I CAN mark one thing well, in looking back at my whirling nightmare of
drinking, it was the only time I was ever completely jealous of total
strangers! It amazes me now to remember that I had ugly and envious
thoughts about innocent people I passed on the street--people who never
knew me and had never done me the slightest harm. I resented their good
fortune, their fine clothes, their poise, their normalcy. I wanted to see
them taken down a peg or two, or even down many pegs to where I was!
I am no longer jealous of strangers. Yet, this is not to say that I
have been purged of the terrible emotion. It is only to say that my
capacity for jealousy has become more subtle, often cloaking itself in
seemingly righteous feelings. It is now directed toward people whom I know
personally. What used to be blind jealousy, seething almost on the surface
at all times, has now become "conditional" jealousy, kept under lock and
key unless certain nerve-ends in my life are rubbed the wrong way. Then,
in almost an instant, the cold fury rises, as it always did.
Fortunately, it does not usually rise all the way. For I have done
battle with this demon Jealousy, and I charge that he is a great destroyer
of happiness and stability. It is impossible to be both jealous and happy;
the two conditions are what engineers call "mutually exclusive." I want to
be happy, I want to be sober and I want to progress. Therefore, I must
exclude the very beginnings of jealousy at all costs, for the pain of
rooting it out is nothing compared with the pain of being its victim.
Most of the jealousy I suffer from today is in a disguised form; I have
simply allowed it to appear in a new mask. It soon makes itself known,
however, for abruptly something good is missing from my life, and I feel
tense and bitter and unhappy. It is my old enemy again, and I throw him
I give AA's Fifth Step a great deal of the credit for my progress. The
Fifth Step is something of a mystery to me; I'm unable to understand why
it should be such an effective part of the program. It is, though, and it
got me off dead center on this problem. Unable to quell the vicious
feelings myself, I talked them over with certain other members, and
sometimes even brought them up at group meetings. There was marked
improvement almost every time, particularly on the occasions when it had
seemed especially difficult to mention the subject. If a person is able to
recognize that he is a victim of jealousy, then the Fifth Step--talking
the thing over with another human being--will certainly help.
I suspect, though, that most people who suffer from jealousy, are
afflicted with a disguised form of it. It has escaped detection, and
remains in the shadows like a beast of prey, appearing only now and then
to make sudden, lightning attacks when its victim is most vulnerable.
Jealousy in its meaner forms is too crude for most of us, but we would do
well to look for the subtle expressions of it.
Many of us
cannot help feeling jealous under the following circumstances:
somebody else gets something (a promotion, a possession)
which we have wanted for ourselves.
we are bested in a hotly competitive situation, and
our own abilities are shown to be second to another's.
we are rejected.
somebody else is praised to our own disadvantage.
In most cases, our jealousy is towards acquaintances and close
relatives. As I mentioned, it was only in the primitive world of constant
drunkenness that I could be jealous of strangers. One should not be
deluded just because he is indifferent to the successes of people he reads
about in the newspapers. Were these stories about people whom he knew
intimately, he might find himself smoldering with rage because fortune had
blessed such "undeserving people" while bypassing him. And it does no good
simply to hold the violence of your feelings in check, while outwardly
appearing to be glad for your friends' good luck. The damage is in the way
this evil thing poisons and strangles the human heart--and eventually
destroys fine personal relationships.
Aside from recommending the Fifth Step, I have no world-shaking news of
fast-fast-fast relief for the jealousy sufferer. I believe that any person
who is able to face it as a problem, and to search for it in himself, is
already on his way out of the woods. Still, here are a few things to keep
in mind about jealousy:
- It may stem partly from our own feelings of inadequacy. We
secretly doubt ourselves, and resent anything which calls attention to
our own lack of achievement.
- It indicates a lack of trust in God; an unwillingness to accept
the role God has assigned us for reasons known only to Himself.
- Jealousy is the wreckage of thwarted ambition. Too much ambition,
in the AA member, often means a loss of contact with the principles of
the program. Such a person loses even if he wins, and loses more
painfully when he loses.
- It has a lot of self-centeredness and lovelessness in it. After,
all, we must admit that we don't really love the people whom we envy. In
fact, we are at that point dangerously close to wishing them bad luck!
We are then thinking only of our own twisted desires.
One last thing to remember about jealousy
is that it is a universal human affliction. Even the
saints suffered from it; even Peter and Paul suffered
from it, despite their marvelous spiritual experiences.
So it is not a question of whether one is bothered by
it, it is simply a matter of degree! And don't forget
that there can also be jealousy between AA members trying
to do good work. As Henry Drummond said in his wonderful
little book called "The Greatest Thing in the World,"
"the most despicable of all the unworthy moods. . .assuredly
waits for us on the threshold of every work, unless
we are fortified with. . .grace of magnanimity."