At the beginning of secondary school, I was having a hard time with mathematics. So I sought the help of my friend Sarah. We talked Maths and ate Maths and breathed Maths together.
It paid off. In the midterm exams, she was the best in Maths and I was second best. She was ecstatic for both of us. At the end of the term, I beat her to the first position. She faked a smile and hugged me but I saw light disappear from her eyes. She never spoke to me again.
I was bruised by this incident. I couldn’t believe just how terrible Sarah had been to me. I could never stoop that low. I was a good person. I had Jesus in my heart. I asked Jesus to get into Sarah’s heart and remove all envy.
Fast forward a decade later and my friend Julia and I were fresh graduates. We were knocking on doors trying to sell the new product on the market that was us.
It worked out well. For Julia. They called her for an interview. We had both applied to the same company. I was the one who had suggested it. But they called her for an interview. Not me. I had helped Julia work on her CV. I had drafted Julia’s application letter. They didn’t call me. But congratulations to her.
We hugged about it and Julia’s neck pressed really hard against the lump in my throat. I couldn’t breathe. She could have killed me! It was traumatizing to be around someone who had almost killed me.
So Julia and I didn’t speak again until she called to tell me that she hadn’t got the job. We met and I comforted her. As we sat together in sadness and silence, the lump in my throat healed miraculously.
Until that day, I had always prided myself on being incapable of envy. I was always genuinely happy for people. I celebrated their success with all the sincerity in my heart.
But then those people were not in my lane. We didn’t have the same dreams so they were not getting the things I was sweating plasma for. Or their dreams and paths were miniature compared to mine so I could be happy for them.
I am genuinely happy for my friends when they get married. I am excited to be an ‘aunt’ when they announce the arrival of their babies.
However, if anyone of my peers has the nerve to walk past me in line with my dreams, then the mental claws come out. I am smarter. I am a better person than they are. I have more heart. How dare the universe place them higher than I?
And this is all of us. We want people to do well, just not better than us. We want our colleagues to get promoted but not before we are promoted. We don’t mind seeing our exes move on as long as they don’t end up with someone who is better-looking or smarter or richer. Why? Because we are human beings. And human beings are vain.