Three Dangerous Words

“Must be nice.”

My friend and I have a longstanding joke where, no matter what reason one of us has to end a phone conversation, the other one says these three words with faked jealous anger.  The point is to get as absurd as possible and apply it to the worst situation.  “I’ve gotta run, the kids have smeared a dirty diaper on the walls!”….”Hey, must be real nice to be you man.”

It’s obvious how misplaced the sentiment is when purposely applied to extreme and negative circumstances, but the thing is, it’s always a misplaced sentiment.  A famous comedian (I can’t remember who) once said that he could have a giant brain tumor visibly protruding from his head and people would still claim he had it easy because of the millions he made on the last movie.  We don’t and can’t know the struggles of others.  We have no idea if their life would be nice.  It might be hell.

The worst part about the mentality that views others as having it easy is not that it misses their struggles, it’s that it increases your own.  At the heart of this sentiment is a mimetic desire – we want what we imagine other people want, simply because they want it.  This kind of desire blocks us from discovering our own true desires.  It clouds our vision and dampens our pleasure.  You assume that what they have is better than what you have.  When you dig down, the reason is more because they have it than any quality of whatever it is they have.

This reflects an abandonment of self and one’s own core values.  It means you are moving towards ‘be like others’ as a goal, and using other people as a measuring stick or standard against which to judge.  This is envy, and it is probably the most pernicious and destructive force in human society.  If you really make yourself discover what personal fulfillment looks like for you, and set that as your goal, devising your own standard to measure, you  will gain more from your own life and find that the apparent success of others adds to your life, rather than creating competitive pressure.

When you find yourself saying, “must be nice”, stop and consider what you actually know and what you mean.  Do you know that person is living a great life?  Would you actually want what they have and all the challenges that come with it?  Do you even know what it is you do want?  Unless they inspire you to discover and do what makes you feel alive, these three words aren’t doing you any good.

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