By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
I believe that jealousy is the most tural and universal instinct of a human being. We are often jealous of others, who might have done better than us. There is no limit to our jealousy and it often makes us lose our sense of proportion. The irony is that we all know jealousy to be a despicable feeling, yet very few of us can get rid of it in spite of our best intention. I don’t really think that there is any human being on this good earth of ours, who has not been gwed by jealousy now and then. Even the best amongst us succumbs to jealousy.
I know a young lady, who is really a very nice and generous person and who has the enviable quality of taking everything in her stride with unimpaired cheerfulness. But the other day I found her a bit pensive. She told me about some of her problems. Then she talked about some other person who was her former ‘best friend’. Comparing her lot with that of the other one she remarked with a rueful smile “Oh she has everything”. At school and college they were inseparable, but then their paths had parted. The lady who made the envious remark had married soon after leaving college, moved to a ramshackle house and had a brood of happy, healthy children, who of course take all her time. The other had pushed her career, risen to great heights, later married a wealthy businessman and made a great success of life. turally the other woman would feel jealous—since in her estimate she has become a drudge. It is only tural that in spite of her apparent cheerfulness she feels a kind of resentment against fate. Who wouldn’t? Her life has become an endless round of chores and all the time she is struggling hard to make both the ends meet—while the other lady seems to have a smooth sailing. It does seem unfair—doesn’t it?
Still I really think that it is foolish and short sighted of us to indulge in envy. It is no use looking over the fence and thinking that the grass is so much greener on the other side. What we tend to forget is that we are only looking at the surface of other peoples’ lives, often the picture they want us to see. We have no knowledge about what lies behind the surface—the strivings, the tribulations, the regrets, longings and the sacrifices.
I believe that many of us, from time to time, have had moments of envy for the person with such gifts that we would like to possess—brains, beauty, career, wealth; the list of course is endless. There is no limit to our wants and desires. But they often remain unfulfilled. At such times we feel that fate has dealt us a rotten hand, while someone else has been given all the aces. Yet if we reflect for a little while, we will perhaps realize, that fate, on the whole is pretty even handed, and what you lose in the round abouts, you make up for on the wings. But often we are so busy looking at the other side, that we forget our even balance.
Jealousy is an ignoble feeling, which gws our hearts and gives us many sleepless nights and makes our lives a misery on this earth. This feeling is supposed to be the gateway to hell—yet it’s so difficult to discard it. It is really a sad thing that in spite of our best efforts, we get bogged down by this burden of jealousy. It creeps into your mind and destroys all the good and ratiol feelings. In a fit of insane jealousy we may do certain things, which we wouldn’t dream of doing under normal circumstances.
I have been trying all these years to conquer this evil feeling of jealousy, which rears up its ugly head at every available opportunity. In fact once I had spent many sleepless nights and nightmarish days because of this undesirable feeling. After much struggle and deliberation I did lessen it to a considerable extent. At least I tried to cultivate the ability to thrust back this ugly feeling of jealousy, whenever it dared to raise its ugly head. I had been quite sure that at last I had succeeded in subjugating it to my ratiol thinking. Little did I realize that it still had the power to darken my life with gloom and despondency till the other day; what a set back to my noble ideals!
You see—I had this friend, who was better than me in every aspect. While at schooL I was nowhere near her in respect of gradation. She had brains, beauty and fortune—a rare combition to be found in the same person. I was terribly jealous of her—and my feelings for her were not kind. turally, she was everybody’s favourite. But strangely enough she didn’t have even the slightest bit of conceit. Everybody praised her for her excellence and politeness. Her good qualities were pointed out by even my family in sharp contrast to my defects. It kind of added salt to my injury and made me sulkier then before.
Well—life went on—she passed her examitions with flying colours, while I just scraped through. Time and tide wait for no man—as they say. The days passed—then years—and filly we lost touch with each other, and I was almost sure that at last I had got over my jealousy. Life became more peaceful and I forgot all about her—well almost. Then I tried for a little bit of self-alysis and tried to get rid of my feeling of jealousy and thought that I had succeeded. But I haven’t— you know, as I realized to my woe only recently.
The other day a friend of my school days came to my place. She told me that my arch enemy of yester years was right here in Guwahati.“She hasn’t changed even the slightest bit—and is as beautiful as ever. I saw her with my own eyes”. My friend gushed. Nettled I said tersely, “I don’t see how you could have seen her with anyone else’s eyes.” I knew of course that I was being petty—but couldn’t help it. To my dismay all the old feelings of jealousy rushed into my mind. I realized sadly that my optimism was misplaced. Actually I hadn’t been able to destroy the feeling of jealousy at all. I suppose, I would have to work harder with more determition.
I think that jealousy primarily arises in our minds only because somebody is doing better than what we are doing. I really believe that God has given each one of us some kind of special talent for a particular job. If I want to do something for which I am not fit, turally I will fail. But I suppose that very few of us realize this simple fact. Once I saw a pretty garden. The lady who created the garden was a genius in her field. I was so much attracted towards this beautiful garden that I resolved to make a similar garden. turally I failed in my project—since I do not have green fingers. The problem is that till now I haven’t been able to find out in which direction my ability lies—and perhaps never shall—as I haven’t really much time to explore. All these years I tried my hand in various things to prove my potential—and dabbled in writing, cooking, embroidery, knitting as well as music—but haven’t been able to be successful in any of them. May be that is what I am—a ’mediocre’. But I have realized that it’s no use getting jealous of people who have been successful in their chosen fields—where I have failed. Jealousy does nothing except making one more and more miserable. Of course we should try our level best to do better than what we are doing. There should be competition—but a healthy competition—not a vicious one at the expense of some one more talented. It is no use trying to run down somebody. Then I suppose, we will have happiness—if not success.
I know it is very difficult to get rid of this ugly feeling of jealousy, which seems to cling to us as long as we live. Sometimes even brothers and sisters are jealous of each other. I know a young boy who is terribly envious of his sister’s academic ability, as he sees her always reaching the top of the class with ease, while he struggles along the bottom of his. But he forgets that he has other gifts like common sense, practical skills and ability to mix with people, which will see him happily through life.
Jealousy is directed at many things—at someone’s beauty, career achievement, wealth, practical skill and so many other things. But success and happiness do not necessarily depend on any of these things. I do agree that certain things—money, for instance, is useful and most of us would probably like a little bit more of it. But money can’t buy happiness; contentment, peace of mind, and of course, loves—the things that really matter in our lives.
I think that there is a price to be paid for whatever in life you choose; and maybe we would like a little bit of something we haven’t got. But letting this kind of longing to domite our lives is not the way to happiness; being content with what we have is. So I don’t think that we should bother with envy. We shouldn’t really give it a room in our minds. If we fully understand life’s balance sheet, we would surely appreciate that it’s we who are on the credit side.
Jealousy is such a self-defeating feeling—it destroys the peace of mind and happiness. It’s not easy to kill the monster—but it’s worth trying. Don’t you agree?
(The writer is a former Head, Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)