I briefly researched the origins of envy after hearing a quote in a recent meeting. It is something I may want to spend more on time later because it has an interesting history. For now I am going to write about how it has appeared in my life and the role it plays throughout our lives.
Envy is the act of feeling a discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck. It’s common usage origins come from a Greek monk who warned his order against eight thoughts which could interfere with their spiritual practices. Later envy entered mainstream Christianity via St. George in the six century as he developed the idea of the Seven Deadly Sins which are ruled by pride. (See the movie Seven for details.) Envy replaced sloth and became one of the Seven Deadly Sins that Catholicism says can lead to the death of the soul. That is a bit far stretched for me because I believe in the eternity of the soul. Regardless I have always understood the importance of avoiding envy.
To the best of my knowledge, I have not had an issue with envy. This probably comes from my understanding and acceptance of karma. We all have different possessions for different reasons. I may look at someone who has a something which intrigues me, but I do not feel envious. As an adult, I learned there are cultures which see envy as a negative spirit rather than a human thought. For example, in Mexico it is impolite and taboo to say, ” You have a beautiful home, I’m so jealous.” Those words are believed to bring negative energy and unwelcome spirits to the people involved.
Psychologically speaking envy is linked to our own self-image. When we do not have a strong idea or positive view of our personal self-image, envy is the likely result. We feel there is a lack and we are looking to fill the void. I will be happy when I have a body like Chris Hemsworth. I would eat better if I had a personal chef like Oprah. My coworkers are more successful than I am. Once we remember that we do not lack anything for we are perfectly whole, we can move beyond comparison.
As a child, I knew appearances could be deceiving. Perhaps it came from my dysfunctional family portraying the ideal family. My keen empathy and psychic awareness definitely allowed me to “see” the truths behind many people. Although the grass may be greener on the other side, we were not all meant to have grass. Some of us live near the beach or in the desert where we have sand not grass. Whenever I want something different for myself, I have to want to change it for myself. This sounds ideal and simple, but my ego can still step in to misdirect me. It is just another part of my journey through life.
What struck me this week, was the quote stating comparison is the thief of joy. This is absolutely true. Honestly anything which distracts us from the present moment is a thief. It takes our energy away from the here and now to spend it on frivolous thoughts. There is no past or future, joy cannot live there. Joy is only truly experienced in the present moment. We experience joy through many parts of life such as stillness, unconditional love, and self acceptance. These help us to keep the green-eyed monster at bay. At the very least, do not compare yourself to anyone else and do not accept envy from others. There is no need to steal joy from the present moment.
“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on…”William Shakespeare, Othello