A few days ago, I was catching up with friends and we landed on a conversation about careers–as most 20-somethings talk about that about these days. As they have more working experience than I do, I tend to be the naïve one in the group, not knowing much about what to expect in a working environment. And their rants were not about how stressed they had been in the past with their work, but more towards the problems of dealing with people.
Often, dealing with children at kindergarten may have some parallels to dealing with full-fledged adults at work. Power and status replace toys as the bone of contention. There is always the issue of who’s better and who is more qualified to be in a particular position. While I don’t mind healthy competition, the waging-wars type of competition is the one that would break the whole unit within an intact organisation. And apparently, it’s a norm.
A few stories later, I’ve realised a common trait in all the conflicts. It is envy; it is being envious of other people’s success while breaking their bones (figuratively, of course) and making other people feel inferior.
I mean, isn’t it exhausting to break each other?
It is gossiping about your other colleagues while pretending to be nice in front of them. It is essentially a classic Mean Girls scenario where versions of Regina and Cady pretend to like each other and end up plotting against each other. It’s like the Evil Queen in Snow White where she would do anything to bring Snow White down. And we know how both stories end.
But this isn’t anything new. The start of the creation of humankind was protested by the attitude of envy and arrogance as Iblis had unravelled its true colour to Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala. Iblis believed that he is better than our father, Adam (A.S.). His arrogance and jealousy at Adam (A.S) became the reason why he was cursed by God and sent to the hellfire.
“And [mention] when We said to the angels, “Prostrate before Adam”; so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He refused and was arrogant and became of the disbelievers.” [Al-Baqarah: 34]
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, I get jealous too. I get jealous at people who seemingly have more than me. I get jealous at people who have only have to worry about where on Earth they would need to travel next. I recognise the humanness in those temporary feelings but wouldn’t allow them to consume me. It is human to be jealous – to some extent – but it isn’t to destroy other people.
There is no place for envy in our deen; it is the same trait that is possessed by Iblis. The only thing that we should be jealous of is a person’s abundant good deeds. Envy also deprives the soul of receiving the good from people and blessings from God. It destroys our good deeds.
“Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Beware of envy, for it consumes good deeds just as fire consumes wood or grass.” ” [Sunan Abī Dāwūd 4903]
That’s where gratitude comes. Gratitude is one of the cures for a jealous and arrogant heart. It is also recognising that we are flawed human beings and how our imperfections should make us humble – not contemptible. We should also be aware of our intention and purpose of our actions in the first place. A true believer is at peace knowing that everyone is given a certain amount of rizq (sustenance). Once we start comparing the worldly state of ourselves to other people, it is when we are doubtful of Allah’s decree for us.
Let me also bring you to reality here. We’re all here temporarily. What are we going to say in front of our Lord, knowing that we have oppressed other people? How are we going to justify our actions for bringing other people with the intention to be the “most powerful” amongst others? It would be too late by then, to even apologise people who we have wronged due to our envy.
With that said, my message here is simple. Wherever we are and whatever we do: be kind, be helpful and see past each other’s differences and try to compromise. Envy and arrogance should not be a norm – not in the workplace nor anywhere in a society. It deteriorates productivity and creates an unnecessary drama. Nothing in the history of mankind that implies envy and arrogance would create an everlasting success. If anything, they went downhill after a peak temporary success.
If we start building each other up and helping each other with compassion, we would go so far in life and as a society, we would live harmoniously. Imagine the ripple effect that we would start just by helping other people out? No envy, no agenda and no hatred. Life would be a lot simpler if we are happy at each other’s successes.