Jealousy

[Caveat: All of my observations, or essays, however dubbed, are simply reflections on lessons that life has taught me, which I pass along to my loved ones and to any others who choose to read them. I make no claim to prescience, wisdom or mastery of any of these life-lessons. They simply reflect goals to which I still aspire.]

Jealousy first conjures the image of a jealous lover or spouse, but Jealousy is pervasive in human thought and persists, at some level, in most human relationships. Jealousy, tragically, is a visceral instinct which all of us must battle, endlessly. Herein, I focus on that Jealousy which covets what others have; that is, jealousy of others possessions, appearance, achievements, talents, friendships and the like. To set our analytical table for ruminations on point, we can begin with the Tenth Commandment:

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house…wife… manservant…maidservant…nor anything that is thy neighbors.” Moses’ 10th Commandment; Ex. 21:17

As with most of the Commandments, there is irrefutable logic to underpin this exhortation.

My mother helped me understand this insidious mental poison. When I was a lad, if I ill-advisedly said, “I want Johnny’s toy,” my mother never failed to amend my statement thus: “No, Lee, you mean that you want a toy like Johnny’s, but you do not want Johnny’s toy.” This vivid and critical distinction helps me to this day. I consciously refuse to covet anything that others possess. When I consciously refuse to allow the thought that I want what anyone else has or is, I supplant it with the reverse: I remind myself that I am happy that X or Y has or is this or that. Interestingly, the more that I mentally verbalize that thought, rejoicing for them, the more genuine joy I feel for that fortunate person and the less envious I feel. (Most of us, in the Western World, don’t really “need” much more than we have.) Supplanting the negative thoughts with positive ones reverses the process.

Jealous thoughts need to be forcibly reversed.

There is no theme more common in literature than jealousy and the ways in which it corrodes mankind’s thoughts (and health) and leads to self-destruction.  Examples abound from Shakespeare’s Othello’s obsessive jealousy and fear of losing his beloved Desdemona to Snow White’s evil step-mother’s consumptive jealousy of the beautiful Snow White.

“Envy is the ulcer of the soul.” Socrates (c.469-399 BCE)

“Jealousy is as cruel as the grave.” Isaiah 8:6

“Jealousy is grounded in self-love.” La Rochefoucault (1613-1680)

“Jealousy is the rage of man…” Proverbs 6:34

“Jealousy is a monster, begot upon itself.” Shakespeare (1564-1616)

“Jealousy is . . . hell.” Milton (1608-1674)

Jealousy must be fought from both directions: first, when we feel jealous of others; and, second, when others express jealousy towards us. Either or both cause us effectively immediate pain. It is much easier, of course, to pluck jealous thoughts from our own minds and to supplant them with positive ones than it is to alter the jealous thoughts of others that are aimed at us.

When others are jealous of us, we must remember that the jealous person is suffering, because every jealous thought is an act of self-flagellation, an “ulcer of the soul” – the kind of thoughts that can even lower immune systems and conceivably foment diseases – as chronic negativity surely does. Jealousy may well indeed be a killer, of those who fall to prey to it too often. Over time, we can often neutralize the jealous thoughts of others by our own loving thoughts about (and actions toward) the Jealous person. We can’t afford the self-imposed mental angst of becoming angry at the jealous person, who has simply allowed themselves to wallow in self-pity and self-degredation. An important, if trite, distinction needs to be made:

The evil is not the jealous person; it is the jealous thought.

Kindness has a godlike power and is the antidote for many ills, the palliative most likely to salve the jealous person’s pain. When this works too slowly, we may need to remove ourselves from the jealous person’s line of sight and fire, at least for a time. Still, in time, few can resist kindness and, in the end, overt kindness is likely the best cure.

Conversely, attacking our own jealous thoughts can be expedited by recounting one’s own blessings. Most of us have many, but we rarely stop to count them, and we regularly should. Most of us have a great deal, on the scale of relativity, and jealousy can be minimized or avoided altogether by simply listing our own blessings. We need to take control of our minds, grab our own mental-steering wheel, and make a decision to substitute positives, thus quantifying our gratitude thus eviscerating our jealous thoughts. Related comments appear in my Amazon-E-Book, Happiness in Seven Steps, Step Four, and in my essay on this wesbsite on Hate and Revenge.

The bottom line is clear: Never omit a potential kindness, as kindness is the best bromide for troubled thoughts, be those thoughts engendered by us or towards us.

Supplant our jealous thoughts with gratitude for our own blessings, and ignore the jealous thoughts of others while quelling their pain with kindness.

Those who allow jealousy (or worse hate) to creep into their thoughts pour toxins into themselves.

In the end, kindness overpowers jealousy.

We cannot control others' thoughts; we must control our own.