“Never hate jealous people. They are jealous because they think you are better than them… – Paulo Coelho”
But is this really true?
We all get jealous, don’t we? I know I do.
No matter how much we might like to avoid it, jealousy and envy are emotions we all feel from time to time. But if they are allowed to become dominant in our lives, they warp our perspectives, keep us from realising our personal potential, and in some cases, lead us into destructive behaviour. Without question, jealousy and envy can impede our growth to spiritual maturity.
Notice how I say jealousy and envy. According to Oxford Dictionary, jealousy is the state or feeling of being jealous and envy is a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck. In other words, envy is the result of allowing yourself to be overcome by jealousy.
While jealousy can be positive, envy, on the other hand, always has a bad meaning. Envy starts with desire. We all want things we don’t have: money, a nice figure, a better home, or more clothes. We long for a happy marriage, successful children, a secure, pleasurable job. There’s nothing wrong with these desires as long as we are realistic, recognising that they do not bestow value on our lives. However, if and when these things become essential to us, we will look with the green eyes of envy at everyone who has what we want. We’ll keep working harder and more desperately to reach our goals without ever being content. Eventually, we will be under the full-time control of envy, a brutal taskmaster.
Envy, according to Alain de Botton, comes from the fact that we can relate to someone who has something we desire. If we are unable to relate to someone’s background, age, or situation, we often don’t experience huge pangs of jealousy. We see ourselves as different enough from the other person that their success does not translate to our own lives in the same way.
For example, while I would love to have the same impact as Oprah Winfrey, I am not jealous of her success because I cannot relate to her legendary achievements and 30 year-long career. Instead, I am inspired and propelled to do my best, knowing that she symbolises what might (or might not) be possible in my own life. Sure, it would be great to reach the same level of success, but I don’t feel bad about myself now because she has always been on such a different playing field. On the other hand, when I look at successful writers or bloggers who are my age and have a similar story, it is much easier to relate, and subsequently covet, their success. The subconscious (human like) assumption is: If they can do it, I should be able to do it, too.
But no matter how much we lust after the achievements of others and desire the same results, it is useless to look at someone else we relate to and feel jealousy. Many negative emotions can be useful—pain tells us something is wrong, fear tells us to look before we leap—but jealousy, no matter how jealous we get, will never help.
After years of observing people (and myself not to mention) getting jealous in myriad ways, it’s easy to see that our culture is riddled with jealousy, envy, and greed, all of which are by-products of our competitive, consumer-driven society.
What’s worse is that it’s far more malicious than we think. Competition breeds jealousy, though we often give it prettier labels like “competitive spirit” or “ambition.” But the truth is that jealousy leads to certain cultural imperatives—what we commonly refer to as “keeping up with the Joneses.” But of course we don’t get jealous solely over material possessions. We also get jealous over our relationships. We think our friends don’t spend enough time with us or that our partners don’t care about us as much as they should. It all revolves around us: He doesn’t spend enough time with me. She doesn’t care enough about me. We think this way because it’s hard to back away from ourselves, it’s hard to realise the world does not revolve around me. I actually have a funny story here – where I was jealous about a girl talking to ‘babi’ a few years ago and I told him as I am quite direct about these things and he just laughed. I felt so stupid, because when I met the girl on another occasion, it was clear to see I totally misjudged her intentions…..I am only human.
Conversely, if you find yourself with a jealous person in your life, it can be helpful to share some of the trade-offs and difficulties you experience, within reason. This is not to discount your blessings or achievements, but to help your friend put things into perspective. This may not always be appropriate, especially in relationships that are shallow or distant. But if you deeply desire the relationship to continue, it is helpful to show the envious person love, compassion, and maybe even share about your own experience with jealousy in the past.
The thing to remember with jealousy is that it is never a way to express we care—it’s only a channel through which we broadcast our insecurities. Let it go—it’s useless.
Be happy. X