Envy

November 21, 2010

in therapy in session

Of all the Seven Deadly sins, ENVY arguably is the root of all evil, imo.

Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.       — Joseph Epstein

Kevin Spacey obviously agrees and that’s why his character in Seven saved Envy the Sin for himself…

It is also in the Ten Commandments in the form of the Tenth Commandment:

Thou Shall Not Covet.

Envy is an emotion that occurs when a person lacks another’s (perceived) superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it. (Wikipedia. What else?)

Most of the strife and many of the abhorrent, cruel, cold acts men committed against fellow men in this world have been caused by envy. To understand Envy, we need to understand the differences between Envy and his close cousin, Jealousy.

“Envy” and “Jealousy” are often used interchangeably, but in correct usage, they stand for two different distinct emotions. In proper usage, jealousy is the fear of losing something that one possesses to another person (a loved one in the prototypical form), while envy is the pain or frustration caused by another person having something that one does not have oneself. Envy typically involves two people, and jealousy typically involves three people.

(Wekipedia. Sigh. Maybe I SHOULD make a donation to Wikipedia after all…)

Or as Aristotle said…

Jealousy is both reasonable and belongs to reasonable men, while envy is base and belongs to the base, for the one makes himself get good things by jealousy, while the other does not allow his neighbour to have them through envy.

In this sense, Jealousy implies that there is a “reason” behind the emotion that human beings should be able to relate to: the fear of losing a loved one to someone with something more desirable, whereas Envy causes you to stand alone with your rage (for the rage “It is not fair” inadvertently comes when one is envious of someone else for something; the rage becomes even more severe when one recognizes that there is nothing unfair about the situation and yet cannot help but feel the tightening of one’s heart)

The emotion used most often to explain the motif (if there HAS TO BE one) for Iago’s actions in Othello is envy. I despise any attempt by modern scholars and especially, theatrical directors to turn his motif from Envy to Jealousy, creating a plausible yet cheapening story of Iago’s potential infatuation with Desdemona or Othello.

Why does Iago’s action have to be interpreted with reason? Envy is irrational, pure and simple. And what makes it the worst of all human emotions: It is isolating, unproductive, and more often than not, destructive. And it lives within all of us.

Here is my confession.

Envy lives within my heart and I cannot ward it off completely, 24/7.

When I marvel at undeserved good fortunes and when I subjectively decide who is or is not worthy of such good fortunes. When I belittle the fashion world and the people living in it. When I complain about my sister-in-law whose husband does all her bidding and whose parents are at the ready to provide long-term free babysitting. When I go out of my way to ignore bloggers whose husbands cannot get enough of them in the bedrooms and, it seems, everywhere else. When I tighten my fists reading about husbands who help around the house after an 8-hour work day. When I make fun of the really wealthy for their frivolous purchases or idiosyncrasies. When I look down at the young for their recklessness and carefree-ness.

I cannot honestly say that I do not feel envious.

When I witness brilliance and genius.

I cannot honestly say that I do not feel Antonio Salieri’s pain, that I do not understand where his hatred of Mozart came from.

Even though I could comfort myself with the understanding and perhaps acceptance that “There is not a passion so strongly rooted in the human heart as envy” (Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the guy who wrote The School for Scandal), I despise and scare myself when I recognize envy in my heart. I look in the mirror and I see ugliness. Embarrassed and ashamed. I close my eyes, shake my head, breathe deeply, willing it to go away by counting my blessings.

I learn to truly recognize and sincerely admire the brilliance and genius in those surrounding me.

This has served me well in blogosphere.

{ 20 comments }

Elly Lou November 24, 2010 at 10:02 am

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting and striving for more. And envy can help motivate us to do that. Well, that and caffeine.
Elly Lou´s last blog post…Somebody Stop Me

Absence Alternatives November 24, 2010 at 10:24 am

It’s the part that wishing someone else’s DOES NOT have what you don’t have that scares me…

MacDougal Street Baby November 23, 2010 at 6:39 pm

You hit the nail on the head. Breathe deeply. And be secure in your own base. You can’t ever know other people’s challenges, no matter how successful or happy they seem on the outside. Very often it’s the ones we envy who are having the hardest of times. We just don’t know it.

Absence Alternatives November 24, 2010 at 10:44 am

One side of my brain understands that. The other side, overlooks that. That’s why I hate it when I detect envy in my heart. I do think it is the ugliest emotions felt by human beings. When unchecked, it could unleash demons.

Meg at the Members Lounge November 23, 2010 at 1:09 pm

We all have days like this. Sometimes I’m all like screw it, I’m not writing today – no one cares! But I realize I do it for myself, my sanity and and it makes me happy. And hopefully one person in the blogosphere laughs with me!

And yeah, what Renee said!

Absence Alternatives November 24, 2010 at 10:43 am

I care! I read!!!

Andrea @ Shameless Agitator November 23, 2010 at 8:02 am

I had to end a close friendship that had turned toxic with her envy and how she expressed it: passive-aggressive insults, belittling my feelings, engaging in bizarre competition, becoming unhinged over little things. I couldn’t take it anymore so I stopped ignoring the behavior and confronted her. After five years of friendship, she told me that my most redeeming qualities were my daughters and my organizational skills. Sheesh. Life is too short for that kind of judgmental toxicity.
Andrea @ Shameless Agitator´s last blog post…Goal!

Absence Alternatives November 24, 2010 at 10:42 am

I have a friend like that. It’s got to the point where I am afraid of telling her anything good that happened in my life…

secret agent woman November 22, 2010 at 6:42 pm

I think it’s safe to say we all have those moments. And those who deny it are lying.
secret agent woman´s last blog post…Wash away my troubles

Absence Alternatives November 24, 2010 at 10:42 am

Thanks.

Renee Fisher November 22, 2010 at 7:39 am

I’ve started this response several times already, so you can see how it has made the synapses in my brain fire/scream/run amok/revolt. I have experienced so much of what you have, and I suspect most others have as well. For me, true brilliance and genius leaves me more stunned than envious. It’s the undeserved perception of brilliance and genius (that our culture does all too well) that sends me into a rage. And I still, 35 years later, can’t read posts of young moms who swoon in ectasy over every bit of poop their precious offspring produces. My memory of young motherhood is that I had post-partum depression that lasted until the youngest went off to college. I think I’ll stop now. Oh no, I’ll add that you are always, especially in your most rantiness, a joy to read.
Renee Fisher´s last blog post…At Thanksgiving- I’m Grateful For Me

Absence Alternatives November 24, 2010 at 10:42 am

Yes yes yes!!!!!

I can finally read about babies that sleep at night. Or breastfeed happily.

There is a reason why I never wrote about the early days of my motherhood…

writerwoman61 November 22, 2010 at 6:36 am

Hi Lin:

Here’s what I think: there are always people around who have “more” than what we ourselves have, but you have to remember that works two ways: it could also be more worry, more debt, more grief, more addictions, more trouble dealing with everyday life…

My life is far from perfect, but it could be a lot worse!

Hugs,
Wendy
writerwoman61´s last blog post…Je Parle Français Sort of…

Absence Alternatives November 24, 2010 at 10:40 am

I sometimes wonder whether it is the “undeserved” part that gets to me and people in general. But then of course who am I to judge who deserves this and that, eh?

Lies November 22, 2010 at 4:28 am

Envy carries a strong component of begrudging – I do wish I had things others (deservedly or undeservedly) have, but the key to me is I don’t begrudge them their material/immaterial blessings. The Wikipedia definition says “and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it”, but I find both shouldn’t be described by the same word. I don’t feel there is anything wrong with desiring I had the selflessness or writing/cooking/… talent I recognize in others. I feel this can actually be a stimulation for me to be a better person. But there is a lot wrong with wishing the other would lose their talent. That’s where I (try to) draw the line.
Lies´s last blog post…Quote on a Sungday

Absence Alternatives November 24, 2010 at 10:40 am

Thank you for commenting!!!!! 🙂

“But there is a lot wrong with wishing the other would lose their talent.”

Can’t agree with you more on that one.

Andrea November 21, 2010 at 5:50 pm

YOU, dear, are brilliance and genius.

I think we all live with envy. Even when we try desperately not to let it color our interactions, it’s still there, looking on. I am often envious of your remarkable ability to write from the heart, with passion and sincerity, about issues I’m too chicken to tackle in a post. Often what I admire in a person, I also envy. You are admirable (enviable).

Absence Alternatives November 24, 2010 at 10:39 am

Thank you…. *blushing*

I am also incorrigible. 😉

Libby November 21, 2010 at 4:54 pm

There is a lot of brilliance and beauty in the blog world. And there are a lot of dumb luck superstars that make me so envious my teeth hurt…
Libby´s last blog post…24 Hours Really

Absence Alternatives November 24, 2010 at 10:38 am

I love how you describe your pain. My hair hurts too.

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