I'm an unassuming kind of person. Unlike some people, I have not really learned how to play the social game very well. This means navigating the social scene with ease as well as knowing intuitively how to surpass the fundamental issues that people may display in the interaction with others. Many people are good at it because they don't have a need to go deep in their relationships and consequently don't miss the feeling of a really profound connection. My parents were never very good at socializing and I myself have always wanted to be true to myself. I can't pretend not to see all the things that are off in terms of social interaction in the world. This goes for issues within my own circles as well as ones I observe elsewhere. Like everyone else, I have wanted to have friends in order to share my life with them, but many a times I've been taken aback by the realization that relationships have ended because of envy. I admit that though I have lots of flaws, being envious is not one of them. Note that certain feelings of resentment is a different kind of problem. Anyway, understanding where envious people are coming from is causing me some headaches.
In my culture (Finnish), it takes time to get to know people and build trust. It's not easy to approach people and so you may not get to know many. It can be very lonely here. The American way is different. Because of many similarities as well as differences we are intrigued by that society. In the American culture, people often come onto you with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm (it may not be the right term here but I'm mostly talking about the way women approach me here), and it's easier to make shallow acquaintances. These can obviously lead to deeper ones if you're lucky. It can be very beneficial to social anxiety (this I have experienced myself), and may seem like a covetable thing. However, the cold showers are more frequent too. I often open up and share elaborate details about myself only to suddenly be treated with callousness and some lame finishing line... The fault that I made was to share too much about myself without having a basis of trust. I get carried away by the welcoming gestures and words only to find myself hitting a brick wall as I'm rushing towards the person in question. I don't want to waste time and develop shallow relationships and so I don't necessarily wish to change my ways. It's a fact, however, that I am becoming more and more reluctant to go through this sort of process. I'm becoming more suspicious and guarded. One reason is the realization that envy is behind the failure of so many connections (both in my own country as well as elsewhere). I certainly don't think there is anything to envy, but I can imagine what other people think they see. So... what can I or anyone else do about it?
Some of the signs of envy in another person is that they try to sabotage your life or your self-esteem, or that they withdraw with a silent and arrogant, snotty and reticent allure. They may either attack you with sudden and very irrational outbursts, or play hard to get. They quickly end the relationship no matter how promising it seemed, or wish to continue being your friend while making sure it's on their terms. You will find that they are always the ones in control, or trying to be. They may even go as far as to create their own version of your name with an evident disregard of your wishes! Of course, this could be a sign of other issues as well, but envy is certainly a very common and potent ailment. When my mother said that it is something that affects 90% of all people I was shocked. I realized that she may be right. "It leaves you with only 10% to relate to", she concluded. I thought of my friends and was well aware that the reason they have stayed in my life is that they have never displayed any envy towards me. These are people of various cultures and with various inner conflicts but they are able to have a sense of integrity that doesn't cause feelings of envy towards others.
It's obvious that people inflicted with envy are hurting quite a bit. Fundamental issues of self-esteem make them compare themselves to others in a way that can either bring about feelings of superiority or inferiority in them. It's a competitive stance. In some cultures such as my own, people are aware of envy and talk quite openly about it. It's not uncommon to hear people joke about "the Finnish national illness, envy" in the media. In other cultures it's not "comme il faut" to admit to feeling envy. It seems that this denied feeling might cause more havoc than it would if bringing it into the open was more acceptable. I don't see any end to the harm that it can cause. As long as people are envious of someone else there will be conflicts and wars. In fact, as I am thinking of it more deeply, it actually threatens to throw me into the throws of depression. It's obvious that my dream about connecting with more people is impossible. It's also the root cause to my frustration with other people. I can't change who I am and make myself less prone to other people's envy. So... as I see it, the only other option is to accept this predicament.
When you walk a spiritual path you have to learn to accept yourself 100%. The other thing is to accept the flaws in others. This really is the very basis of spirituality and the key to liberation from the fetters of the mind. One thing is accepting other people's skin color or sexual orientation; going onto accepting other people's inner selves is really something else and quite demanding. The extent to which we sense a lack of connection with others as well as acknowledge the obstacles says a lot about the degree of oneness that we are missing. The point is to stop yearning for all that from other people. Sometimes when we realize that we can never have what we truly wish, our focus changes. There might be a space there to accept the way things are and the way others behave, and move into tolerance. Yes, complete tolerance. People may always resent others for their accomplishments, and so there is nothing else one can do but to take back the power they have over one's sense of self in relation to others and hope that they will self-correct when the time is right. You may not be doing anything wrong other than giving your relationships too much power over your life, so you need to be discerning about this. Somehow these people need to see that they are truly as valuable as everyone else, and there is not much anyone else can do to help them with that.
Artwork: "Screwed Up Connections", digital photograph by author, all rights reserved 2009