Jealousy, a major obstacle on the road to peace

The first murder in human history was caused by jealousy. Cain killed his brother. The word “sin” appears here for the first time in the Bible! This is significant! “Original sin” is not the sin of Adam and Eve. The first sin was between human beings. The first sin was to allow violence born of jealousy and a refusal to accept differences to thrive.

The villain in a comic book I read as a child kept grumbling: “I want to be a vizier instead of a vizier!” And imagining a whole series of methods to achieve it. On a less dramatic note, a confrere said: “I had to wait 27 years before being appointed parish priest, whereas he…” Yes, so what? Yes, but so what? Why is he called to study, and I’m not? All too often, our prolific imagination leads us down the wrong path. We don’t always have the correct elements to judge decisions by those in charge or God! 

Cain and Abel are two brothers, though very different. When the time came to offer God the first fruits of their labours, the first of their produce, a tragedy occurred: God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected that of Cain. God did not reject Cain, only the offering he made. Cain experienced inequality and reacted strongly: his jealousy gave rise to anger.

God tells Cain to pull himself together. But Cain is jealous of Abel without trying to understand; he does not ask God to explain his choice but sees that his brother has received something he does not have. And this is when jealousy is born: desiring what the other has – possessions, recognition, success, talents – feeling sorry for them, and harbouring envy and even hatred towards them, a hatred that can lead to violence. According to the author of Genesis, this violence stems from the fact that man cannot tolerate difference, which he sees as inequality and injustice, for which God himself is responsible.

In one of his Teachings in 2017, the Pope emphasised that the enmities between us all begin with something tiny, but then they grow, and we see life only from this perspective. So much so that our lives revolve around it, destroying the bond of brotherhood. What happened to Cain can happen to all of us,” he says. That’s why the process must be stopped immediately. “Many rifts begin this way even in our presbyteries,” he continues, “in our episcopal conferences”. And in our Society?

The source of jealousy

The jealous person experiences all forms of sharing as unfair and, above all, as immensely frustrating. They desire nothing but everything, especially what has been given to others. They have no particular desire to receive but to possess. He does not believe in what he has received because the other is always an obstacle to his joy.

They refuse to accept the life given to them. They want what is given to the other. Since they are unaware of this, they see themselves as “rejected”. He is not aware that he is refusing life. He justifies his refusal by rejecting the other person and himself. It’s an “all or nothing” question for the jealous person. If the other person is alive, then I am excluded from life. It’s either him or me.

A culture of peace requires a good understanding of Jealousy

Our human relationships are marked by jealousy. We are all affected by this feeling, though at different levels. And the first thing to do if we want to deal with it more effectively is to be aware of it. We can do nothing about the jealousy born in our hearts, this “mimetic desire” (the desire to be like the other person, in a way denying our differences), which unfortunately comes to us despite us. However, we can always “lift our heads” like God told Cain to do; in other words, we can take a step back from what we possess and what others possess, whether in terms of possessions, qualities, talents, or history.

Allow me to share a personal experience with you. During a session on jealousy at Le Chatelard, I recognised a deadly jealousy in me that made me reconsider certain attitudes from my past. I understood the origin of certain sadness, influenced by a strong imagination. Little by little, I recognised the point where the evil tended to get the better of me: “Careful, Georges, you’re stepping out of reality. You’re imagining things, and you’re getting jealous! To break away from this, I voluntarily tried to favour the person I was jealous of: “Vade retro, Satanas!

The world forces us to compare and, very often, trapped by a destructive imagination, to move away from reality. I need to return to the reality of the humanity of the other person I was jealous of. He’s a man with gifts but also with weaknesses. I am also called upon to discover my riches and what makes me come alive so that the other person does not stop me from living.

Many conflicts between states, brothers or confreres arise from an unmanaged jealousy fuelled by our destructive imagination. To escape this impasse, we must leave behind the imaginary relationship of “him or me” and integrate “him and me”. The way out of jealousy is alterity. It’s “him and me”. You have the right to be happy. I have the right to be happy in the positive appreciation of our differences.

By: Georges Jacques, M.Afr.