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March 06, 2019 Wednesday 01:16:58 PM IST

It was a remote village not frequented by tourists. Once a tourist happened to visit the village. He was surprised to see the houses there because many of them were gaudy. The people of the village should be rich, he said to himself.

Later, while he was having dinner at a local restaurant, he struck up a conversation with a stranger sitting next to him. “It seems the people in this village are rather wealthy,” the tourist said admiringly. “Why do you say so,” the stranger asked. “Definitely the people of this village should be rich; otherwise, how can they build such ornate houses,” the tourist wondered. “There is only one reason,” the stranger said, with a smile. “Jealousy! Nothing, but jealousy! It is jealousy which has led the people of this village to build such opulent houses.”

This story may be little far-fetched. However, it is not an unbelievable one as we often see people doing incredible things because of jealousy. Perhaps we ourselves are guilty of doing such things.

To make progress and find success in life, it may be necessary to have a spirit of competition. But when someone achieves something or makes unusual progress in life, do we feel a pang of sadness in our heart? If so, remember jealousy has also conquered us. We may think jealousy may help us to outperform others. However, the fact is that we never make true progress in our life because of our jealousy.

Jealousy can never enable us grow. On the contrary, it will only pull us down. Because of jealousy, we may work hard and make a lot of money; we may achieve what we think are great things. However, during all such actions, the only thing that guides us would be jealousy. In such a context, how can we ever dream of having peace and joy in our life?

Jealous people always focus on their own gain. However, if it is their well-being that they set their minds on, they will never succumb to jealousy. It is because nobody achieves wellbeing through jealousy; nobody becomes better than anyone else through jealousy. Moreover, jealousy ultimately leads to failure only.

Jealous people may say everybody is jealous. However, there are people in this world who are not jealous. They are the people who are always happy when they see others make progress or succeed in life.

Owens at Berlin Olympics

Let us take a look at the Berlin Olympics of 1936. Jesse Owens (1913-1980) of USA was the favorite to win the long jump. As he came to compete in the qualifying rounds, he saw Adolf Hitler watching him from a distance. Hitler was notorious for his hatred towards Jews and Blacks. Being a Black man, Owens was distracted at the sight of the Fuhrer. Hence, he could not do well in the first two qualifying rounds. In fact, he had fouled in both attempts. There was only one more round to go. He wasn’t sure as to what was happening to him.

At this point, his main rival, Luz Long, a German and the pride of German Nazis, walked slowly to the place where Owens was standing, lost in his thoughts. After introducing himself, Long suggested that he should shift his mark back to make sure that he would not foul again since the qualifying distance was only 7.15 metres. Long said that Owens could easily qualify as he had jumped 8.13 metres the previous year in the US.

Owens followed the advice of Long and reached the finals. In the finals, Long was the main rival of Owens. On his sixth and final attempt, Owens landed at 8.06 metre which brought him the gold medal. By this time, Hitler had walked out of the stadium, not wanting to see a Black man win the much-coveted long jump gold.

“That business with Hitler didn't bother me,” Owens later wrote. “I didn't go there to shake hands. What I remember most was the friendship I struck up with Luz Long. He was my strongest rival, yet it was he who advised me to adjust my run-up in the qualifying round and thereby helped me to win.”

Greater hero

Long helped Owens at a time when Hitler was arguing that Blacks were inferior to the whites. If Long had any stain of jealousy in him, he would not have helped Owens win the long jump. Owens always acknowledged that even though he became the Berlin Olympic hero with four gold medals, Long went home as a greater hero. In fact, Long had become the hero of the Olympic hero even though he won only the silver medal in the long jump.

Long was happy even without a gold medal as he had a heart of gold. He did not really need a gold medal to be happy. He was happy that the most talented athlete had won. This should be the way with us. If this is the way we follow, we will never be jealous. Instead, we will find joy not only in our achievements but also in the achievements of others. Hollywood star Bette Midler once said, “the worst part of success is trying to find someone who is happy for you.” Well, if we cannot find someone who is happy about our success, let us try to be happy with the success of others. 

Fr. Jose Panthaplamthottiyil, CMI

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