Destructive Envy and the “Crabs-in-a-Bucket Syndrome”

Crabs in a Bucket

A single crab can easily escape from an open bucket.  However, if there are several crabs in the same bucket, none will escape. When one crab claws its way to the top of the bucket the other crabs grab it and pull it down. Each crab could easily escape, but because of their “Crab Mentality,” none escape. Each crab is a “jailor” for the others Ultimately, this “Crabs-in-a-Bucket Syndrome” leads to the group’s failure. (This is apparently a true phenomenon.)

“Crabs-in-a-Bucket” is a metaphor for destructive human envy.Crab Mentality” destroys self-confidence in others.  It impedes progress and thwarts success.

If I can’t have it, neither can you.” “If I can’t do it, neither can you.”  “If I can’t be successful, neither can you.”

Crab Mentality” is akin to Scarcity Mentality where people see everything in terms of win-lose. “There is only so much; and if someone else has it, that means there will be less for me.”

Internet Crabs

Crab Mentality” is the driving force behind the cancel culture, cyberbullying, and internet trolls.  “Cyber crabs” think their own light will shine brighter if they blow out the light in others.  Instead, they just create more darkness. Behind every successful person lies a pack of haters.” “Pulling someone down will never help you reach the top.”

Crab Mentality in Communism and Socialism

Venezuela Former Breadbasket of S. America

Crabs-in-a-Bucket Syndrome” is a byproduct of communism and socialism. Enmity toward inequality mutates into destructive envy. Communism and socialism make everyone equal by bringing everyone down to the least common denominator. They redistribute wealth making everyone equally poor. (Eg. Venezuela, Zimbabwe, North Korea, USSR)  

Zimbabwe Former Breadbasket of Africa

Even Karl Marx, the father of Communism, recognized this defect.  He warned against “crude communism” that “aims to destroy everything which is incapable of being possessed by everyone.”  “Universal envy sets itself up as a power,” that aims at “leveling-down on the basis of preconceived minimum.” (Schweickart, “Socialist Envy,” Journal of Social and Political Theory, Oct 1994, pp. 37-41)

Winston Churchill argued that destructive envy is inherent in socialism. “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” “Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.”

Crab Mentality in Racial and Ethnic Groups

Less successful people in racial and ethnic groups use destructive envy to bring down successful members of their own group.  Theseethnic crabs enable and promote failure.  Their weapons include pejorative language.

  • Acting White”
  • “Talking White”
  • “Selling Out”
  • “Oreo”
  • “Uncle Tom
  • “Race Traitor”

School Crabs

Insecure students discourage academic success by ridiculing their classmates. This peer pressure promotes failure. Envious school crabs use name calling.

  • Teachers Pet”
  • “Apple Polisher”
  • “Kiss Up”
  • “Nerd”

Workplace Crabs

Crabs-in-a-Bucket Syndrome” pervades the workplace, even the courts.

For example, our judges who were forced to work night court handling traffic and small claims cases without any compensation, could take Friday afternoon off.  Other judges complained.  Of course, those same judges could have volunteered to work night court and get Friday afternoon off, but they refused. Hence, the afternoons off were cancelled for everyone.

In our courthouse, clerk’s friends could celebrate birthdays.  However, there were clerks who, for whatever reason, didn’t have friends. So, instead of trying to make friends, they complained.  Sadly, all birthday celebrations were cancelled. Envious “workplace crabs” taunt others with epithets.

  • Brownnoser”
  • “Bootlicker”
  • “Kiss Up”
  • “Ass Kisser”
  • “Sycophant”
  • “Yes Man”

Church Crabs

Crabs-in-a-Bucket Syndrome” has even infected the church.  Those who strive to become more righteous, magnify their callings, or strengthen themselves spiritually are mocked by the envious “less valiant” members.  These “church crabs” are like the people in the great and spacious building, taunting those striving to move forward on the covenant path.  Envious “church crabs” also use pejorative terms to mock others.

  • Goody-Goody”
  • “Goody Two Shoes”
  • “Prissy”
  • “Holier-than-thou”
  • “Molly Mormon”
  • ”Peter Priesthood”
  • “Iron-rod Mormons

Crab Mentality vs. the Gospel of Jesus

Crab Mentality” is incompatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  “Charity envieth not.” (1 Cor. 13:4. Mor. 7:45) Hate and envy ne’er annoy, when there’s love.” 

Destructive envy is a tool of the devil. Envy is one of theseven deadly sins.” The first murder, Cain and Abel, was the product of envy. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” (James 3:16) If we are not “stripped of envy,” then were will not be prepared to meet the Lord and will “not be found guiltless.” (Alma 5:29)

We should celebrate another’s good fortune and success.  Jesus always lifts others up. Satan always pulls others down because he wants them to be miserable like he is. (2 Nephi 2:27) We must follow Christ’s and His servants’ example and strive to lift others.

In short, don’t be a crab!

(See: Schweickart, “On Socialist Envy,” Journal of Social and Political Theory, Oct 1994, pp. 37-41; “Crab Mentality,” Wikipedia; “Beware of the Crab Mentality,”, 2020)

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