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November 09, 2015 Monday 05:42:07 PM IST

Grow with/against jealousy

Creative Living

Jealousy: A state of permanent dissatisfaction!

Iago, the sinister villain of the Shakespearean tragedy Othello (c. 1601– 04), is a candid depiction of a seriously jealous person. Iago discovers that Othello has the life and occupation which he always dreamed of: the eternal reason for jealousy! Iago decides to spend all his creative energy into the destructive project: “Elimination Othello”. Iago also ignites the fire of jealousy in Othello, his commander, over his wife Desdemona. In the process, Iago himself falls into a state of permanent dissatisfaction.


A jealous person typically develops contempt for one’s own talents, career and life and attempts to rather live another‘s life! An honest analysis may expose “Iago moments” in your life too: moments when you wanted to live the other’s life. As the other is living that life, you might have been compelled to suppress your hidden animosity against them. Jealousy is a universal mind-set, powerful enough to break you or to make you. Hence master the art of being creative and innovative so as to grow with/against jealousy!


Kain, the first murderer reported in Bible, was rather straight-forward in his jealous reaction towards his sibling, Abel. God’s acceptance of the sacrificial offer of Abel kindled jealousy in Kain. The outright rejection of God of his sacrifice added fuel into the fire. He developed a devastating sense of insecurity and inferiority. Out of burning jealousy, Kain murdered his brother Abel, eliminating him from the face of earth. He might have imagined that in the absence of Abel, he would find favour with God. However, to his great disappointment, God came in search of Abel, whom he murdered. God inquired of Kain: “Where is your brother?” The pleading of Kain that he is not appointed as the keeper of his brother only infuriated God further. God said: “What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand; when thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.” (Genesis 4:10-12).


The jealousy was thus punished with “rootless-ness” and “fruitless-ness”, i.e., with fugitiveness of life and futility of efforts! Jealousy extinguishes the creative fire glowing within you. The coldness flows to the roots of your existence making you numb and insensitive. It douses your creative prowess. It vitiates your innovative spirit. Jealous projects will eventually turn futile. Jealous designs are doomed to be defeated in the course of time! Some envy others, since the other is subjected to extra-mercy of God. That God shower favors on others is not tolerated by them. They consider it as an offence of God against them. The workers in the vineyard were envy of those 11th hour workers, who worked just for one hour and drew the full salary of the day (Mt. 20, 9). They could not digest an act of mercy on the part of their master, who might have been sympathizing with those who were weak in the placement drive! He might have been just careful that their families shall not starve. However, the workers in the vineyard cried foul against the master, who was nevertheless not prepared to dance to their tunes. He discredited their envious critique, asking them the counter question: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? (Mt. 20, 16)


Angry was also the steward who received just one talent from his master, while other stewards were granted two and five talents respectively. Out of self-contempt and envy he hid his talent under the earth. He wished to teach his unjust master a lesson. He pressed for an attitudinal change in his master, who, according to him, was cruel to him by giving him the least initial capital (Mt.25:14-30). He could not see into it that it suffices to double his talent into two to reap the same glory garnered by his better talented colleagues. Envy engenders a mental state of permanent dissatisfaction, which like a desert acts as a grave yard for creativity and innovation. Those innovations driven by envy lead to enhanced dissatisfactions and added dejections.


Growing with envy


A certain amount of envy would serve better growth and development, especially of children. A mother, for example, asks her boy child to emulate his father and grow day by day into his stature. And the child does so. So does a father ask his girl child to learn from the mother and to grow into her stature, which helps the child to grow! Teachers may intentionally trigger envy in the class at their best students positing them as role models. It may also at times work. Students may grow fast with envy! Moderate level of envy catalyzes personal and societal growth and development. However, envy-generating comparisons would turn counter-productive in the long run. Living other’s dream is not attractive to persons with industry. Asking them to follow the other’s passions and to live other’s dreams is inappropriate. Whatever hinders one from following one’s own passion and tastes are obnoxious. It breaches individual freedom and self-respect. It repudiates the uniqueness of the person. It violates the individual mission-in-the-world. That is undesirable.


Avoid “bad eye” of others!


It is a common practice in India, that the new structures and constructions are protected against the “bad eyes” of the envious people. In front of buildings that are being built, imposing effigies (Nokkukuttikal) are placed in order to distract envious onlookers. Innocent face of a new-born baby is often dotted with a black spot, for the same purpose. It is widely believed that something new and invaluable needs to be protected from envious or bad looks. One could easily dismiss such practices as superstitious. However, the fact remains: the creative and successful people are often victims of foot traps of the jealous is a fact. The envious would pester you, if you are a creative mind venturing into something innovative. They would distract you when you need your concentration at the most. They would put stumbling blocks in your paths of progress. They will throw stones at you if you are fruitful. It is said that only those mango-trees with abundant fruits alone will be stoned!


Creative minds are usually sensitive too. They are often touch-me-nots. They fold their leaves of creativeness and wither away even at a mild offensive touch of the envious opponent. It is that intense sensitivity that makes and maintains their creativeness. The same sensitivity could prove harmful to them, especially when they encounter inimical jealousy. They will be readily mobbed at their workplace. They will be ragged at their starting points. They will be persecuted for no mistake of theirs. They will be exposed to envious looks and acts.


Creative minds should learn how to handle the jealous with care and caution. The most common practice is to dismiss jealous comments or to avoid the jealous people. However, in the new world, where privacy drastically thins out, such a strategy may not be effective. It may even backfire. Since, those who avoid others are also avoided. Given below are some tips to conquer the jealousy of those who meddle with your creative projects:


Be friendly: Love your enemies and give them positive appreciation and assurance. That is the only proven weapon against envious aggression, wielded by the masters.


Be kind: Shower your blessings on those who hate you or envy you. Your kindness may find reciprocation.


Be benevolent: Pray regularly for those who envy you and keep your minds out of hateful entanglements with them.


Be good: Think good, speak good and do good to those who harm you out of jealousy.


Be generous: Grant others significantly more than what they actually deserve.


Be forgiving: Whole-heartedly forgive those who have already trespassed against you.


These suggestions are derived from the lives and teachings of noble gurus, who have safeguarded themselves against the attacks of envious people in their lives. These are also sure ways of conquering jealousy in the world and to keep you creative and innovative.


Keep exploring your possibilities


You should always strive to take leave from your “comfort zones” in search of the new and versatile experiences, whatever may come on the way. Breaking away from “comfort zones” is not considered desirable by the cowards. They confuse “remaining within the comfort zones” with the virtue of “being steadfast”.


The Pharisees of Jesus’ times believed so. To convince them of the need of breaking out of the comfort zones, the Parable of the Prodigal Son is told. It is a story of two sons of a father: the elder one, who loves to remain steadfast within the four walls of his father’s place and the other who would rather venture into the world outside. The younger son was promoted by the father, who even awarded him his share of paternity to facilitate his venture. His generous sharing with his friends and celebration of his life but made him poor soon. During the famine days he had to do jobs that were considered ignoble to his race (Jewish race) to keep himself alive. At his wit’s end, he decided to return to his father’s place. The father declared a great feast to celebrate his home-coming.


The elder brother, on the other hand, wished to remain within the “comfort zones” of his father’s home. He never ventured out. He delivered his father a “slave’s service”, as he himself describes it later. The father would only unwillingly approve of it. The elder son did not exercise his freedom-as-a-son to celebrate his life with his friends. He found fault with his father who did not give him even a sheep to celebrate with friends! The father was extremely careful with the elder son and attached his share in the patrimony to himself. He did so with the strange argument that “everything I have is yours” (Lk.15: 30). An argument, the father shunned in the case of his younger son! At the end the parable, the readers may be promoted to ask a strange question: Who is the true prodigal son of the parable? Is it the younger one who dared to venture out of his comfort zones availing his share in the patrimony and celebrated his life or the elder one, who remained within his comfort zones like a house slave, who never appropriated his share of the patrimony and who never dared to venture out?


Jesus seems to keep empathy for the younger son of the parable! His life compares better with that of the younger brother. As scripture suggests, Jesus relinquished the comfort of being with his Father in heaven (cf. Phil. 2, 6). He identified himself with the sinners and tax collectors on earth. At the appointed time he retreated to his father in heaven empty-handed. In his lifetime Jesus had won for himself the title as “Friend of sinners”: an accusation the Pharisees made at Jesus, which is repeated by the elder son against the younger one in the parable.


The Master sets an example for the creative minds! Dare to venture out. Keep exploring the new possibilities of life. Keep the inner freedom of a son without dilution. And just neglect the envious outcries and accusations of the “elder brother”, who never dares to venture out!

Dr. Varghese Panthalookaran

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