Chapter 70

  1. Jealousy

“Trifles light as air,

Are to the jealous confirmation strongx

As proofs of holy writ.”

— Shakespeare.

There is no passion more base, nor one which seeks to hide itself more than jealousy. It is ashamed of it itself when it appears. It carries its stain and disgrace on its forehead. We do not wish to acknowledge it ourselves, it is so ignominious, but hidden in the character we would be confused and disconcerted if it appeared; by the which we are convinced of our bad minds and debased courage.

It is difficult sometimes to distinguish between jealousy and envy, for they often run into one another, and are blended together. The most valid distinction seems to be that jealousy is always personal. The envious man desires some good which another possesses; the jealous man suspects another of seeking to deprive him of some good that he already possesses.

Jealousy is, in many respects, preferable to envy, since it aims at the preservation of some good which we think belongs to us; whereas envy is a frenzy that can not endure, even in idea, the good of others. Jealousy is such a headstrong passion, that therein doth consist its danger. All the other passions condescend at times to accept the inexorable logic of facts. But jealousy looks facts straight in the face, ignores them utterly, and says she knows a great deal better than they can tell her.

Jealousy violates contracts, dissolves society, breaks wedlock, betrays friends and neighbors, thinks nobody is good, and that every one is either doing or designing them an injury. Its rise is in guilt or ill-nature; as he that is overrun with the jaundice takes others to be yellow. If jealousy were not a hardened offender, he must have disappeared ere this by the abuse which poets and moralists have alike delighted to heap upon him. Yet he still lives and flourishes, exerts his influence and displays his power, as though he were a favored friend or a welcome guest.

Did jealousy always make its appearance in its ordinary form of detraction, it would be, comparatively speaking, harmless; but it is surprising how many different masks it can assume, and how it lurks and tries to conceal itself under some less mean and unlovable quality. Sometimes it appears in the character of injustice; sometimes it takes the form of rudeness and want of courtesy; occasionally a bitter or sarcastic way of speaking. At other times it borrows the garb of a virtue, and shows itself under what might be mistaken for humility or sincerity; lying coiled up like a serpent under some flower, and darting forth its venemous sting where and when you least expect to find it.

No stronger proof is needed to show how contemptible a fault jealousy is than that no one is willing to acknowledge that they are jealous. It is jealousy that is the root and foundation of many offenses, but they are charged to other causes. Jealousy is singular in this: every trifling circumstance is regarded as confirming and strengthening the previously aroused suspicions. It is a sorer curse, a more certain and fatal blight to the heart on which it seizes, than it can be to those against whom its spite is hurled. Jealousy is as cruel as the grave; not the grave that opens its deep bosom to receive and shelter from further storms the worn and forlorn pilgrim, who rejoices exceedingly and is glad when he can find its repose; but cruel as the grave is when it yawns and swallows down from the lap of luxury, from the summit of fame, from the bosom of love, the desire of many eyes and hearts.

Among the deadly things upon the earth, or in the sea, or flying through malarial regions, few are more noxious than jealousy. And of all mad passions there is not one that has a vision more distorted or a more unreasonable fury. To the jealous eye white looks black, yellow looks green, and the very sunshine turns deadly lurid. There is no innocence, no justice, no generosity that is not touched with suspicions save just the jealous, person’s own. Once lodged within the heart, for life it rules ascendant and alone. It sports in solitude. It pants for blood, and rivers will not sate its thirst. Minds strongest in worth and valor stoop to meanness and disgrace before it. The meanest soul, the weakest, it can give courage to beyond the daring of despair. No balm can assuage its sting. Death alone can heal its wound. When it has once possessed a man he has no ear but for the tale that falls like molten lead upon the heart.

In nothing is jealousy more commonly shown than when under the fear that some one will supplant us in the affections of another. Here it assumes its most malignant form, here its greatest distress is wrought. The gamester, whose last piece is lost; the merchant, whose whole risk the sea has swallowed up; the child, whose air bubble has burst—may each create a bauble like the former. But he whose treasure was in woman’s love, who trusted as man once trusts and was deceived—that hope once gone, there is no finding it again, no restoring it. Let not any too rigorously judge the conduct of a jealous woman or a jealous man. Remember that the maniac suffers. To be sure, the suffering is from selfishness, often it is without the shadow of a cause; but still it is suffering, and it is intense. Pity it, bear with it; you may yourself fall into temptation.

It is said that jealousy is love. This is not true; for, though jealousy may be procured by love, as ashes are by fire, yet jealousy extinguishes love, as ashes smother the flame. Jealousy may exist without love, and this is common, for jealousy can feed on that which is bitter no less than on that which is sweet, and is sustained by pride as often as by affection.

The unfortunate habit of mind which makes one prone to jealousy can not be too strenuously fought against. It were well to constantly remember that jealousy injures and pains no one so much as the person feeling it. It is a self-consuming fire, a self-inflicted torment, an arrow that falls back and wounds only the archer. It becomes one to cultivate a spirit of magnanimity toward all, and to strive to allay, by every means in his power, a too suspicious nature. It has been well said that there are occasions on which a man would have been ashamed of himself not to have been deceived. A man to be genuine to himself must believe and be believed, must trust and be trusted.

Suspicion is no less an enemy to virtue than to happiness. He that is already corrupt is naturally suspicious, and he that becomes suspicious will quickly become corrupt. Suspicion is the child of guilt, the virtue of a coward. It is a vain and foolish pride which would teach that every one is conspiring against your happiness or has designs on your reputation and business. The fact is, probably no one is thinking of you. Yet your jealous disposition magnifies every little circumstance, and thus you are continually making yourself unhappy when no real cause exists. You are to strive against such an unfortunate disposition at all times. And it can be eradicated. It is not the liberally educated, those who have read much and thought more, who are thus suspicious and jealous in disposition; but it is the narrow-minded, the illiterate, and the vulgar.

, In, pager

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