Envy or Jealousy
SUNDAY MORNING IN the park, just before eight, soccer, picnicking, Frisbee throwing, and dog walking have yet to begin. On the west border of the park is the tree where Lucia loves to sit and read, observe, and counsel — counseling is her favorite activity. Her altruistic advice, for the most part, is spot on, and her reputation has spread. She came early today. Some bit of intuition made her think, with great anticipation, that someone would seek her help early on.
A few individuals she knew strolled by, and she greeted them as they passed, but none stopped for counseling. She felt her heart rate increase as her frustration grew. A city bus stopped nearby. Three passengers got off, a woman and two men. One of the men, tall and blond-haired, spotted her and sprinted toward her. Lucia breathed a long sigh of relief. Her purpose returned.
He arrived breathless from his run. “Professor, I am so glad to find you here. Alice told me that this is your favorite spot on Sunday mornings, and I see that she was right.”
The man bent over and rested his arms on his knees, catching his breath.
“Robert. What’s the matter?” Lucia asked. “You didn’t have to run. I’m not going anywhere.”
He plopped next to her on the bench. “Jessica’s gone. I’ve lost her. She’s taken up with a guy who is so bad for her.” He hid his face in his hands, stifling tears. Lucia patted his back gently, motherly. “We dated more than three years, and we were supposed to get married in the fall.” Robert sniffed. “I am going to get her back from that man.”
Gently, Lucia asked, “Have you spoken with her?”
He gritted his teeth. “No, but I’ll get her back because she’s mine.” “Robert!” Lucia said firmly. “Jessica is her own person despite being your object of desire. You don’t own her.” Robert relented. “Yeah, I know,” he said.
“I think you are confused between jealousy and envy. You may be very upset because she left you, and you are also very angry because she is already with someone else. Am I right?” Looking away from her, Robert nodded curtly. “All right,” she continued, “allow me to show you, philosophically speaking, what is happening to you. Thomas Hobbes explained quite clearly the origin of envy, saying that ’when there is only one thing, but two people want to have it, that is the birth of envy and therefore of the enemy.’”
Robert leaned forward in thought. Lucia thought he still listened. She went on. “There was a young woman who lived in a second-floor apartment. From her window, she could see her boyfriend walking toward her for almost the length of the block. One of those days while she watched her boyfriend approach, she saw him give a hug to a strange woman who also hugged him back with a great deal of affection. They hugged not once, but hugged again. The strange woman was blonde, slender, pretty, and tall. They chatted for a while showing a great deal of joy. Then, from a plastic bag, he gave her a package that resembled a box of chocolates, and not only did she smile, but she even hugged and kissed it. They embraced one more time and said good-bye. The two of them walked away in opposite directions, turning to each other once more to wave another good-bye.”
Robert shifted. Satisfied she had his full attention, Lucia continued her story. “Meanwhile, the girlfriend in the second-floor window got angrier and angrier. But when her boyfriend arrived, she pretended to be happy to see him and ready to spend quality time with her fiancé. However, after that love scene, she couldn’t pretend to be as happy as always. So she complained of a headache and told him that she would prefer to be alone.
“During the next visit, she told him that she was very busy. Two days later, he brought her a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Still, she did not forget that love scene that she had seen with her own two eyes. She canceled again. He wondered what the matter was with her and why she cancelled every date. He decided to ask her if anything was wrong. She responded in a fine fury. ‘You ask me if I am fine? How is it possible you can be such a hypocrite and cynic and continue behaving as if nothing happened?’
“Completely nonplussed, the boyfriend asked, ‘Wait a minute, what are you talking about? I don’t understand what you’re saying! What do you mean by hypocrite and cynic?’
“So she challenged him, ‘Are you going to tell me you forgot that great big hug and kiss that you gave to that blond girl in the middle of the street?’
“The boyfriend remained at sea. ‘I did what? What are you talking about?’ he asked.
“The girlfriend had to hold her emotions tightly to keep from losing it. ‘Oh my god, don’t you remember anything? I saw both of you from my window.’ She described the day, the hour, the place, and even the shirt that he was wearing. Finally he remembered the encounter.
“‘Her name is Linda,’ he told her. ‘She found me on Facebook. We went to high school together ten years ago, and she invited me to the class reunion. Our favorite teacher is retiring. I couldn’t go to the reunion, and I asked if she would give the teacher a book for me.’
“The girlfriend became so embarrassed. She asked, ‘The package that you gave her wasn’t a box of chocolates? From a distance, I thought it looked like chocolates. And she hugged you.’
“The boyfriend said, ‘We hadn’t seen each other in ten years. We hugged. As friends. And that was that.’ So the girlfriend sniffed back a tear, and they pledged their love to each other because they were truly in love, and they both knew that jealousy nearly destroyed what they held so dear.”
Robert smiled wanly. Lucia knew he heard the message beneath her story. “Remember,” Lucia added, jealousy is the inability to posses the other’s freedom. Lucia took Robert’s hand and held it gently. “Robert,” she said with obvious caring, “in your case, your girlfriend left you, and as Plato said, ‘appearances are the worst enemy.’ The young lady of my story used her imagination beyond limits. She had to learn that our senses are very capable of deceiving and that it is necessary ‘to know how to see,’ meaning to see with the eyes of the intellect.
“When in doubt, it is important to ask. Asking questions is never wrong. But when we allow our insecure thoughts to take over, we may take everything we see with uncritical eyes as the whole of reality. “Oh jealousy, Shakespeare’s green-eyed monster.” Lucia gripped Robert’s hand tightly, lovingly. “In your case, dear Robert, that ex-girlfriend has done you a favor leaving you before she married you and had children.”
Finally, Robert looked directly at her. “Do you really think so, Professor?”
“Yes!” Lucia assured emphatically. “Now you need to cross the line of doubt and let her go. Very soon, you will recognize that she did not love you. Without true love, what would be the purpose of sharing your existence with someone that does not love you?
Another person, a sad, young woman approached and hesitated nearby. Another person needing my counsel, Lucia thought. She released Robert’s hand, saying, “Robert, take care of yourself. Pay attention to your graduate work, visit your old friends, spend quality time with your parents and your family, and come and join us next Saturday at Kat’s Café.”
“Excellent suggestions, Professor.” Robert rose and looked across the park. Lucia’s counsel refreshed and renewed him, and his former girlfriend was rapidly becoming a memory. Two pretty girls unrolled towels on the broad lawn, preparing to sun themselves. Robert, his attention riveted, said, “Thank you, Professor. Can I bring a date?”