One-Punch in the Face of Jealousy

"OnePunch-Man" | Art by Shumijin. Used with permission.

Not everyone can just decide they want to be a hero and make it happen. But One-Punch Man, or Saitama, does just that. He’s a hero for fun, not in it for the glory. Becoming so strong wasn’t easy—he kept up a rigorous physical routine that put such stress on his body that he lost all of his hair. Imagine, if you can, doing 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats, and then a 10K run EVERY DAY for three years, without air conditioning or heat.

Actually, I can easily imagine it because I have to do that many squats and push-ups every day as part of my black belt training, and we do at least 100 sit-ups in every karate class. I also don’t have air conditioning in my house. So what he does is do-able, and certainly shouldn’t make your hair fall out. But, for Saitama, this training and an unbreakable will makes him the most powerful superhero in the world.

Saitama isn’t just facing villains; he’s also battling a painful rumour.

I don’t know if it’s the ease with which Saitama became a hero, his genuine humility, or the fact that he tears through the hero ranking system like gangbusters is what upsets the other heroes, but his presence inspires big feelings in the people who meet him. Some are happy to work with him and see his value, and one, a cyborg named Genos, even becomes his disciple. Others are determined to take him down a peg. Right off the bat, as they’re wrapping up Saitama and Genos’ orientation to the Hero Association, Snakebite Snek wants to put Saitama in his place. It backfires, of course, because Saitama is ridiculously strong, but Snek makes it his business to cause him trouble.

Later in the series, when Saitama destroys a meteor hurtling toward the earth, which causes some serious collateral damage, Tank Top Tiger and Tank Top Blackhole try to turn a crowd against Saitama because they’re jealous of his quick rise through the ranks. To try and recover the situation, Saitama has to beat the Tank Top duo up and deal with the angry mob they riled up. Their effort to convince everyone that Saitama is taking credit for other heroes’ work follows Saitama into each new villain-thwarting situation in which he finds himself. While no hero or villain is a physical match for him, Saitama isn’t just facing villains; he’s also battling a painful rumour.

In my own life, I regularly have to deal with a person who tries very hard to discredit me and my work. It can be challenging, at times, to remain calm and remember that it’s his issue, not mine, that provokes his assaults on my work. When I’m able to keep that in focus, I also remember to pray for him, that he’ll have peace in his heart and mind. If I’m being humble enough, I can rely on God’s help, through prayer, to not lash out in return. I can continue choosing who I want to be instead of reacting like that individual wants me to—much like Saitama is able to do.

Many of the Hero Association seem to have an issue with Saitama, and overall there seems to be a general lack of support within the Association that causes a competitive atmosphere instead of one of mutual respect. It can be natural to be jealous of other people’s gifts and talents, especially if they are things you desire for yourself. It’s common enough for people to become suspicious of colleagues whose success is rivaling or even outmatching your own. And, it can be pretty normal for folks whose own motives are sketchy to assume that other’s motives are sketchy, too. This is true in social situations, work, school, hobbies and, worst of all, it can happen in the Church.

But, heroes should stick together. They’re all on the same team—the team whose job it is to defend the earth. It would make sense that heroes would band together, each respecting and valuing the powers of the other, and fighting together in ways that compliment the powers of the other. Sometimes they do; Mumen Man, Silverfang, and Puri-Puri Prisoner to name a few, are happy to work side-by-side with other heroes. They aren’t burdened by jealousy or suspicion—they only care about defeating villains and supporting one another. And they are effective because of their willingness to work as a team.

It can be natural to be jealous of other people’s gifts and talents, especially if they are things you desire for yourself.

What strikes me most about Saitama’s response to those who try to put him down, or push him to the place they perceive he belongs (below themselves), is that he never loses sight of what he is doing or why he’s doing it. Their jealousy can’t touch him, because he acts out of true humility. He knows who he is, and what he’s capable of, and no one can take that away from him. He uses his abilities to serve others, regardless of whether they appreciate it, respect him, or blame him for the damage caused by the attackers. He gets upset at their anger—anyone would. But, he saves them anyway.

That’s the kind of servant’s heart I’d like to develop. I recognize that when others look down on me, I could be prone to reacting in jealousy toward them; I’m tempted to forget who I am and what I’m worth and to want their approval instead. I want to develop the kind of strength, not to defeat any enemy with one punch (although that would be super cool—not to use it, just to know I could if I wanted to), but the kind that doesn’t rely on others for my sense of self or lose my sense of value when I’m not appreciated by another. I’d like to be secure enough to put my abilities at the service of others regardless of how they might view me, and to be secure enough to not be threatened by anyone else’s gifts. Like Saitama, I’d like to just be me.

Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

Contributing Writer at Area of Effect
Jen is a pastoral minister, wife, mother, ninja and writer. She loves sci-fi, superheroes, and classic literature, and prefers to share her Catholic faith through such lenses. Her book, "Comic Con Christianity" is available from Paulist Press.
Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

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