“It is in the character of very few men to honor without envy a friend who has prospered.” Aeschylus

I often have insomnia and last night when awakened by the heavy rain and nocturnal prowling of the cat, I started thinking about the hurtful comments I received from a particular individual yesterday. They were very angry comments and deteriorated into accusations of fraud. She didn’t believe in the blog, she said, it had to be a scam to get people’s money because I didn’t “sound like someone who was down and out.” Sometimes it takes a little distance from a situation to perceive the motivations behind it.  After mulling it over, here is my take on it.

There are human tendencies, which if not universal or inherent, are at least very common.  Among these are the ability to perceive rank and unfairness. From a very early age we compare our lot to the lot of others around us and even the most kindhearted and compassionate (barring the Dalai Lama and Mother Theresa) feel better when we come out on top. It doesn’t matter if we are in actual competition or not.  If a colleague in a different department gets a raise we congratulate him while feeling diminished ourselves. If our neighbor is struggling we can feel sympathy even while we feel more successful and secure in comparison.  You might say that’s a social service of this blog – most people reading it will be rewarded with the feeling that no matter the issues they struggle with at least they aren’t an unemployed/homeless single parent!  You can see that in the comments – several of those who have responded have said they feel blessed (with their lives) after reading about ours. 

But imagine if you were also struggling with job or housing issues and you read this blog.  Your initial feelings of empathy might, depending on your personality and level of emotional maturity, be completely derailed when you discovered that other people were offering us sympathy or even worse, monetary assistance. That might feel like a slap in the face, unfair!  And perceived unfairness can give rise to envy and envy to anger.  I suspect this is what happened.  Because I wasn’t (despite being accused by the same person of being a whiner) crying and moaning about our “poor life” (and to her mind surely I would if this were real) and because people were helping us out for no reason that she could fathom, and no one (I’m guessing) was helping her – her reaction was to strike out.  I’m sorry she felt that way and hope most of you feel blessed in comparison!

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