There are few areas in life where people experience the pressure to be ‘successful’ and ‘make progress’ more than in the areas of relationships and careers. There seems to exist an unwritten rule that you need to be at point X by the age of Y in both of these areas. I actually don’t think there is anything wrong with having a chronological timeline…because setting these benchmarks does keep us from just coasting through life when, with some effort, we can actually get things done. But what happens when everyone seems to be making ‘progress’ but you? When your pace of ‘progress’ is slower than that of your peers?
Often when it’s those who are not very close to us moving up and making social strides, our reaction from afar isn’t really worth noting. We are usually warm and congratulatory by default, genuinely happy for them and all that jazz. When it’s those who are closely associated with us however, (especially those with whom we compare ourselves), the resulting feelings can sometimes be different altogether. Panic, envy, jealousy, or even anger and bitterness towards life and/or the said friend/s.
Take for instance if you’re in your late twenties or even 30+ and are single, it’s not uncommon to find that most of your friends are married and are now on their second or third child. And maybe you’re still struggling to even get a date.
Perhaps running into your high school/college buddies has become something of a painful exercise. When you meet them at the mall wearing custom-made designer suits, and they eagerly hand you their business card. And in the meantime, you either don’t have a job, or your current ‘job’ doesn’t entitle you to even having a business card. It certainly can make for an awkward exchange. Likely not very heart-warming.
How do you respond to feeling like you’re running behind everyone else? Like you’ve been left behind….
I recently ran into a friend I haven’t seen in quite a long time… so you can imagine that there was lots to talk about. We spoke of ‘the good old days’ and also what we were doing right now. The conversation inevitably drifted to asking about mutual friends we’d lost touch with, particularly one I knew was really close friends with her. The sudden drop in her formerly merry demeanor should have been enough notice of where the conversation was headed. “She’s working at such and such now, though I don’t know if she even got that job on merit.” The comment kinda threw me off a bit but then I said, “I remember her being quite bright and ambitious. I’m sure she worked hard.” ‘Old friend’ rebounded by saying, “No one gets promoted just like that…I’m also working hard, but I’m still toiling at the bottom of the food chain…”
I knew right then that Houston had a problem.
No one ever wants to admit that they are jealous of their friends (and their success) because in our minds ‘Jealousy ‘ is such a dirty word…and we are above such feelings. We cannot ‘stoop so low.’ We are not ‘Haters.’ But if you are ‘lagging behind’ in some area, (in comparison with your peers) and are struggling with being genuinely happy for them for one reason or the other…you may not know or admit it, but chances are that you’re ‘going green.’ Or maybe you’re the one who has scored some successes recently and are now trying to make sense of your friends’ sudden change in behavior and attitude towards you. And because you always want to believe the best of everyone, especially your friends, you didn’t want your mind to even go there… but that nagging feeling still remained.
In case you’re in either of those situations and are wondering…..Here’s some of what ‘going green’ with jealousy typically looks like in our day-to-day relationships:
No support or enthusiasm: When you excitedly tell your friend about your desire to change your career path or start a new business, are they supportive and excited for you, and the person you are becoming? Or are they quick to rain on your parade, reminding you of everything you supposedly aren’t? ‘Do you even have those qualifications?’ ‘Can you really cook at that level?’ ‘He tends to like thinner girls’ ‘That business requires a lot of capital.’ etc. While there’s always the possibility that any of these statements are true, you will always feel the love of a real friend when they are trying to stop you from doing something dumb in how they say what they say. Otherwise, a true friend will always support and enthusiastically cheer your efforts to realize your dreams and full potential. Whatever the area of life that may be. If they rarely or never show support for any of your endeavors…then there’s a problem.
Putting you down: This is one of those tell-tale signs of jealousy that pierces straight to the heart. When your ‘friend’ always seeks to explain away your achievements and give the credit to someone/something else. No matter what you do/achieve, they can never acknowledge that you may actually have earned or even deserved any of the ‘successes’ you’re experiencing in your life. The conversation I had with my ‘long-lost friend’ is one such case in point. Someone gets promoted at work; they get accused of boot-licking. They get a new job altogether in a great company, it’s because they know someone there. You start dating someone while they remain single, and guaranteed they will find fault with the person or the relationship. ‘It’s because of the money or they are after something, etc. No one is more deserving of God’s blessings than others. He shows favor to whom He wills. A genuine friend will celebrate those times of blessing with you, and will acknowledge and encourage whatever steps on your part are producing those good outcomes, even while they wait for their own season to arrive.
The Disappearing act: This one is often characterized by your ‘friend’ finding ways to spend less and less time with you as your life begins to ‘take shape’ or progress. Granted we live in a very busy world but people still find ways to connect and keep in touch with each other. If the only change however, has been that you now have what they don’t, then your success may have become difficult for them to take. Because seeing you constantly reminds them of where they are in life, what they don’t have and their own unhappiness. And rather than process (and deal) with those feelings, they’d rather stay away (from you). They’ll find a reason to miss every event, and slowly but surely slip out of your life. In extreme cases, you may even hear stories possibly started by them of how ‘you’ve changed and are now proud and all puffed up and such.’ A friend who is not jealous will want to celebrate with you and share in your big moments. While a jealous one will always make sure to somehow not be caught in the shadow when the spotlight is on you.
Down-graders: When you share your good news with these folks, not only will they take it flatly and not act excited for you, but they will very likely rush to put the whole thing ‘into perspective.’ Saying things like, ‘There weren’t too many other credible candidates anyway, so it was easy for you to sail through the interview.’ Or ‘They weren’t really looking for professionals so anyone really would have done that job.’ These people will be quick to downgrade and diminish your success, and probably throw in one or two of your weaknesses and failures, for good measure. Compliments don’t easily roll off their tongue, and after they’re done explaining why the good thing that happened to you was because of an oversight on the part of whoever was responsible (including God), they will throw in, usually at the end, a ‘but anyway….congratulations.’ These are people who usually have a high estimation of themselves, and in their minds – are higher/better than you. And so they just can’t fathom that you could even slightly be better than them in one area or the other. So they quickly attribute your success to a failure on someone else’s part. At the root of this is pride, and unless they are open to help, these are really not the kind of friends you want to have in your life anyway.
No-reason haters: Sometimes people (and even ‘friends’) are just jealous of you for no other reason than the fact that you are You. It may not be because of anything significant you’ve done or achieved, but maybe because you stand out in some light for one reason or the other. It may be your personality and how everyone just seems to gravitate towards you, maybe you have a wicked sense of humor that leaves everyone in stitches laughing, or you tend to be the first person that gets called when folks are in trouble. By no fault of yours, other people may be uncomfortable with you and how brightly your light shines, because they are not that person. Sometimes these folks are your ‘friends’ and may not overtly or directly ‘hate’ on you, but may always ask you to tone down your……. (fill in the blank) a bit, and be less………. (fill in the blank) primarily so they can feel comfortable, or accommodated. These folks are insecure, and they fear they won’t have enough of the limelight, or will forever remain insignificant or unnoticed. Again, a real friend will constructively guide and correct when you’re on the path to error, but they will never ask you to be less of who you are or even feel the need to compete with/against you. They accept and love the real you and what you bring to the table, just by you being yourself.
Do you know of any other signs of Jealousy?
I would love to hear from you on what your experiences have been like dealing with this green animal. Or maybe you’ve been struggling with negative feelings towards your friends because you feel like you’ve been ‘left behind’? Have you lost friends as you’ve slowly made ‘upward progress’ in life because you don’t seem to be on the same page with them any more? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments if you’ve been on either side of the fence, and stay tuned for part 2 of this topic where I talk about how to stop being a ‘Hater’ if you’re one, as well as practical ways to deal with the reality of jealousy in friendship.