{08/07/2012}   Envy

                I often want to covet things that are not mine, from experiences to possessions.  I guess it’s human nature to want what we don’t have (not necessarily what we can’t have though).  So long as it doesn’t extend into jealousy (which I see as being potentially nasty), I think envy can be channelled into quite a productive direction.  However, I wonder if I, maybe even we, have re-defined envy, for it is envy that is one of the biblical seven deadly sins.

                I have just looked up a few definitions of “envy” and “jealousy” and I still think jealousy is a stronger negative feeling as I think it’s related to resentment.  I think of envy as being more of an appreciation of what someone else has to the extent that you want it.  Is it envy or jealousy that has us standing at a “neighbour’s” fence admiring the perceived greener grass on their side?  Or maybe it’s a matter of how you deal with it.

To me, jealousy is something I associate with boy/girlfriends and friends.  The only recent (maybe ten years ago) occasion when I have had an overwhelming feeling of jealousy (and I knew it was jealously because I was reminded that I’d only ever felt that way at school and it was never pretty) was when a group of friends went on holiday and didn’t invite me (by not giving the details I am overdramatizing it, but how I felt at the time is the point).  It felt horrible and I didn’t like that feeling at all.  As for envy, a friend went on a day trip to France yesterday, I was envious because I love going over there for daytrips and had visions of all the things I could eat (yes, yes, I know I went two weeks ago!).  I had no bitter or spiteful thoughts about her going, I was pleased for her, and anyway she’s brought me back a box of macaroons!

As for it being a positive thing, I feel envious that some of my friends in recent years have lost weight.  They have all worked hard at it and it’s paid off.  I feel inspired by their efforts and seeing them looking better and happier is a great motivator for me.  Surely that’s a case of envy being a positive thing?  I don’t know why this all bothers me but I think it stemmed from being on train platforms with school children a few years ago when I commuted from Whitstable.  I overheard so many horrible things and was reminded that throughout your childhood you experience pretty much all human emotions, indeed that’s how and when we learn behaviours, but it was all so raw and largely horrible to hear and see.  I was surprised by how many feelings it made me think about and be thankful I had learnt to harness!  It would be one of the cruelest punishments possible to have 30 years taken off me and to send me back to the early years of school.  Maybe envy on the grand scale of early experiences of wanting someone’s [insert a current coveted thing that most parents can’t afford] is where the “sin” element of envy is apparent.  I can remember flying into tantrums and rages about not being able to have the Barbie house that a friend had.  What a brat.  It was an unleashing of frustration, anger, resentment … ugh, so ugly.

I guess a point of sorts has developed, which is that a feeling like envy can be controlled and, I think, be seen as a positive.  But in its raw unconsidered state, I guess it probably could lead to sin.  As for jealousy, that brews.  Right, yes, I’ve lost the point a bit!


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