Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Trashing the Successful

Now that the brouhaha has worn out its welcome, I feel like reflecting on our unfortunate tendency to go on the abusive mode towards those who have been successful.

I wish I could recall who said this: “Jealousy is when you wished you had what someone else has. Envy is when you wish you had what someone else has, and you don’t want them to have it.”

This fits with the notion that envy may be the root of all wars.

When it comes to people who succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, we see the backlash coming. It’s not enough that we haven’t, they shouldn't have, either.

Envy may be green, but it isn't pretty.
©Shelagh Duffett

The sad thing is that every writer alive has had these fleeting feelings. If you haven’t wondered how J. K. Rowling did it, you are not honest with yourself. Most of us know these feelings are wrong-headed, and most of us don’t think this way. We may feel frustrated, but we don’t rationalize it.

After Lynn Shepherd’s post imploring Rowling to stop publishing appeared, a mini backlash in the form of retaliatory one-star reviews of Ms. Shepherd’s published books appeared on review sites. Seems her maladious stream is infectious. Those posts, too, were a sad testimony to our spiritual failure.

Like Rowling, Shepherd is a very good writer. There was no need for such smallness.

Lynn Shepherd’s third mistake, after putting outright silly statements about writing for children being an inferior art form and making any sort of statement about books she admits to not have read, was to conjure a world where someone else’s great success has robbed her of her own. In that world there are a finite number of gold coins and someone else has taken hers.
Not in my experience. Let’s get off the bandwagon of vilifying our planets’ most successful citizens. 

17 comments:

  1. It's sad when other people blame their situation on the success of others. I just don't get it.

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  2. Wow. Maybe she was trying to be controversial to get the attention she feels is missing. But as my husband and I decided about Rob Ford, our city's notorious mayor, there is a difference between "famous" and "infamous."

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  3. Yes, it's a sad failing in us humans that we tend to have those feelings even when we fight against them and know they aren't logical or the loving way we want to be. They go all the way back to those first siblings in the Garden, and God seems to have known we'd have problems with those feelings when he included them in the 10 Commandments.

    You make a distinction between jealousy and envy, and certainly one is worse than the other, but either one can cause unhappiness and dissatisfaction, leaving us missing out on the peace and joy God wants to give us.

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    1. BTW, I don't know anything about the Lynn Shepherd and J.K. Rowling incident. I'm just referring to the general topic of jealousy and envy.

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  4. People don't really have to choose to tear others down in order to build themselves up, but I guess they figure that's the easy way. :(

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  5. The whole thing was infuriating, starting with her dismissiveness of the Harry Potter series, despite having never read it.
    Most successful people know that there's always room for quality work, and encourage others to pursue their passions.

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  6. I missed that whole controversy, and I'm certainly glad I did!

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  7. When I heard about all this, I wondered if a children's writer would have made similar statements. It's possible, I guess, but there seems to be a different atmosphere and attitude in the kidlit community than in adult publishing. There might be jealousy in our world, but I think there's a little less envy. At least, I'd like to think so. :-)

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    1. Amen to that, Anna. I've never known a more supportive community than us kid-liters. You're a good example.

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  8. Yep. Sad but the envy monster is strong. Fortunately children's lit writers know all about monsters. :)

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  9. Thanks for posting that link. What a hot mess. I agree with Anna. I wish people who don't read certain would stop judging those same books.

    Envy is a hard thing. Luckily it's a fleeting feeling for me.

    Sometimes I think these people just need a hug.

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  10. I missed this controversy too (but have heard a little about it by going on FB),and it makes me wince. We all FEEL envious and jealous, but dwelling on it and putting it out there for everybody else to see is stupid. Nurturing it is stupid too, and it inhibits our own creative power. And the people who run down authors who write for kids and young people--yikes! Such thoughtless ignorance.

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  11. I was very interested in those definitions. I think they're pretty true to our emotions. When you compare them, envy is obviously worse. I've heard these definitions: Envy is wanting what someone else has. Jealousy is wanting to keep away from others what you yourself have. I think that may be the way God is jealous: he wants to keep us whom he made for himself so we will not be harmed.

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  12. Wow, that was a crazy article. But I'd say the publishers were pretty gleeful, knowing it was going to stir up a big 'ol pot of outrage. I, too, can't believe how she just dismissed HP as nothing- when she hasn't even read it. =/

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  13. Historically speaking, I think there's room for all authors who are patient and hardworking. I can't even imagine wasting time worrying about who's more successful.

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  14. Wow, didn't know about the controversy. I agree with Marcia on the time-wasting bit. We could spend that time on working harder and being bigger people. (It may come across as a cliche, but being happy for others does help one breathe a lot better.)

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