Saturday, 24 January 2009


Why does Envy cross into jealous spite?

When I was a child, I envied all the children in my class who could draw. And had neat handwriting. Kids who could do things that I patently couldn't - my handwriting was never "good" (I was probably the last child in my class to be allowed to use a pen). My best drawings weren't even fit to line the rubbish bin. I dreaded "Craft" lessons and hated going into the art classroom.

At about the same time, I envied the girls with long, slightly wavy hair. Mine was short, curly and frizzed when brushed. For some years, I wished my hair was blond, too. And that I didn't wear glasses. As I got older, I envied the skinny girls (I was fat). And the ones with real waists (I'm short-waisted). Eventually, I got contact lenses, learned how to manage my hair from a hairdresser who "cut it curly" and told me never to brush it, and dabbled with hair dye. I grew up, lost weight and learned that looks are secondary to confidence and self-esteem when making friends or attracting a life-mate.

As an adult, I've envied the well organised and the neat*. I've worked hard to be organised, but people who have time management down to a fine art still trigger flashes of the green-eyed monster in me. I know time management is a matter of prioritising what is important and pursuing those things instead of watching television. It's about achieving small, daily or weekly targets on the way to the big goal. I still haven't figured out how to fit into a day everything I want to do or achieve, but I'm working on it.

I've learned how to harness the power of envy and now use it to determine my priorities, goals and dreams.

Sometimes, though, people broadside you with their jealousy, and in the most unlikely settings. How many times have you received a backhand insult? When someone compliments your knitting or your cooking and then says "I could never find the time to do what you do. I wish I had all your spare time!", implying with their tone that you are tethered to the kitchen or your knitting basket and have no other life. (When I was a student, a girl I despised once attempted to insult me by disparagingly remarking, "How terribly domestic of you" after I cooked dinner in the Nurses Home. I laughed at her.)

My friend, Fluff, was recently the recipient of some unbridled jealous spite, when she showed off her latest project at her knitting group. The needling started almost immediately afterwards, "Where do you find the time?". "I wish I had all your spare time!" and on and on and on. All delivered in a spiteful tone.

I've wondered why these people were so nasty to Fluff. And why so many people deliver veiled backhand insults. All I can come up with is that the bitterness they're expressing is really directed at themselves. The thing they're disparaging in you is actually something they dislike about themselves. They wish they could knit a sweater and are angry at themselves for not achieving it. They like good food but despise themselves because they can't cook. They want a career, but can't be bothered to put in the hours of study, so disparage the people who do rather than admit their own failings and laziness.

Of course, you win no Brownie Points for pointing any of this out, but at least you can use it to neutralise their venom.

- Pam

* I've figured how "neat" works. It's the next step beyond tidy. It's to do with proportion and getting things in alignment with the major planes of say the table on which they are sitting.

1 comment:

Lydee said...

good stuff, good thoughts.