Inferiority Complexes and Projection

Photo by Zach Vessels on Unsplash

Part of what had motivated Nero must have been the knowledge that many people would have supported Plautus had he actually acted on the ambitions that Nero projected onto him. That is our deepest fear anyway: that the people we loathe are actually better than us, and that we loathe them not because they are inferior but because they have something we lack.
~Lives of the Stoics, Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman

This is not an article on psychology.

I feel like I need to say that from the beginning. I’m not a psychologist. I’m not a psychiatrist. Nor did I sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night. I don’t even really know the difference between the two.

What I am, however, is an observer and a thinker. And in my observation and contemplation, there’s so much that rings true about today’s quote. We look at people who are doing better than us, and there’s a part of us that doesn’t like them very much.

More often than not, they are perfectly pleasant people. Even great people to hang out with. Which just makes it all the worse. Some people have all their ducks in a row, while the rest of us are trying to figure out if we have ducks, geese or dodo birds.

I see this a lot in my particular corner of the world. As a United Methodist, we see moves getting announced, and we know when people are going from one church to another. Sometimes, people get appointed to churches that — at least from the outside — would be great places to live and do ministry. There’s always some whispers. But, let’s face it, they come from this same kind of place — jealousy.

I’ve heard people complain about appointments, and they’ll blame things like favoritism, gender discrimination (I’m not saying this doesn’t happen, but I don’t think that’s the default in some cases), and other matters. But I’ve always felt like we need to do our best to bloom where we are planted. That’s the thing with the appointment system.

One thing that has helped me through the years is remembering what a Superintendent told me. He said, “We [the Bishop and the Cabinet] don’t want to have to re-appoint somebody after just a year or two.” That’s stuck with me through the years. They want to get it right. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out.

I don’t know how things work in your profession. I don’t know if you’ve been passed over for promotions or moves or whatever else. I don’t know how you feel about it. But let me suggest this: bloom where you’re planted. If you aren’t where you want to be, work towards the next step, but don’t forget to live where you are. And, certainly, don’t project your jealousy and inferiority complex onto others. You deal with you. You handle your business. The rest will work itself out.

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