My friends’ success bothers me

I was doing great one Saturday morning. I had my morning devotion and meditated on the word of God. I was enjoying time with my family when I went online and saw how a friend of mine had an outpouring of love during a celebration, then I instantly felt sad.

I wondered why don’t I get people to celebrate and honour me? My question is this, how do I overcome instant feelings of sadness when I see my friend celebrating and enjoying life?

How can I get people around me to celebrate me, is it wrong to desire honour and celebration?

Thank you.

Dear Wan,

You are asking two very real and very human questions that affect most of us during our lives. The first question is how to feel happy rather than envious when good things happen to your friends. The second question is whether it is wrong to desire honor and celebration.

We have good news for you and bad news for you.  The good news is that feeling envy when good things happen to others and feeling joy when bad things happen to them is perfectly natural.  The bad news is that natural does not mean acceptable; God expects you to overcome this natural tendency and root out that part of your nature.

Of course, we need to be aware that people tend to conceal bad fortune that befalls them and advertise the good.  Most Facebook pages, Instagram and other social media, provide evidence of people parading their vacations, children, and new toys.  This is an equally destructive tendency and exacerbates this challenge.

Here is a very good rule of thumb. Anything that God forbids us to do is something that many of us humans will have a strong desire to do.  Adultery is also perfectly natural but also perfectly prohibited.  We are not cows who can contentedly graze on the grass. God built us in such a way that life is a constant challenge of overcoming many of our natural tendencies. In doing so, we feel the thrill of triumph.

The urge to feel envious of our friends’ success is so strong that in the Ten Commandments, #10 is, “Do not covet”. We already know that we can’t steal from our friends; #10 informs us to control our thoughts.

If you have listened to our Ten Commandments audio CD, you will know that commandments number 5 and 10 are linked. You will also know that they aren’t actually commandments but rather examples of principles of human connectivity. In short, the principle of these two commandments is accepting our boundaries and recognizing that what we have is ours and what other people have is theirs.

We damage ourselves terribly when we reject ourselves because we think that others have it better than we do. It is self-destructive to spend our time wishing we had other people’s lives. We must acknowledge that we owe special respect to our parents and special appreciation for what we have. Not doing so is a terrible display of ingratitude to God for what He has given us, with all its flaws and limitations. Then we can truly rejoice in the good fortune of others, because it is theirs and it would be as wrong to want what is theirs as it would be to steal their things and as foolish to spend time coveting what is theirs as it would be to want to have a mutual blood transfusion.

As for wanting honor, our obligation is to honor others. We should not try to make others celebrate us. At the same time, if we associate with good people as we should, they too will feel the obligation to honor others. However, we would advise you to replace the word ‘honor’ with appreciation. That is often privately given.

One of the most frequent expressions of public honor is reserved for those who give generously and charitably.  There is nothing wrong with publicly lauding the charitable philanthropist.  However, the reason this lauding is done publicly is to encourage others to follow in the same footsteps. While it is commendable when someone gives privately and inconspicuously, it is better that someone should give a large amount in order to get recognition than not to give at all. You might want to consider taking the necessary steps to increase your revenue so that you can make larger charitable gifts to organizations that will appropriately recognize you.

If you feel additional need for a public shout-out then we would recommend looking deep inside yourself and asking what you can do to build your self-respect. Knowing that you are doing the right thing and growing each day should fill you with a satisfaction that the biggest celebration cannot match.

Wishing you much joy in your life,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

18 thoughts on “My friends’ success bothers me”

  1. Thank you for your work. It is very stress reducing for me to read and reflect upon the thoughts of RDL and Susan and their correspondents. I am an old man who is lucky to have found this place. Best wishes.

  2. A very useful lesson taught me by my mother may be helpful to Wan. Whenever I feel unhappy because I’m perceiving that someone else has more (whether it be honor, money, good looks or opportunities), it helps to recognize that the true source of the unhappiness is focus on MYSELF. Looking at yourself and your circumstances is a guarantee that dissatisfaction will follow. I’m baffled when psychologists recommend that unhappy people should record their thoughts in a journal…yikes, aren’t they unhappy enough? As I have heard from Rabbi and Susan many times, success and happiness come from connecting with and benefitting others. Many thanks for your wonderful program on TCT.

    1. Ginger, I am pretty sure that contrary to what the practice has been, studies show that when people live through a traumatic event the wrong thing to do is to make them relive the event over and over with a therapist? Talking helps to a point, but moving the focus outward is needed for healing.

  3. Profound thoughts as always !
    Everything I read or hear something from Rabbi Lapin and Susan I have those aha! Moments.

    We always reap what we sow . When we sow praise to others it will most assuredly return to us and especially if we are not looking for it or expecting it .
    I have always found that when I celebrate other people’s achievements & appreciate others ‘enthusiastically ‘ that feeds my soul to make others feel good.
    We all like a pat on the back now and then but when we become the encourager and uplift others your praise will be … ‘they are so encouraging!’

    That’s enough for me !

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Jeff–
      Good advice indeed! And advice that you yourself live.

  4. Frank Peter Carpi

    I am well aware of the difficulty to celebrate another’s success, when we are not nearly as successful, however it is high time to have overcome such childish emotions when we have grown to adulthood. If someone hasn’t gotten these feelings under control by 30, then it would be my conclusion that they are still in rebellion to the Ruach Ha’Kodesh (רוח קודש). I would seriously admonish such an individual, and might even dissociate myself from them, because bad company corrupts good morals.

    1. Hi Frank, or should I say Mr. Holier than thou”. I guess you forgot the love of Yeshua in your statement.

      1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

        Hi Miriam–
        Susan and I are happy that these ‘pages’ are so well used by our readers to communicate with one another.

    2. Three things come to mind: (1) As a child I was told not to envy anyone because you don’t know or understand the price that was paid to be successful or honored. (2) The world is always placing people on a pedestal, then even quicker, pull those people right back down. (3) Know that someone in the world could be envious of you and what you may have. Someone who has far less than you. Therefore, learn to be grateful to Adonai for what you do have for now.

      1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

        Dear Lisa–
        Whoever told you those three points when you were a child did you a big favor. They are very helpful in overcoming the unworthy feelings and thoughts that most of us experience from time to time.

    3. Wow thats harsh what about helping them to a place where they don’t deel like that anymore instead of casting them out, they might have had a mych more dysfunctional upbringing than you, therefore they haven’t processed many personal issues yet..

      I in my Bible

      Galatians 6:2 English Standard Version (ESV)

      2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ

      1. Carmine Pescatore

        We envy people who seem to have a better life than we do. No one envys the person with health issues, a failed marrriage, bad children, etc. I thank God each Morning for another day to serve him. Many were not that lucky today.

        1. What an important point, Carmine. My great-aunt, who objectively had many tragedies in her life, always said that you could pick which shoulder to look over. The one that sees those who are in need of your help and smile or the one that looks at those who seem to have it easy. That made all the difference in how you felt.

      2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

        Thanks for trying to help Frank, Victor,
        We all need openness to ideas and opinions that approach an issue from a different direction and you provided some of that.

    4. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Frank-
      One of my teachers at theological college (Yeshiva) was well over the age of seventy when he shocked me by telling me that he was not immune to the temptations of adultery and envy and found himself having to fight these spiritual battles regularly. For this reason, I don’t agree with your notion that by age of thirty one should be past these feelings. The challenge of controlling our feelings and our thoughts does not end at any arbitrary age. I admire our correspondent who asked the question because he is grappling with these very real life tasks.

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