O beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on
This line said by Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello is just one of the hundreds of metaphors that Shakespearean works that entered the English language. Thanks to cartoons and various media representations, I have always seen jealousy as a literal monster that influences human beings to look maliciously at others lusting for what others have.
Having been raised in a Christian family, this is often merged with what Apostle John said in one of his letters cautioning Jesus’ followers that the lusting of the flesh, the lusting of the eyes, and being proud of one’s life is not godly but instead is of this world. Thus, even though I may have felt even a tinge of jealousy towards others, I must resist the feeling and live as if I have no jealous bone in my body.
In one session, my psychiatrist asked me about what my goal in life is. I simply said that I wanted to get rich and be of no want. I aspire to have more than enough not for my own personal comforts but to provide for my wife, family, community, and country. It was the first time in my life that I had blurted that kind of confession that seemed opposite to what I was accustomed to saying.
Perhaps it was my trust with the doctor in front of me or my growing honesty as I came to be in terms of my feelings. Maybe it was also influenced by the growing need to have money in the pandemic as businesses fail and opportunities dwindle.
But a thing that would have been sure is that my parents would have been shocked about what I said. Brothers and sisters in Christ may have looked down on me immediately. My wife was even shocked by my sheer honesty. But this desire to get rich was not developed overnight. It was through the green-eyed monster’s doing which I clearly had given power over my life.
It is time to wrestle with it once and for all.
When others succeed
I remembered the moment I decided to shift from my college course as a marketing major into taking biology. I was so positive and open to the possibilities that my new course will give me. I was blessed to have passed the University of the Philippines College Admissions Test (UPCAT), which allowed me to pursue my dreams in our country’s state university on its Visayas campus.
Those close to me would hear me know that I took marketing because I wanted to work in a bank, but secretly, I wanted to be rich. But I soon lost interest and became more inclined to the caring part of medicine. Later on, I would leave UPV’s Miag-ao campus, telling others that my health was the main reason for leaving, but in part, it was due to various reasons too complicated to share. I then transferred to my current university, West Visayas State University, but not without problems, which I will share in another post.
But as I started my academic term, I saw a schoolmate from high school sharing how he is nearly finished renovating their house after working as a seafarer for one year thanks to their ladderized program in college. Did I shift into the wrong course? If I had chosen to become a seafarer, too, would I have been successful as he was at a very early stage?
Thankfully I graduated with my bachelor’s degree and was subsequently accepted into medical school. I found myself not knowing many things, even lessons that we were expected to know back in college. I saw classmates acing their exams while I was the silent one with the lowest scores, eventually leading me to flunk. Fast forward to 2019, when my former classmates graduated from medical school. I wanted to be happy for them, but I was fighting back my feelings against them.
I would say that I did my best to compose myself and appear okay with everything that happened. But was I jealous? Yes, indeed, I was.
When I continuously fail
Aside from being taught to avoid jealousy in danger of sinning against one of the Ten Commandments, I was also trained to be mediocre, albeit indirectly, as earning praise would be contrary to being godly. However, I was not devoid of praise and attention. As a pastor’s kid, all members of our local church would treat me like I was special as if I am a gift from God Himself. But I did not indulge in those.
Unfortunately, this also meant that I tended to avoid using my skills and capabilities in contests or other activities even when I desired them. Yes, I did join contests when my mentors would note my talents, but I was not obsessed with winning or being on top. I never wanted to be the center of any attention. Perhaps this also made me quite apathetic about getting super high marks in school.
I did have my share of laudation from elementary. Still, while studying under a scholarship scheme in high school, I started to maintain an attitude of being content with what I could get, even taking examinations without studying, bringing this attitude to medical school. It was a habit that was very hard to shake off, and it has been a personal bane.
The first time that I cried because of my academic performance was when a high school teacher threatened to fail us if we could not recite a certain poem. Then, I was taken aback when some people suggested that I was not able to become a part of the honor roll due to some circumstances beyond my performance.
But upon entering college, I was so full of myself. I became so proud, albeit just inside my head, that I was able to enter the University of the Philippines. I was not afraid to fail as iskolars ng bayan graduated even with 5.0 grades. After just one semester, I failed one major subject and another minor one. It continued for the second semester, and I had to rest to compose myself to be ready for academics once more.
When I finally decided on my career path, I saw classmates from UP graduating, posing with their sablays, the green-eyed monster massaging my shoulders as I look with despair. The same thing happened in medical school. As I repeatedly failed subjects left and right, I came to face the reality of my supposed batchmates beaming with their white coats.
Add to that peers that have established families with steady income living lives of luxury as I look on with jealousy. It was as if I would never get lost in this cycle of being heartbroken and watching others claim their share of glory.
When I seek the answers
Once I had an inkling in my mind: Is there such thing as ‘good’ jealousy? Like white lies, even though not saying truthfully, still aims to fulfill something good? But in church, we were even told that white lies themselves are not necessarily good. Being untruthful is still being against the truth, and so is instilled to me as still possibly inherently evil.
So how about jealousy? I have read somewhere that jealousy could be something that motivates you. This is based on the idea that one can be inspired to work harder since one realizes what one lack.
Before, I had this attitude, too, and it crippled me down to the core. I was leading worship at church, yet I continually feel that I was sinning. I felt that my efforts were worthless since I devoted them to other people, especially with my idea of overcoming them. I succumbed to my depression and made it worse for the people around me and me.
Jealousy inculcates insecurity, and it sucks out peace of mind. It motivates you to work hard but forget yourself along the way, even depleting your faith, your confidence, and your self-control. There was no other way but to kill the green-eyed monster.
I am not belittling jealousy or insecurity in romantic relationships but coveting what others have achieved in life is quite a rocky road to walk on. In Shakespeare’s Othello, Iago was able to draw out the jealousy of the main character, and as he thought his wife Desdemona was unfaithful to him, he kills her.
Killing an unfaithful person would have justified the furious feelings Othello had for her wife, but in the end, he also killed himself. This tragedy shows that jealousy would still kill you in the end, whether literally or figuratively. It surely tried to kill me.
Unfortunately, no amount of prayer, counseling, or motivation activities made me better until I was able to identify it with myself. And how did I manage to do it? I sought help, together with my various problems, where I was diagnosed with clinical depression and went on to several sessions with my doctor.
Acknowledging one’s problem and seeking the solution was the best thing that happened in my life. After undergoing the first steps of treatment, aside from correcting some things that depression has made me think, I could genuinely become happy for others. My eyes were opened to the realities of life and how the struggles of others have made it possible for them to succeed.
For those who have been privileged, it is not for me to covet what they have because I also have something I call mine. I have friends, my future career, and my wife. I have a home to live in, food to eat, and others. While not undermining the suffering of others, I still am provided with everything I need.
So wrestling the monster is not enough. Killing it would be quite better. Have you experienced its fangs? How were you able to overcome them?