Moral Indignation, Jealous much? (25|40)


I know it was some time after we were married and sometime before we had children. I remember the house we lived in and which store we were standing in. We were near the back left of a Jo-Anns craft store shopping for hobby supplies. Jane put two skeins of yarn in our basket. I got a bit angry.

I didn’t say anything, of course. Who gets angry when their partner puts two parcels of yarn in a basket?
Nonetheless, I remember that I started to seethe on the inside.
I got indignant because we had a cabinet at home nearly bursting with yarn that she was not using. How could and why would she dare spend money on new skeins when she had plenty she wasn’t using at home.
Moral indignation!
Fury arose.
I’m certain that Jane sensed it as she is quite a brilliant therapist. But, neither of us said anything. The moment passed. And then later in the day – before my anger was metabolised – I came across this quote that rocked me.

Moral indignation is often jealous with a halo.

H.G. Wells

My anger was really jealousy in disguise.

I was jealous of Jane. I was jealous that she could buy new yarn while I don’t feel entitled to buy new things until I have used (to the best of my ability) what I have. I was posturing moral superiority when in fact I was simply jealous. I was covetous of her feeling freer than I – that she was able to buy herself something new when I deeply feel that I “ought” to make do with what I have. I imagined, deep down, not-consciously, that it was lovely to feel freer than I do.
Perhaps your moral indignation has its roots in jealousy too?

Another case in which I perennially puff myself up with moral indignation, when it is in fact simply jealousy, is with lackadaisical students. I get all high and mighty at the youth who aren’t seizing the opportunities afforded them – but, really, I’m secretly jealous too. I live under the mantel of overwhelming responsibility and want to be able to take it easy as I imagine they do… <gulp>

  • How about you and your life?
  • Think about the things you get all “high and mighty” about.
  • Could it be that some of your moral indignation is just a cover for some secret envy?

This week’s #wisdom_biscuit:

Investigate your moral indignation to see if it isn’t rooted in jealousy.

With love,
Rabbi Brian

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