A monster within
William Shakespeare, the great English playwright, offers a magnificent definition of jealousy. Through the jealous character of Iago, Shakespeare illustrates the mortal bites of jealousy: “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” (Othello, Act 3, scene 3).
Iago was completely right. Jealousy feeds on the innocent, the kind-hearted, the peaceful, the meek, the generous, the forgiving, the humble.
Jealousy arrogantly obliterates the goodness that was shown to it and, instead of justly showing sincere gratitude for what it received, it ferociously turns its fury on those who courageously sought to heal it.
No wonder then that to the devastating and shameful way jealousy behaves, Othello simply murmured in total dismay: “O misery!” Hardly did he realise he was going to be jealousy’s most miserable victim. Not only did he kill the one he loved so fondly but he ended up killing himself. Jealously turns the lover into a ruthless killer.
St Paul ranks jealousy among “the works of the flesh” (Gal. 5, 20). He even says those who dwell on it and let it control their entire life “shall not inherit the Kingdom of God” (Gal. 5, 21).
Since jealousy essentially brings about disintegration it has no place in the heavenly bliss.
Jealousy has been the prime motivator for the unlawful exercise of autocratic power. Unfortunately, world history, including our own, is filled with futile bloodshed that originated from jealousy.
In his 1984 peace message, Blessed John Paul II wrote: “Over and above ideological systems properly so-called, the passions that disturb the human heart and incline it to war are also of many kinds.
“People can allow themselves to be carried away by a sense of racial supremacy and by hatred of others for this reason, or by jealousy, envy of the land and resources of others, or in a general way, by the desire for power, by pride, by a desire to extend their control over other peoples whom they despise.”
Jealousy instigates and augments strife and discord not just among nations but even among best friends. When jealousy starts cropping up, people begin nurturing useless suspicions on one another.
They start to view each other more as enemies than as genuine friends who are there to support and encourage each other.
Jealousy explodes in unbridled competition that knows no humanity, respect or understanding.
We all carry this green-eyed monster of jealousy. Deep within us we feel the need to succeed, sometimes even at the cost of trampling on others’ well-being. This is the unhappy heritage of original sin.
However, by God’s grace, jealousy can be tamed and subdued. The following tips may hopefully help:
Stop comparing yourself to other people and become more aware that you are a unique and special person in God’s eyes. Your task is to walk your journey with the talents He endowed you with.
Secondly, instead of worrying excessively about your concerns, focus on others’ needs first and try to address them before your own.
Thirdly, stop wanting what other people have if you are not ready to pay the price they paid to have it.
What is the use of envying someone because he or she has a posh car if you are not ready to work hard to earn enough money to buy it?
Focus on what is positive in your life and use the gifts God has given you for the benefit of others; gradually leave behind what is destructive and begin moving forward to greater things in your life.
Our soul craves for the day when we explore our hidden potential. Jealousy is a grave stumbling block constantly impeding us from being the person God intends us to be.
Serving others by wisely employing our God-given talents is the key to continually overpowering the green-eyed monster of jealousy that persistently assails us.
Fr Attard is a member of the Order of Franciscan Capuchins.