I love to sip coffee with Jorge because we frequently discuss topics that explore happiness and similar life issues. When he stopped by the house on New Year’s Day he hit upon the subject of people who try to spoil other people’s happiness. I told Jorge that he had stumbled upon a very touchy subject, one that we could discuss for days on end.
My pal replied that he had been thinking about “haters” because of the backlash over gay marriage, in general and his partnership with his husband, in particular. The LGBT community has been working for many decades, if not centuries, to overcome severe societal obstacles that have seriously harmed us. One of those was the inequality we encountered when committing to domestic partnerships. When the US Supreme Court announced its ruling about same gendered marriage, our community was rightfully very happy about the decision.
It didn’t take very long for our adversaries to react with anger and negativity about our happiness over something we have struggled hard to achieve. They not only rained on our parade, they began efforts to destroy our advances and place roadblocks to happiness in every way possible. Jorge and his husband experienced similar responses from some relatives and coworkers when the couple tied the knot.
I remembered a difficult situation that happened early in my career. The manager of the radio station, where I had just been hired, promoted me to music director a few months later. It came as quite a surprise, because I had not even thought about attaining that position. Naturally, I was thrilled to become a department head and was happy that my boss felt so confident about my skills.
Later, my friend, who was hired a year ahead of me, expressed his strong displeasure over my promotion. He had been striving to attain a promotion but becoming the head of a department was elusive. His anger and jealousy continued for several months and nearly destroyed our friendship. Thankfully, we never became rivals. A detente’ was reached when he finally received a promotion of his own.
It took quite awhile to get over the difficult period in our friendship that had been darkened by my friend’s jealousy and his efforts to create problems for me at work. Eventually we got along on better terms. We later resumed hanging out together on weekends.
Jorge said that people who are unhappy over other people’s success and happiness have caused much discord throughout history. “Haters” not only harm happy, successful people, “haters” destroy their own true happiness while placing roadblocks to others’ happiness. Jorge believes that such attitudes and actions are indicators of maturity.
It’s easy to see that when someone interprets another person’s happiness as a personal loss, resentment and unhappiness are the results. In my case, my friend’s resentment and ill-will caused teamwork problems for both my friend and myself at work. Regarding the happiness of the LGBT community, the resentment and negativity of our adversaries has caused renewed strife and violence towards us.
Eventually, some people finally learn that rejoicing with family members, friends, and coworkers creates goodwill for everyone involved. A truly mature person also understands when to silence her egoism and sincerely congratulate a competitor on his success.
This happiness about other people’s happiness must be sincere, because people easily detect phoniness. People respond much more favorably when they sense that we are honestly happy for them. This mutual happiness can only increase our opportunities to nurture healthy relationships. When we share each others’ ups and downs, our own joy is deepened.
Envy and jealousy are seductive emotions. We can quickly become enmeshed in and justify them. It is best to be honest with oneself and admit when envy is taking over your mind. We need to notice when our thoughts lead us down a negative, unhappy path before we cause discord and harm to others.
Jorge said that when his husband’s mother finally accepted Jorge as a legitimate member of the family, she began to feel and express honest happiness. It was this big, important step she took that has positively affected her own and the entire family’s relationships.
He has used his mother-in-law’s evolution as inspiration to improve his own efforts at feeling happy for other’s happiness. Jorge says he now pays closer attention to his personal reactions when a friend wins an award or a family member obtains special recognition in some way.
My friend says he still struggles over someone winning something he wanted for himself or by somebody he thinks is undeserving of it. Jorge says he makes an honest effort to fake it until he makes it real. There’s no good in harboring resentments.
When adversaries lower the level of resentment and negativity, something beautiful happens. The seeds of friendship are planted.
This type of humility is not passivity. On the contrary, to humble one’s egoism is an active, positive act of courage. It is a way of gambling whether or not your adversary will accept your happiness towards her in a graceful, grateful manner. Sometimes it doesn’t happen, but usually the gesture does work.
On the grand scale, after wars and conflicts, international adversaries forge peace treaties and form alliances. On the personal level, old enemies strive to understand each others’ motives and dreams then sometimes become friends.
I told Jorge that my old guru often advised, “When you want true happiness for yourself, be sincerely happy for other people.”
My friend leaned forward on the sofa and smiled at me.