In the last few months I have watched as women ministers that I know and that I love have been called by churches, and I am so happy for them. But I am also so jealous of them. I love my current ministry position and don’t want to leave it, but I keep thinking… “That could have been me. I could do that job. I am as qualified as they are.”
I didn’t even put my name out for these church positions, and to be honest, I don’t really even want to have those positions, and yet I feel so angry and jealous. I hate feeling this way!
Green With Envy
Your honesty is refreshing. We Baptist women ministers too often do not admit, even to ourselves, that we are envious or that we struggle with anger, and even fewer of us will speak about those feelings. But I suspect that most every woman who serves in ministry has experienced such feelings. So what should we do with them?
Acknowledging the dilemma is a great place to start. Realize that we live in a competitive society. From childhood, we were taught that winning, achieving, and succeeding are valued. We learned and were often told that “beating out” others somehow made us better. Those lessons are not easily forgotten—even if we are now adults and are called to be ministers of the gospel who are expected to love everyone, to work for justice, and to treat all others with kindness.
Add to the already disturbing complexity of living in a competitive society is the reality that in our Baptist world positions available to women are more limited than they are for men. As women, we often compete against each other—sometimes against our closest friends—for the few spots that are available, and because of the smallness of our Baptist community, we generally know exactly which women are applying for the same positions for which we have applied. We know the names of the other women “on the short list.” Whether it is fair or not, whether it is healthy or not, we are pitted against each other to vie for those coveted places of service. While this reality is true for Baptist men as well, their opportunities tend to be wider and deeper than for Baptist women.
So some practical advice: Give voice to your feelings. Admitting to yourself and perhaps even confessing to a few close and trusted friends will help you begin to more readily recognize these feelings and be able to understand what is happening when jealousy creeps up unexpectedly on you.
Refocus your jealousy into positive thoughts and actions. Refocusing will help you slowly to move away from those feelings. Remind yourself that you are HAPPY, that you are CELEBRATING with your women friends who have been called to new positions. Tell your friends and colleagues the news. Say it out loud, “I am so thrilled for her. She is a gifted minister, and this church will be blessed by her leadership.” Send her a note, an email, a text—expressing your support.
Cultivate habits that preempt jealousy. Become a strong supporter of your sisters in ministry by encouraging their work. Be proactive in sharing good news about their accomplishments, their successes. Offer to be a reference for those seeking a position. Write letters of gratitude for your women minister friends to their supervisors or congregations. Speak out on their behalf when you hear critical words or jealous words from others.
Finally, hold on to the truth that to be the body of Christ in all its fullness, we need each other. We need our sisters in ministry. They are a vital component of our journey, and jealousy robs us of healthy relationships with them.
Blessings on you in your journey!
If you have a question for Dear Addie, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
*The photo of Addie Davis is provided courtesy of Special Collections, Jack Tarver Library, Mercer University, Macon, Georgia.