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Jealousy and Self-Deception

by Izzy Kalman (March 2004)

Jealousy has long been recognized as a source of human misery and destruction. It is no accident that it holds a place of honor in the Ten Commandments. All major religions consider jealousy to be a grave sin. Few of us are free of jealousy, and that is because it has a strong biological basis. The drive for power and success is inherent in all living things. When we see others being more successful than we are or having things we don’t, it is natural to feel jealous. The irony is that, as I will shortly be explaining, when we are jealous of others, it is really ourselves that we are resenting.

We can suffer from jealousy without even being aware of it. Lola, my college age daughter, often brings her friends over for dinner, giving me the opportunity to pick the brains of the bright stars of the college-age generation (much to Lola’s consternation).

One of her friends expressed his contempt for kids who are born to families with great wealth (for example, George W. Bush) because they have a huge, unfair advantage over people like himself. It is much easier for the offspring of the wealthy to reach positions of political power than for someone born into meager means. (It IS possible, as Bill Clinton proved, but it is harder).

I asked Lola’s friend, if he were given a choice, would he prefer to have been born into great wealth? He said “Of course!” I pointed out to him that but a few moments ago he expressed his contempt for those born into wealth. Thus, he hates the person he would like to be!

Yes, when we are jealous, we hate the person we would like to be! What foolishness! We would be better off being happy for those who have what we wish for, and hoping that maybe one day we, too, will be as fortunate as they are.

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