor of second place, he labeled himself as, and indeed became, a loser. 

The futility of jealousy

No one likes to admit to jealousy. Knowing it is wrong and shameful, one might attempt to hide it or ignore it; but if we consider the long-term consequences, we might be more inclined to face this demon and eradicate it. Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islaam, and Judaism all expound on the dangers of jealousy in their scriptures. 


Jealousy and envy are included in the Buddha’s list of 16 defilements of the mind, along with greed, anger, selfishness and deceit. The Buddha described jealousy as “a self-imposed burden that weighs us down,” “a prison that we create for ourselves,” and “a poison that destroys the vessel in which it is stored.” The Buddha also called jealousy “a roadblock on the path to enlightenment” and “the greatest enemy of peace.”


Hinduism regards jealousy as the sixth internal enemy. One cannot achieve union with God without destroying the six enemies of yoga: lust, anger, greed, ignorance, vanity and jealousy.


Joseph Sold Into Slavery by His Brothers, a painting depicting a vicious act of jealousy in The Bible. (Image: Damiano Mascagni via Wikimedia Commons Public domain)

Jealousy is mentioned 42 times in the Bible, and envy 56 times, including the following verses:

  • For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. James 3:16 
  • Surely vexation kills the fool, and jealousy slays the simple. Job 5:2 
  • A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot. Proverbs 14:30 


Although they were written during different time periods and by different authors, The Quran shares many similarities with The Bible in terms of characters and stories. The Bible was written by many authors over the course of 1500 years or more, while The Quran was written later (from 610-632 AD) by the prophet Mohammed, who addressed jealousy as a destructive emotion that harms both oneself and one’s neighbor:

  • “Beware of jealousy, for verily it destroys good deeds the way fire destroys wood.” [Abu Dawood]
  • “There has come to you the disease of the nations before you, jealousy and hatred. This is the ‘shaver’ (destroyer); I do not say that it shaves hair, but that it shaves (destroys) faith…” [(Hasan) Jamee at-Tirmidhee (2434)]

Engaging jealous thoughts of unfairness toward oneself, one forgets the blessings Allah bestowed upon him. 


The Torah is the Hebrew equivalent of The Old Testament, and was written by Moses, alone. According to the Book of Exodus, The Ten Commandments were inscribed by God and revealed to the prophet Moses. The last two commandments both forbid jealousy: 

  • Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.
  • Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods. 

This is further emphasized in Exodus 20:17: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”  

Dissatisfaction with one’s lot in life shows disrespect toward God, implying that His plan is flawed. Jeopardizing our relationship with the Divine has few rewards and many regrets.

Hercules Protects Painting from Ignorance and Envy (Image: Andries Cornelis Lens via Wikimedia Commons Public domain)

Overcoming jealousy with wisdom

Embrace the principle of oneness

Realize that we are all part of a greater whole, where humility and selflessness have profound benefits, and selfish jealousy brings only a fleeting, bitter satisfaction. When you feel the urge to belittle someone else’s success, put yourself in their shoes instead. Sharing the joy for others’ accomplishments warms the heart, and opens the door to happiness.

Set aside the ego and make peace with your place in the Universe. When we look at things from a higher perspective, the human concerns that lead to jealousy seem very, very petty.

Understand karmic retribution

Whether it is from misdeeds in our youth or those in past lives, karmic debts must be settled. When someone seriously offends you, it’s possible that you did something even worse to them in the past. If we can look beyond our painful emotions to acknowledge karmic ties, we see the foolishness in struggling selfishly against others — it will only pile on more karma for the future. 

Likewise, people who are blessed in this life have earned their good fortune through positive actions in the past. Understanding that everyone gets their just desserts can help dissolve jealousy through respect and introspection.

Take control of your thoughts

Since we know that jealousy is harmful, we can reject it. If the way you want to think and feel does not include jealousy, then don’t engage jealousy when it rears its head. Pay attention to your thoughts and turn them around when they head in the wrong direction. If you are on the lookout for jealous inclinations, you can easily nip them in the bud.

By guiding your thinking toward kindness and tolerance, you can avoid being led down the dark path of jealousy.

Replace fear with faith

Trust that our omnipotent Creator has a Divine plan for each of us, and graciously accept the arrangements He has made for you. The losses and pain we experience in life are all given for a reason, and provide the means for us to return to our innate goodness.