How can one work on themselves to not be jealous of another’s success?
When people are envious it is a good thing. You shouldn’t try to crush the feelings of envy because Hakadosh Baruch Hu gave us this middah in order to encourage us to excel. We should try to be just as good as others and just as successful.
However there are certain things that are beyond our abilities. Let’s say money-success or fame-success. And these are things that are not necessary for us to try because there is no mitzvah to acquire a lot of money or to become famous; so then a person should consider, what is he envying? He’s envying other people’s troubles.
Because fame and money are encumbrances. The more fame and money a man has the more unfortunate he is. Because if a man is being rewarded in this world in the form of glory or in the form of property, that man should know he is being paid off for his good deeds and nothing is going to remain for him in the Afterlife. It’s a great sadness when people lose their reward by being paid out in the small coin of this world. And therefore it’s silly to envy these things.
In addition, let’s imagine a certain actress. I won’t honor her by saying her name. Her name was in the lights of all theaters across the nation. She was in the mouths of all the foolish people who admired such people. Suddenly one day headlines appeared so and so is dead. She committed suicide. Now it’s unthinkable that such a successful person should take her life. You must say there was something wrong there.
Now, she would never have taken her life had she remained a waitress in a little lunchroom in the Midwestern town where she started from. Some truck driver would have married her. She would have lived in a farmhouse and had children and she would have lived maybe to a ripe old age. She committed suicide only because of what we consider success.
Now, do you know that more wealthy people commit suicide than poor people? So it means that the wealth drives people to take their lives. So wealth is not happiness at all.
So what are you envious of? If it hadn’t been for the election of this and this man to the presidency he never would have been assassinated. And so those who envied his success were envying his bullet. And therefore we have to know what we’re envying.
So once more. If you’re envying somebody who is a good mother, a good baalabusteh, or a yeshivah man who is learning well, don’t get rid of that envy. It should fuel your engine to make you try to outdo that person. You want to be better. A better tzaddik. A bigger lamdan. A better mother and so on. But if it’s something that’s not a mitzvah to do like wealth and fame then consider that it’s not for your benefit.
TAPE # 428 (September 1982)