Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 13, 2004
Beware the ugly green-eyed monster
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
It's no accident that there are two commandments against jealousy.
"And here I have hit upon something essential. Whenever I saw a beautiful flower, what I longed to do with it was press it to my heart, or eat it all up. It was more difficult with a piece of beautiful scenery, but the feeling was the same. I was too sensual, I might almost write too greedy. I yearned physically for all I thought was beautiful, wanted to own it. Hence the painful longing that could never be satisfied, the pining for something I thought unattainable, which I called my creative urge.
"I believe it was this powerful emotion that made me think that I was born to produce great works. It all suddenly changed, God alone knows by what inner process, but it is different now.
"I realized it only this morning, when I recalled my short walk round the skating club a few nights ago. It was dusk, soft hues in the sky, mysterious silhouettes of houses, trees alive with the light through the tracery of their branches, in short, enchanting. And then I knew precisely how I had felt in the past. Then all the beauty would have gone like a stab to my heart and I would not have known what to do with the pain.
"Then I would have felt the need to write, to compose verses, but the words would still have refused to come. I would have felt utterly miserable, wallowed in the pain and exhausted myself as a result. The experience would have sapped all my energy . . . but its beauty now filled me with joy. . . . I no longer wanted to own it. I went home invigorated."
What do we do with our possessiveness? Good spirituality and psychology agree the answer lies in a healthy maturity that can admire without seeking to own, without seeking to manipulate. But that's easier said than done. We don't change our deepest instincts simply by willing away possessiveness.
What's the answer? A life-long walk towards a difficult maturity. Overcoming our incurable instinct to possess is one of life's final hurdles. When we're no longer prone to jealousy, we're saints.
In the meantime, it can be helpful to name this. A symptom suffers less when it knows where it belongs.
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