Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Worst Passion?

Sorry for the late post. Not only has it been busy, but I have been recovering from delivering Writing the Icon of the Heart to the publisher (it has been enthusiastically accepted, thank God), among other events and revelations.

I don't write much about the agony of sin, but this past week has offered much to reflect on.

Everyone seems to have their besetting capital sin (mine is probably accedia). There also seem to be capital sins that are less real for each person, and because they don't play a large part in that person's own interior life, they tend to blindside when one is on the receiving end. In my case I am usually blindsided by jealousy.

I simply can't imagine anyone being jealous of me (this take on myself is not due to virtue!) and when someone is jealous of me—or envious, which is different—I simply find it incomprehensible. This is due in part, I think, to the criterion I hold very dear that any kind of ownership of another human being is utterly repulsive. I probably carry this to extremes: I want to create a space where people can feel free to be themselves in relationships, free to come and go; free to agree or disagree. If I introduce someone to a third party, and this new relationship blossoms, I rejoice. if I feel inadequate to help someone and introduce them to someone who can and, again, the relationship flourishes, then I flourish too. This doesn't mean I don't feel a pang when someone abandons me; of course I do. But I want the best for them and I know that I cannot know what that is.

As I have written over and over again in this blog and elsewhere, spiritual maturity is not about dependence; it is about an incoercible autonomy based on the free-fall of faith lived for the sake of the community. It is not a life cut, pasted and decoupaged from holy sayings of other people, or from the stereotypes held by one's so-called spiritual director. It is about taking the living Word as given and working out one's own salvation in fear and trembling in solitude and interior silence—and communities are only as healthy as the solitudes that make them up.

It could possibly be said that all the capital sins are contained in each capital sin, but jealousy seems to be one of the most violent. In a sense it is double murder and sometimes leads to murder, because it is about possession (in all the senses; it is demonic): it reduces the desired person to a cipher chained and imprisoned in the jealous person's imagination; and the jealous person reduces the one at whom the jealousy is aimed to a wished-for corpse. Jealousy will stop at nothing: projection, slander, mockery, deceit, abuse of all sorts; it will sacrifice the well-being of an entire community to eliminate the imagined enemy in order to satisfy its lust. Jealousy is petty and spiteful; it is an ever more inward turning spiral that devours the jealous person; jealousy is a dementor. Jealous people need tears and prayer, ours, since jealousy precludes these gifts in them.

Like anger, jealousy is a form of insanity and it drives people to do insane things dressed up in the best possible tea-party clothes. Contrary to appearances jealous people are drowning in green bile. When a person is possessed by both envy (of another person's gifts, for example) and jealousy (of another person's relationship with a person the jealous person wants to possess) it is a pathetic, pitiable sight, even as one stands in the middle of all the wreckage.

Jealousy is one passion I simply find incredible: I have no idea how to deal with it when it is aimed at me. I could use some help here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


There is resonance in me regarding being baffled around jealousy and its worst side-kick, envy. The thing with jealousy is that it destroys the spirit within the one who is jealous; the 'green bile'. I have witnessed it in families and can understand completely how it is one of the seven deadly sins. It has potential, sadly, to swallow up a person's sense of self and being in the world; further, it continues its insidiousness forever.

In the end, it comes down to Love, as do most things in life. Jealousy cannot love itself for its focus is upon the 'other' who seemingly possesses attributes they lack. So, love the afflicted and believe and pray that the Divine will heal them. In personal experience, it is the deepest wound necessitating God's holy salve.

Esther, solitary

2:23 pm, July 08, 2010  
Blogger fs said...

Maggie, thank you for this post. I can relate to just about everything you say here. I too find it very distressing to be the object of either jealousy or envy; to me, it feels like having war declared on me against my will and for reasons I don't comprehend. Like you, I've tried to analyze why it happens. I've reached the conclusion that it's a form of insanity, common though it may be -- especially among women. I've been victimized pretty badly in the past by envious people, going back to the step-mother and older brother, and you're right that nothing seems to mollify them. It's as if they will not be satisfied until they've somehow destroyed you. (No wonder it's so scary.)

In my efforts to better understand the mechanisms to this, I bought a book on the subject, Cinderella and Her Sisters: The Envied and the Envying, written by Jungian analysts Ann and Barry Ulanov. The Ulanovs (he is deceased now) have a Christian orientation and devote part two of the book to a theological exploration of envy, so I think you would find their approach reasonably comfortable. However, unless one is versed in Jungian analysis -- or very intuitive along those lines -- the book is a little difficult to fully grasp on one reading, but I have found that even a partial grasp is helpful.

What I particularly like about it is that it delves into the distress -- indeed, helplessness -- one feels on being the unwilling object of envy and how efforts to elude it can actually make it worse.

You might browse its table of contents and back cover at using the "Look Inside" feature. Here is the Amazon link: Cinderella and Her Sisters: The Envied and the Envying

On pages 172-173, in the "Postscript" section at the back, it describes a situation that is true of me and may be somewhat true as well for you: that of a person who learned in their early life to provide their own emotional support (a rich inner life) which has the unfortunate effect of eliciting envy in other people, while what the person actually desperately wants and needs from these others is a welcoming response.

6:23 am, July 12, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maggie you're genius.

7:07 pm, October 23, 2010  

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