Saturday, May 03, 2008

We Need to Retire this Whole "Jealousy" Theory

Among afterschool programs, very special episodes of sitcoms, and the comments sections of popular mommy blogs, a theory is advanced that makes me wince so hard my husband thinks that I'm having a labor flashback:

"They are just being mean to you because they are jealous."

NO. No. Many times no. People can just be mean, plain and simple. I know you don't need evidence, but here's a little slice of my adolescence...

There was this kid, Joey, on my bus in middle school and high school. He was mentally challenged, and he didn't take any crap from anyone. So he'd volley insults with the kids that sat at the back of the bus. This would stoke their desire to pick on him even more, and it would continue until the bus driver or one of us intervened on his behalf. Those kids weren't picking on him because they were jealous of him. They were picking on him because they were bullies.

Here's the real deal: it is human nature to want to be valued. In the absence of feeling valued, people will substitute feeling better than someone else. And some jerks decide that by highlighting someone else's flaws, it will be clear to their audience that they are better than their victims. See? Jerks.

Also? Sometimes people don't agree with your beliefs, your humor, the way you conduct yourself, the way you raise your child. And they are uncouth enough to voice it, or type it, sometimes with swearing. That's the unfortunate side of living in a society instead of going all Howard Hughes and spinning a cocoon around ourseles. The thing is, people are allowed to have differences of opinion, and while it would be nice if they expressed their exuberant disagreement in nicer ways, well, sometimes that doesn't happen.

Maybe knowing the motivations of someone else's ire is the spoonful of sugar that makes the insults, the negative opinions, easier to swallow. But calling it jealousy does us all a disservice, don't you think? Because when we do that, we (a) weave this fantasy that everyone would be nice if they didn't have unfulfilled desires, and (b) imply that bullying is not a result of another person's flawed personality so much as it is the fringe benefit of our own qualities. In other words, we must be better than them for them to pick on us out of jealousy.

So, yeah, anyway, before you get the wrong idea: I haven't been the target hateful comments or anything like that. I've just seen this "they're jealous of you" rationale popping up in loads of places, like Wack-a-Mole. And since I have a kid that will be joining the Pre-K fray, I know that we are teetering on the brink of bullies and nastiness. I'm just trying to get my philosophy in order before it creeps up on us. Expect the best, plan for the worst, right?

But, if you hear me telling the Boy that other kids are picking on him because they are jealous of him, you have my full permission to give me a swirly.

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