Celebrate, Don't Resent Success
As a fan of the Nebraska Husker football
team, certain things are expected of me. I'm
supposed to be reverent and respectful when
discussing Dr. Tom Osborne. I'm supposed to
cringe when I hear Oklahoma's Boomer Sooner
music. I'm supposed to have a closet full
of red logo wear for game days, and I'm supposed
to hate Texas and Notre Dame. I'm good until
I get to the hating part.
In fact, I like Texas and Notre Dame. Yeah,
I said it and wrote it. Texas and Notre Dame
have rich histories, and they both consistently
field successful football teams. Even more
important, both teams - like every other team
in the country - have good kids on their teams
- kids who are working hard to get an education
so they can succeed. And, I'm supposed to
hate them and cheer against them?
When I was younger, I thought that being
faithful to my team meant that I had to dislike
other teams, so I did. I cherished those rare
moments when Oklahoma, Missouri or Colorado
lost. Of course, when they lost and my team
won, my team rose to the top, but it was more
than that; I didn't want anyone to be as good
as my team. I resented their success.
This sort of thinking is evident in sports,
but it's as prevalent, though often more subtle,
in other parts of life. We see our friends
move into a larger, nicer home than we have,
and we're jealous and suspicious about how
they made that happen. We read about a business
competitor's success in the newspaper, and
we secretly hope that they'll receive their
comeuppance. Another athlete on our child's
team shows signs of greatness, and we suspect
that his coach unfairly favors that kid. We
Why do we resent success for others? I believe
we do so because humans are prone to inferiority,
and we often suffer from a lack of appreciation.
We are not at peace with ourselves and our
accomplishments, and we don't fully appreciate
the lives that we lead. It's not easy, but
recognizing and acknowledging these weaknesses
allows us to mitigate the damage they can
inflict on our happiness.
Inferiority is particularly crippling, because
it's based on our feelings about ourselves.
Until we change the way that we think about
ourselves, it will be difficult to admire
the success of others, let alone achieve success
for ourselves. Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No
one can make you feel inferior without your
consent." Inferiority begins and ends
at the individual level.
Our levels of appreciation and inferiority
work conversely. As appreciation for our blessings
rises, our inferiority diminishes. When appreciation
is high, inferiority is low, and we feel free
to celebrate the success of others.
During the recent national championship game,
I wore a Husker windbreaker as I cheered for
Notre Dame. Those who watched the game know
that the Irish were dominated from the beginning
by the much more talented Alabama team. I
felt sorry for the Notre Dame football players,
particularly Manti Te'o, Notre Dame's All-American
linebacker who is by all accounts a great
person away from the field as well as on it.
At the same time, I was happy for the Alabama
players who had worked so hard to beat an
undefeated team so convincingly. Since I didn't
follow Alabama throughout the year, like I
had Notre Dame, I wasn't as familiar with
their players, except for Barrett Jones, who,
like Te'o, was as impressive off the field
as he was on it. It was hard not to admire
his skills and dedication.
In the middle, often away from the camera's
focus, was an epic battle between Jones and
Notre Dame nose guard Louis Nix. Nix is a
talented player in his own right. Many think
he would have been a high pick in this year's
NFL draft, but he chose to come back to graduate
in his senior season, honoring a commitment
he made to his mother.
Instead of cheering against one squad or
the other, like much of America was doing,
I simply enjoyed watching two talented teams,
whose players have exciting futures ahead
of them, give everything they had in order
to win the game.
Though I am not always successful, I try
to apply the same approach to life. Instead
of looking suspiciously at the success of
others, I try to find something that I can
admire and perhaps apply to my own life. I
find myself more at peace, more optimistic
and more successful this way.
-- Mitch Arnold