Monday, April 18, 2005

Curious about Jealousy - Is It Really Jealousy?

I have wondered for some time why certain members of a discussion group and/or forum are challenged - in a rather combative way - by others in the group. Is it jealousy or the desire to give someone who is obviously self-assured a “come up-pance?”

Summer Altice wrote, “People are taken aback by a confident, pretty girl who knows what she wants in life and isn't going to let anyone get in her way. And you know what it's all about? Jealousy.” We could substitute anyone for the “pretty girl” and Altice sums up the whole idea of why detractors are challenged and moved to take potshots at others.

Often we think of jealousy when we are talking about relationships and love, but it can take on many more personas.

I spent this past weekend at a storyteller’s retreat which was a long drive from my home.
On the way, I re-listened to Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life. She includes a whole chapter on Jealousy.

She wrote, “Jealousy is such a direct attack on whatever measure of confidence you’ve been able to muster. But if you continue to write, you are probably going to have to deal with it, because some wonderful, dazzling successes are going to happen for some of the most awful, angry, undeserving writer you know - people who are, in other words, not you.”

Lamott continues writing about another writer who calls often to tell her about the wonderful successes occurring in that writer’s life. In her honest and no-holds-barred style, Lamott admits to her jealousy of and bad feelings for this writer. Her final way of dealing with the situation was to look for the humor, write about it and finally tell her writer friend that she “needed a sabbatical” from their friendship. If you would like to read more about Lamott and her books, click HERE.

One point that she did touch on is that we are brought up in an extremely competitive society, so it is usual to feel some envy for another who is doing better, while we seem to be treading water. And yet, we are always told to be “happy for others” when they succeed or win. After all, we are supposed to always be “good sports.”

I think that the following quotes put interesting spins on jealousy:
  • Washington Irving wrote, “There is never jealousy where there is not strong regard.”
  • Buzz Aldrin wrote, “I was an outsider. I was the egghead from academia who got in because the rules had changed. While I looked for validation from my fellow contemporaries, I instead found jealousy and envy. I did not find team spirit. This led to dissatisfaction, an unease.”
  • Fulton J. Sheen wrote, “Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius.”
  • And Erica Jong wrote, “Jealousy is all the fun you think they had.”

I tend toward Jong’s light-hearted approach, and yet, after hearing Lamott and reading the various thoughts on jealousy, I started wondering if any jealousy of others or others’ jealousy of me was corroding my thoughts and energy.

What about you? Do you think or feel that jealousy is natural? Is it harmful, or when is it harmful? I would love to read your comments.