We are secretly happy when friends don’t succeed
Your best friend calls you excitedly. They’ve just won the $80m lottery jackpot.
How do you feel? Can you honestly say that you are as elated as they are? If so, that’s great. You’re one in a million -probably the same odds as winning that lottery.
Let’s be honest. Jealousy is a natural reaction, whenever someone close to us gets a better deal - even if they’re our friend. Sometimes, all the more so because they are our friend.
You joined the company at the same time, yet they got the promotion and the raise. Or, your partner gets the success they’ve been dreaming of, which means putting your dreams on hold, while you uproot yourself and go to a city you don’t like and park your career.
We might get upset when someone we don’t like gets something great that we don’t feel they deserve, but how does that compare to the feeling that a friend of ours getting something way better than us, despite the fact that we’re equally as good as they are? Maybe, you feel you’re even better than them? That’s just rubbing salt in the wound.
For example, take the teflon friend to whom nothing sticks. They act terrible at times, yet always get away with it. Even worse, they’re rewarded for their bad behaviour, or their carelessness. They seem to coast through life, while good luck hurls itself at them. Frustratingly, the same never happens to you. You’re far more contientious, far more careful, and, yet, you’re never rewarded for your good behaviour. You might consider taking a page from their book, but, then, you’d never get away with it, would you? People would be affronted, tell you that you’re terrible and treat you like a social pariah.
Why can’t you get a break like they can? It makes you less of a friend. If they experience a little hardship, you’re secretly glad. But, then, you feel terrible. You’re supposed to be their friend. You’re not supposed to have those feelings. But, you do. It’s only natural.
The truth is, we live in a competitive world. We pay lip service to altruism. We believe it’s important, but it’s so damn hard to live by. When these things happen, the friendship is tested. It’s then you learn what kind of friend they really are.
Perhaps, you were simply friends of convenience, thrown into the trenches at the same time. You’ve got lots of shared experience, but that’s really the only ties that bind. When you’re forced to think on it, you find that you’re really incredibly different and that friend of yours is very annoying. Always has been. You coped with it before, because you were equal. And, now, you’re not.
You might have been friends once upon a time and held onto that notion. But, things have changed. You’ve both grown in different directions and developed different priorities. You don’t need to confront this fact, until it’s tested. That’s when you find you’re not really friends any more. It’s easier not to be, when you feel this much jealousy.
If you still need convincing, then think about someone who’s really worse off than you. Think about that really, unfortunate thing that makes their life a daily misery that they must struggle to overcome. Doesn’t that make you feel better about yourself? No matter how bad life gets, you’re not as bad off as they are. It makes you feel better about yourself and your own predicament. Well, that’s just the same feeling in reverse. Other people’s misery makes us feel better, but a friend’s success makes us feel worse. Perhaps, it’s the opportunity cost? If only I did something differently, their success could have been mine.
At the end of the day, when a stranger gets a windfall, you can blame fate, their social status, society, or somebody else. But, when a friend - someone just like you - gets exactly what they want, you can’t help feeling that there’s no one to blame but yourself. It could have easily been yours - had you been different, somehow. That hurts.
The reason why we’re secretly happy when a friend doesn’t succeed is because it re-establishes the status quo - the one in which we are on an equal footing. That’s because we perceive ourselves as having to struggle to get our way and we want to see our friends having to persevere in the same struggle as ourselves. If they find things easier than us, enjoy better luck than us, or move further ahead, we feel left behind and we resent it.
When a friend fails, we can console them and re-assert our friendship. It’s an opportunity for us to say, “We are the same, you and I” - all the while, thinking that we’re superior. That’s why we’re secretly happy inside. We can be the magnanimous one. We get to console, yet keep things as they are in the hope that, one day, we’ll pull ahead and become more successful than they are. Then, we can show them our generosity and what a good friend we are.
What do you think...?
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I really think that's the problem with my want to be friends, associate, and family that I come in contact with. Sometime I think isn't not worth the trouble to have anything to do with them. I think it's that you're better off keeping to yourself, and get a puppy, goldfish and Jesus and make them your best friend. Amen!!!!!--