Wednesday 11 November 2020

Thought Picnic: Nothing consumes agency like jealousy

Standing up for me

In was in Sunday School that a characteristic of my personality changed, on New Year’s Day 1980, whilst attending a church service I witnessed too many events of the superintendents and teachers physically abusing attendees. We were in church, the children separated from the adults and under the charge of people who abused the honour and responsibility of helping bring up the child in the ways of the Lord, it grieved me. I resolved; I will not condone such abuse on my person.

However, from those Sunday School stories, we risk viewing what we learnt then as a single story. The Garden of Eden as the fall of man, the judgement on Cain for being a murderer, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as the condemnation of homosexuality, the list goes on, a reductive assessment of deeper human experiences that can never have just one perspective and if we dare, there will always be new perspectives.

Other perspectives to the common

I am not a strict creationist, I believe there is much that is figurative, metaphoric or allegorical in the Bible before it is literal. Setting, context, import, intent, moral, tradition, culture, language are many variables that influence the understanding and the interpretation of these stories, they should be brought to bear and I can assure you, I am no expert in hermeneutics.

I could return to the Garden of Eden and view the situation not so much about Adam and Eve, but contest for attention between God and Lucifer. As Lucifer was kicked out of heaven when he wanted to claim the place of God as pride consumed him with a passion. The relationship that the new creations of Adam and Eve had with God was so sublime, the kind of personality Lucifer was would indeed interfere. They were warned but got suborned and the result in antiquity is the fall of man.

In the practice or in the mind

Moving on, when apparently God was happy with Abel’s sacrifices but displeased with Cain’s, there is a whole unknown backstory as to how anyone knew to sacrifice and or to do it right. Either way, Cain could have humbly asked Abel what he was doing right and learnt to make the adjustments to his own sacrifices either in the activity or the mindfulness at doing it.

But no, he took umbrage and though he was warned it might get the better of him, it eventually did and so, Cain smote and killed his brother Abel because Abel was a better man than him.

In the case of Lucifer and Cain, one thing comes to mind, it is a demonstration of jealousy and jealousy is not a single thing, but a multifaceted negative virtue of our humanity that lends itself to bringing out the worst in us.

Jealousy is a dangerous thing

Jealousy generally refers to the thoughts or feelings of insecurity, fear, and concern over a relative lack of possessions or safety. Jealousy can consist of one or more emotions such as anger, resentment, inadequacy, helplessness or disgust. [Wikipedia: Jealousy]

Wikipedia has extensive texts on the topic because it relates quite closely to human relationships, how they are forged and how they break down. How feelings and emotions in one might regulate, indicate, obfuscate or even excoriate views of another and entirely at no fault of the other. For instance, Abel did nothing wrong, but because Cain could not stand what he was doing right, he lost his life.

The Wikipedia article goes on to contrast jealousy with envy whilst agreeing that modern usage tends to conflate the two as synonyms.

The common experience of jealousy for many people may involve:

  • Fear of loss
  • Suspicion of or anger about a perceived betrayal
  • Low self-esteem and sadness over perceived loss
  • Uncertainty and loneliness
  • Fear of losing an important person to another
  • Distrust

The experience of envy involves:

  • Feelings of inferiority
  • Longing
  • Resentment of circumstances
  • Ill will towards envied person often accompanied by guilt about these feelings
  • Motivation to improve
  • Desire to possess the attractive rival's qualities
  • Disapproval of feelings
  • Sadness towards other's accomplishments

When we act on it

I guess what scares me most about jealousy is when people act on it and there is no telling what the confluence of events and triggers might be with drastic consequences. Irrational fear, unwarranted suspicion, projected distrust, the list of negative feelings is endless.

In 1967, Joe Orton was bludgeoned to death by his partner Keith Halliwell, Joe was a successful playwright, author and diarist, Keith was not particularly so. He could, on the one hand, have celebrated, appreciated and supported Joe, they had been in a turbulent relationship since 1951. However, when Joe was considering breaking up with Keith, what resulted was a murder-suicide.

Yesterday, and the seed inspiration for this blog, a brother shared memorable images of his sister who had been murdered in 2015 with a meat cleaver by her jealous husband. It was so gruesome that the lady was unrecognisable after the deed. Jealousy can give vent to unparalleled wickedness and dangerously so. [The World News: Brother shares heart-breaking image of his sister]

Arresting the feeling

This is not to suggest one is perfect, there are times these emotions come to the fore, but what matters more is how much leeway you give these emotions to fester. I would soon believe the best of people than distrust them and if I cannot trust them, I hope not to hold it against them but make allowances for the human condition both on my part and theirs.

There is a likelihood I could have been more successful, but it does not matter, I have been blessed in ways that make me thankful and grateful for what I have and what I have achieved. To those who have done much better than I from the same starting point or ahead of me, good for them and I will congratulate them and urge them on. It redounds to the prosperity of all.

I have learnt to appreciate, acknowledge, and praise, take into consideration, be respectful, be courteous, and treat people with dignity. Seeing the good in others far and above their faults closes the avenues to jealousy. I suppose having a good sense of worth, some self-esteem, self-respect, confidence, and the wiliness to improve oneself regardless of who or where you are learning from helps a lot.

I hope I can handle any situation that appeals to my basest instinct but reveals the higher moral purpose in me, that I exhibit from the heart exemplary virtues towards being a better person to everyone. We always can do better and by that get to tell better stories.

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