A post more introspective than most of my writing, since I’m generally a very private person. Feel free to skip it if it bores you. It’s mostly for me, and it will be long.
In the ancient Greek tragedies and in Shakespeare there is the concept of hamartia, or the fatal flaw (there’s some debate over the specific meaning of hamartia, by the way, but whatever). I like the idea. As a writer I realize that understanding this is a good way to get to the heart of a character’s motivation and personality. And consequently, I’ve always tried to discover mine.
Previously I would have said my fatal flaw was pride – hubris. It is the deadliest and most common. But now, I’ve had a revelation. I don’t really think that’s right. My fatal flaw is jealousy.
This was a really difficult thing for me to discover and accept, because for years I’ve tried to hide it, or deny it. I never thought of myself as a jealous person, but looking back on it I was incredibly envious. I thought of myself as the oddball, the geek, the guy who might be on the fringe but would never fit in. I had friends, but was lonely. I had hobbies and interests, but I never truly excelled, unless what I excelled at was ignored or boring to others.
Keep in mind, this is what was in my head at the time, and in retrospect if only reflects reality to a limited extent. I thought of myself as more wise and levelheaded than most of my peers, but I realize now that in my own way I was just as self-absorbed as the rest of them. A sobering thought!
But anyway: All of my frustrations were really channeled in one specific person. We’ll call him Ken. He and I became very good friends. But something happened to me during my friendship with Ken. I became insanely jealous of him.
In my head – and again, this is from me as a young teen, it doesn’t necessarily reflect reality – Ken was the ideal me. He was the kindest person you’ve ever wanted to meet, empathetic to other people’s problems and extremely friendly. He had an active faith life that he lived through charitable works and faithful Sunday observance. He was an Eagle Scout. We both did the school play, but he got lead roles. He could sing. I could not. He was a better actor. He was taller and better looking. He had success with girls I couldn’t even fathom. His family was loving and close-knit.
And, most importantly, he had a lot of friends. Now, in the past I had disdained popular kids as shallow, often nasty people who hung out with other shallow, nasty people. I couldn’t accept that anymore, because Ken was friends with people I thought were fine people. When we both had the same friends (which was often, as we hung out in the same “group”), they would clearly prefer him (at least in my mind – with some friends, in retrospect, I doubt this was true). He was me – he did the things wanted to do but better, he lived the life I wanted to live, and he even had a family I was jealous of.
Now, I adored my family, and we were very close. But there was a lot of fighting going on in my family (totally verbal, of course). Screaming and yelling at each other happened often. It got overwhelming sometimes. I sensed none of that with Ken’s family.
I will again reiterate: I have no idea what his private life was like. None. Zilch. For all I knew they could fight like crazy when nobody else was around. But at the time this didn’t matter to me.
The worst part? You couldn’t dislike him. It was impossible. I know of only one other person like that, who I probably would have been jealous of too if I thought his life even remotely possible (he most have gotten the equivalent of ten free rides to college via scholarships. I’m not kidding). He was my friend, my good friend in fact. My great friend. I trusted him, and he trusted me. I was invited to his house to meet up all the time. It’s not as if I was excluded. But this was – repeat after me – how I saw things at the time. Reality wasn’t relevant.
I refused to admit this to anybody, including myself, until earlier this year, to my closest friend, also a friend of Ken’s (suffice to say a lot of conversation led up to it). To this day he is the only person who knows I felt that way. And I see now how it led to so many of my other faults. My supposed arrogance comes from the fact that if I think I think I’m actually right, I want people to know, to recognize me. My temper (I’m slow to anger in public and have a short fuse with my family) comes from my frustration with always being (in my mind) second best.
The funny thing? By the standards of 99% of the world, I have lived, not a good, but a great life. This is absolutely true. I do not deny it. And I was never depressed. I was just envious. I was slowly becoming one of Lewis’s damned souls from “The Great Divorce”, unable to enter Deep Heaven because he will not let go of his sin. I was becoming no more than my jealousy, which consumed me.
This is all my fault. Entirely, completely my fault. It was self-centered, and vain, and foolish, and spiteful. Admitting it, acknowledging my hamartia, is hopefully the first step to breaking out of the habit of sin. I got into the SJW habit of seeing everything that went on around me as another sign that other people somehow had it better off, that they would never understand.
What an asshole I was! The truth is that my jealousy was entirely under my control. I failed to appreciate the life I had and instead focused on the dream of a silly “ideal” life. It is the dream of Willy Loman, and it killed him.
Enough is enough. From now on, will not feel sorry for myself. I will not be jealous of the success of others. This won’t be easy. But the way to Heaven is through a narrow gate. And with Christ, all things are possible.
I should meet up again with Ken sometime. We haven’t talked in awhile.