It is a noun and a verb. It is one of the 7 greatest sins of the world. It is interesting that it is considered a SIN as if the person who is envious of others or a close friend or relative actually chose to feel this way. Is it really a choice? Does one actually seek feeling miserable with envy, bitterness towards others who appear to have what this person wants?
I suppose it may be half and half. Some may realize they are envious and this resentful feeling is eating at them at some point in time. But what they do once they realize this is eating at them is probably the part that could be given up at their discretion; it is a choice to explore alternative ways of approaching a situation.
Let’s say a guy envies his neighbour for having a super nice sports car and it starts to eat up at him. He can’t joke around with him anymore when they are washing and waxing their cars on Saturdays. He can’t seem to be able to find pleasure in their conversations anymore. That darn ENVY gets in the way. And once he realizes it is his resentment he could adjust his behaviour. He could humbly admit it was being a bit childish. Or, he could feed into that dark, cruel attitude by justifying his envy. He could try to convince himself that he has had to work harder than most to get by. He could bitterly whine that he never gets good luck in life. He could convince himself that he is a better person as he is not as materialistic as his neighbour who spent over $25,000 for his car.
Or it could be a woman who envies a close friend because she seems to be able to eat anything she wants without gaining any weight. Maybe she envies her looks, her ease in attracting lots of people, her lovely personality or that she owns a house or nicer car…the list goes on. How can you resent someone for having a body and image she was born with? How can you resent someone who chooses to invest lots of money into a house and or a car? Whose fault is it that a person is kind and socialable? Should you envy people for material things, do you envy their big monthly payments too?
What about that executive who has a beautiful home with a 2 car garage in Westmount or Forest Hill? That guy who seems to have it all…the lovely professional and beautiful partner who does not have to work, the 2 brilliant children going to private schools and the beautiful 40 foot boat moored at some lakeshore marina. That is also the guy who gets up at 4:45am. every morning to beat the traffic and get to his office at 6:30am. That is the guy who gets home at 8:00 pm every night. The boat is to wine and dine clients; the kids have a very rigid regiment to study a minimum of 3 hours every night to be able to stay in their respective schools. The beautiful spouse does not have a “paid” employment because she car pools the kids to sports and school; she also spends 4 hours every day with her mother who suffers from a chronic and painful disease to give the her father a break so he can get out and do errands as well as visit friends to keep his sanity. Anyone want to trade your 8 hours work day with this executive?
And so as some people may hide behind the face of supporting social justice and despising many rich, isn’t it great that some of these persons who work 16 hour days donate to several charities each and every year. “Oh, that’s just to get a tax cut” some self-righteous person may say. So what! Better to give to a charity like a women’s shelter than to the government who will screw that up again and leave next to nothing to many non-profit agencies! Ah, but some people seem to enjoy envying others without thinking further than their noses!
Imagine a person who is struggling to keep her weight down and she looks at a skinny person scornfully? But what IF that skinny person is going through Chemo Therapy? What if she eats one meal a day to be able to feed her family? Who really knows? Imagine a person buys a new car, a new coat, get an awesome new hairdo…why would anyone resent that? Why can’t one simply think, “Wow that is so cool” or “Wow she sure looks great!”
At one of my first jobs in my 20’s, I remember giving compliments to colleagues about their outfits, hairdos or the great work they were doing. And it struck me as puzzling when they would look at me with a suspicious look rather than smile and say, “Thanks”. Not everyone, mind you, reacted this way but still. It was not until many years later that I realized how many people with low self-esteem and self-worth often can NOT accept compliments, will envy others good fortune and may choose to be bitter rather than try and change this terribly painful feeling….envy.
I knew someone who used to envy her friends but in the guise of saying she was “happy for them” but when she had a chance to get her dagger out to criticize other things about her friends, she did. I think this is probably the most dangerous type of envious person. This person who does NOT recognize their behaviour. They bite and spew nasty comments and pretend they are joking. They do NOT acknowledge their resentment makes them bitter. They cannot understand why people pull away from their hurtful and cruel comments.
We have all felt this ENVY from time to time. We envy the attention a sibling gets from a parent, we envy the attention a teacher gives a student, we may even envy a classmate who has that dress your mom could not afford to get you or the guy who has that awesome baseball glove…BUT we eventually get over it and grow up! Right?
A while ago, a colleague had an hysterical fit, rushing in tears to our manager’s office when she heard she had not won a competition for a particular project in the agency. Did she ever calm down? Sort of after 2 hours. Did she ever congratulate her colleague for winning the competition? Never. Does she still spew her opinions and biting comments depending her mood. You bet! How sad people are who are resentful and embittered by what other people have!
Rather than allow that feeling to eat at you, one could try to find ways to not feel this anymore. One may feel disappointed for not getting that job several colleagues were all competing for…but many do get over it eventually.
So what drives people to hang on for dear life on that debilitating feeling? Besides the lack of self-esteem…it can also be part of a person’s personality. A person who has a chip on his shoulder and feels that any bad luck in life is the fault of society, his parents, his partner, his boss, his kids…all of it!!
Or it could also be someone who is going through a difficult transition in life and is struggling to manage these chagnes…maybe a person is getting older and resists this. Maybe the person dreamed of continuing further in their career if only they would have pursued higher education but did not think they could ever succeed. And so they grow older with thoughts congesting the mind, “I could have” “I wish I would have” “If only I …” or “My ship just did not come in”. How toxic is that!!??
Think about it…There are people who envy their neighbour (metaphorically). They see that the grass seems greener. But has this person ever actually walked out on that neighbour’s grass to smell the heaps of fertilizer he had to put on it? Has he ever seen his neighbour up at 5am every morning pulling out the weeds? Has he actually ever noticed all the effort his neighbour put into it? What would that person trade to get what he resents so much?