Jealousy Sends Astronaut into “Orbit”

As an astronaut, Lisa Nowak logged nearly 13 days in space and knew what it was to orbit the earth. But it wasn’t the Space Shuttle that launched her “into orbit” in early 2007 – it was jealousy.

According to police reports, Nowak drove from Houston, Texas to Orlando Florida to confront a woman who had begun a relationship with the astronaut that Nowak had been seeing for two years. Nowak confronted her rival at an airport and attempted to spray her with pepper spray before the woman escaped and reported the incident. When police arrived they discovered Nowak had latex gloves, a BB pistol, black gloves, a black wig, an eight-inch folding knife, rubber tubing, plastic garbage bags, a hooded trench coat, and a 2-pound drilling hammer. She was charged with attempted kidnapping and attempted murder.

This intelligent, beautiful, gifted woman who had achieved the zenith of her career as an astronaut aboard the Space Shuttle and Space Station had plummeted to the depths of being charged with serious crimes because of jealousy. She not only lost her career and was forced to retire with a “less than honorable” discharge from the Navy, she lost the focus of her affection, and tragically, her family as well. It is terribly ironic that this woman, who demonstrated such incredible jealousy, had been having an affair for two years while married with three children.

While we hope to learn from her poor choices we also hope that Nowak and her family have healed and discovered the genuine joy of God’s love in Christ. We would be wise to recognize that her decisions were not made overnight. There are some simple suggestions for recognizing the “green eyed monster” in the mirror.

Are You Jealous? Simple Symptoms of Jealousy

  1. Fear – A jealous person may be unaware that they have a deep fear that someone or something will come between them and their partner. This insecurity and anxiety may be present in other areas of their life as well.
  2. Lack of Trust – At the essence of jealousy is a simple lack of trust. If one’s partner has not given reason not to trust them they should be trusted. When one cannot trust another and there is no legitimate reason why, the problem is not with one’s partner, but within themselves.
  3. Possessiveness – “What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine!” As most symptoms, this may begin very small and seem rather normal – until it is tested. Possessiveness drives a person to want “oversight” and control over another person’s life. Behaviors that are perfectly normal can cross healthy boundaries and a simple, “How was your day?” may devolve to an analysis of details and further questions that seems more like an investigation than genuine interest. This controlling behavior reveals a lack of respect for the other person. As most of the symptoms of jealousy, possessiveness is really a perversion of a healthy trait. While every married couple should share their lives with their partner so they may enjoy true “oneness” and intimacy, a jealous person feels they not only have the “right” to know every detail about their partner’s life; they demand to know. Again, please note that this is more than healthy interest and is based on control rather than love.
  4. Restlessness – One suffering from jealousy will likely find that they are unable to be at ease without having their partner in their presence and having their full attention. It is normal for those who love one another to miss one another when they are not together, but the jealous individual cannot enjoy a moment of separation because of their underlying anxiety. They may not be consciously worried about a “competitor,” but they are not far from it.
  5. Anger – If possessiveness contributes to restlessness then anger is not far behind. Typical jealousy may deal with someone vying for the attention of a person’s partner, but a person may be spurred to jealousy over anything that competes for their partner’s attention whether it be a job, friends, hobbies, and even family. For example, if their partner’s job as an insurance agent requires evening sales, the possessively jealous person will be angry at the normal expectations of work. Their anger may present itself through passive-aggressive behavior, pouting, and overt demonstrations of anger. Sadly, some try to excuse these behaviors by saying they act that way because of “love.” Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Nowak’s behavior obviously includes some of the above. Look at the examples of jealousy in Scripture and see how many of these symptoms appear in some form.  For example, consider Cain’s attitude toward his brother, Abel. Look at the attitude of Saul toward David and the religious leaders towards Paul. What can you learn from them?

Finally, Ask God to reveal your motives to you. You may be surprised at how he chooses to do so. When we seek to find our identity and security in an individual rather than God we can expect to be insecure, unhappy, and even jealous.

Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?

                         Proverbs 27:4

Could jealousy ever be healthy? You may be surprised. We’ll explore this next time.

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