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Sibling Envy

May 13, 2014 | 7 Comments

Hello Mr. Keillor,

I'm in my mid twenties and I have an older brother who is very handsome and, through hard work and luck, very wealthy. While I work in a career I find enjoyable, I will never get rich at it. Nor do I possess such good looks as he. Lately, I find it so hard to spend time around him because I become consumed with jealousy. I love my brother and don't want to continue to hold on to this anger and hurt I feel. I would like to read your thoughts about overcoming envy.



Envy is the green-eyed monster. I have envied some athletes who also possessed charm and smarts, a pretty potent combination. But I got over envy simply by avoiding them, which isn't a good idea for you. I'm going to stick my neck out here and suggest a bold move on your part. Tell your brother you think that he and you should take a long trip together -- say, New Zealand, or India, or a cruise around South America -- someplace faraway and beautiful (and expensive), and he would pay for it. A sibling trip, just the two of you. Tell him you love him and you need to rebuild the bond between the two of you. If he says no, then give him a wide berth for awhile and then bring it up again. He should say yes and he should spend the money that would make it wonderful and on the trip you'll get to see him up close and get a better reading on him. His wealth may not be bringing him happiness. He may need your help and support. I think that closeness is a better strategy for you than avoiding him.



Sibling Envy

The funny thing about sibling envy
Is that it may start when you're just a baby
Your older brother may have felt jealousy
And hence worked hard toward autonomy

But his outward success
May mask an inner mess
And should you share a great adventure
Or even just a little trip
The page from awkward
To friendship may flip

"His wealth may not be bringing him happiness. He may need your help and support. I think that closeness is a better strategy for you than avoiding him." - Garrison Keillor. Post to Host: Sibling Envy. May 13, 2014

Years ago I picked up this sage advice which I continue to practice: Never discuss money with someone who has much more of it or much less than you do.

Estrangement from family members is always a sad thing and a source of pain that lingers for a lifetime. It should be avoided, if at all possible, especially if it stems from envy, rather than an actual misdeed.

Materialism is a snare. Wealth holds out the promise of happiness but is unable to deliver much of it. Satisfaction with work and love of family are not glamorous, yet they reliably produce a much better yield of what makes life worthwhile.

Sage advice, indeed - I'd say, "fill in the blank" - money, weight, faith, political opinion, dietary opinion, garden philosophy opinion... Important changes happen in small increments, at the margin - no need to try to change the world overnight (which, frankly, is not likely to happen, other than for the worse, by natural and manmade disasters).

Estrangement? Sometimes it is appropriate and deserved. When my sister became a born-again and married a minister and threw out her sailor first husband, I knew things were not going well. When my wife and I took care of our bedbound mother's end of life care, five years of 24/7 home care, that sister thought we should pay rent for living there caring for her. Then when Mom passed, my wife and I were to inherit the house (the homecare we gave for free would have ben valued at $350,000 on the open market, three times the value of the doublewide, and my wife gave up her fulltime job to do it), my sister ganged up with the also born-again Christian stepbrothers to take the house away and sell it. As a result, I have disowned my sister permanently. We're both better off for it! :-)

What sage advice. Maybe he could take her on the APHC cruise this summer? My husband and I have found cruising with the show a wonderful mix of new experiences, luxury and simplicity that has proved very beneficial to our relationship. Being with a boatload of 'Companions' could provide a broader seam allowance than a trip for two to the great unknown--and no check to pick up at the end of each meal. Besides, laughing together until you snort snot can be so healing.

I with you, Lou. I would think being "born again" should mean embracing the teachings of Jesus, which are all about love. As with you, though, my experience of born again siblings has made me wonder how they've been reborn.

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