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Sour Grapes


People usually associate the term "sour grapes" with someone who is bitter and discontent.  It's true that bitterness is often the end result of what the term is actually referring to, but it pays to look at its origin in order to escape its end result.
The story comes from an ancient fable about a fox that tried to get some grapes off a vine.  The vine was too high, and, try as he might, the fox could not jump or stretch himself high enough to reach them.  In the end, he went away empty handed.  What he did to console himself, was to say that the grapes were probably not worth bothering with anyway, because they were probably sour.
He did not know for sure, of course, and chances are that the grapes were not sour at all.  But, on first glance, it does seem like a reasonable way to console ourselves about something that we have been unable to achieve, whether it is a failed romance, a failed business transaction, or failed acceptance into an organisation.  We can tell ourselves, "It probably was not as good as it seemed cracked up to be."  "She probably would have dumped me eventually anyway."  "Even if it had succeeded, I would have ended up with ulcers from all the responsibilities."  "I've since heard that they are having a lot of problems and the organisation could end up dissolving."
However, where "sour grapes" evolves into a bitter twisted person is when the passing comment to ourselves becomes an obsession, where we have to continue to poke fun at, put a negative spin on, and tear apart anything relating to the "vine" that we did not measure up to.  A permanently sour disposition results.
It takes a special kind of person to be able to congratulate others for something that we failed to achieve ourselves.  And yet that is a far healthier attitude to take when we see others doing well.  Do we really need to be the best in everything?  Do we really need to put down others in order to make ourselves look better?  And is it really going to impress those looking on, to hear us constantly knocking those who are doing things that we have not done?

In Australia, they call it "the tall poppy syndrome", which simply means the tendency to cut down or find fault with anyone who is achieving more success than ourselves.  This should not be our approach to successes achieved by others.
No one can do everything.  Life is short.  We each have to choose where we will put in the greatest effort to excel.  When we find our niche and do what we can to grow in that area which we have chosen, and then we look across to see others on parallel paths who are also doing well, we should be able to wave at them and compliment them on how well they are doing without feeling less for it.  We can actually be happy for them.

But certainly the absolute worst goal we can choose for our lives is to dedicate ourselves to tearing down someone else.  The idiomatic term for it is "sour grapes" but it really means a very very "sour fox".  Don't let yourself turn into such a sad creature.


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