Positive Thinking?

If your friend won the lottery, would you be happy for them? I’m not talking about the friend who’s been down on his luck through no fault of his own but has always worked really hard and knows the value of a dollar and has always been good with his money and is generous to a fault and who never has anything bad to say about anyone, ever. I’m talking about the friend who was raised playing hockey and taking violin, whose parents paid for college, who never worked for minimum wage, who always got seventeen presents at Christmas, who got every job he ever applied for, who always complains that the seat warmers in his new Audi are a tad too warm and who never gives to charity. Hmm? Would you be happy for THAT friend?

My family and I were talking about winning the lottery last weekend. I’m sure everyone has had this conversation; what they would do, how much they would give to family and friends, whether they would quit their jobs. But it, and another incident, got me thinking about how generous I am with my well wishes.

The “incident” was that a good thing happened to an acquaintance of mine, and I was happy for her. But I didn’t want what this person got. Does that make a difference? If this girl got something I wanted, would I still be happy for her? How far do my sincerest congratulations extend?

It would be like a situation with me and my husband. Our skills are pretty polarizing: he got a degree in mathematics, I got a degree in French. What if I decided one day that I would go back to school and major in Math? And let’s say I end up discovering I’m really, super good in math and I get all these scholarships and end up doing way better than him overall. Would he delight in my newfound aptitude? He is supposed to, as my life partner, be my biggest cheerleader and triumph in my triumphs…but would he? Or would he secretly harbour a bitter niggling that says, “But, woman, you just DECIDED to do math. You never liked it or worked hard to be good at it. You just TRIED it and now you’re good at that TOO?”

And would I cheer him on if he was able to breeze through a French or English major?

I’d like to think I would, but I’m not sure. It’s like, that’s MY thing. Math is HIS thing. In a way, one of us would lose a little bit of what we each consider our “thing”.

I think it comes down to every person’s deep-seeded belief which says that everyone should only get so much. That if a girl is a great actor she shouldn’t have a great voice. That if a guy is very good-looking he shouldn’t be an ace in school. That if a friend has had an easy life then he shouldn’t win the lottery, too.

I’m telling myself to be happy for anyone in my life who has good things happen to them that I want for myself. Because it’s very likely that if I harbour negative thoughts about someone else’s successes, that negative energy will come back to take a big chomp out of my ass one day.


Filed under People

4 responses to “Positive Thinking?

  1. Jon

    The deep seated belief that everyone should only get so much is not necessarily completely universal. It comes from our ancient human belief in scarcity. We kill an animal, there’s only so much meat for the tribe until the next hunt, so our ancient brain thinks scarcity is a real problem. Math skills or money or a good singing voice are not subject to the same scarcity problem. If you’re rich, it doesn’t preclude me from being rich. The value of money is in the exchange, it’s not a finite resource that we put in Scrooge McDuck vaults. If more people have more math skills, we all benefit, it’s a never ending resource.

    None of this means we shouldn’t make the distinction about taking care of the environment, where resources are finite. The more we practice gratitude, the less we hear from that scarcity voice in our heads.

  2. I have a definite tendency towards jealousy. When someone else gets something that I want, I am not always as evolved about it as I should be. Not a highly flattering truth, but a truth nonetheless.

    But. But. I have definitely found that once I reached a place of comfort with my own life it was easier to be happier for others. I don’t want to win the lottery, or drive a certain car. I am content with my life as it is. That contentedness helps me to feel less as if I need to protect my own space, or that others are taking away from me.

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