Friday, January 8, 2010

“Envy eats nothing but its own heart” - German proverb

"Envy is the art of counting the other fellow's blessings instead of your own." - Harold Coffin

We all want things we don't or can't have. Even if you live a 'plain' life, you'll want things. You'll want a new washing line, a new cow, a new loft in the barn, new shoes, new quilts, new glasses, etc. I don't think that desiring things that we don't have counts as envy. I want lots of things, things that aren't even useful, or needful, but I want them. Why? Oh, many, many reasons. Acquisitiveness, maybe, or my love of them. Sometimes, they're even useful things. (But not all the time, by any stretch of the imagination.) But I can see someone else *with* that thing, and admire it, and think, 'oh, I wish I could afford/find/have room for one of those' *without* considering the person who does have it. They're (most of the time) not a part of the equation to me. I don't feel a pang of anger that *they* have it and *I* don't. I don't wail about the unfairness of the universe, that they should have this thing I so desire, and I can't.

I'm not saying I've *never* envied anyone. I don't recall any times, to be honest, but that doesn't mean that they never happened. I'm just saying I don't make a habit of it.

But I know people who do, and they want others to *know* about this unfair balance in the cosmos, so that the others can commiserate with them, and feel those sick, stabbing pains too.

Let's take the incident this morning. I was talking with a girl in another department about her department head. We were wondering if he was coming in, because his 'deputy' was off today, and no one had seen him. We joked that he was like a little kid saying, 'Mom's not home, so I'll skip school!' and then we moved on. Another woman I work with muttered something about him being a 'rich momma's boy', and 'whining to mommy and getting a new car'. She said that last a couple times, and you can just *feel* the (oh, I'm gonna sound new agey here, but whatever), the negativity, the *sourness* rolling off, in her tone, in her posture. She was *pissed* about this, and, yeah, jealous. Envious. After a few times of her saying it, I finally asked, 'did his mom buy him a new car?' 'YEAH!' 'okay' and I turned back to my work. She finished what she was doing, and went back to her desk, silent. And, seriously, it left me a little nauseous.

I mean, what difference does it make who bought who what? Is being mad about it going to suddenly make a new *yadda* appear for you? Do you think God is going to lean down and go, 'YOU'RE RIGHT, THAT'S NOT FAIR. HERE YOU GO. HAVE ONE. HAVE A DOZEN!' Nope. All that happens is you harbor this black emotion in your heart, deep down, and it poisons you. You focus on all the things you don't have, and how wrong it is that other people (people who don't need/deserve them as much as *you* do) *do* have them. How is that good? How is that constructive? Can't you be happy for the other person? Even if you don't *like* the other person, if you can't be *happy* for them, can't you just be neutral about it?


  1. I think you just answered the difference between envy and wanting something. You can want something someone else has but the moment you wish they did not have it so it could be your own that is envy. That is what the Turkish call the evil eye LOL

    Envy is dangerous, but wanting stuff really isn't. You are right, Envy just eats a black hole in you. No good comes from it.

  2. Is being mad about it going to suddenly make a new *yadda* appear for you? Do you think God is going to lean down and go, 'YOU'RE RIGHT, THAT'S NOT FAIR. HERE YOU GO. HAVE ONE. HAVE A DOZEN!'

    I've never tried that before! Maybe that lady knows something we don't, and it's worth a shot! :D

    More seriously, good post and good points.

  3. OH WOW! I am guilty and I've never heard it put like this before but this line-"eats nothing but it's own heart"-really opens my eyes and hits home for me.
    I've spent so much time wishing, wanting, admiring, insulting what I don't have out of immaturity that I've lost myself along the way. I've wasted so much time and the only result I've ever gotten is more heartache. I am also guilty of telling my story over and over and over to the point people are like "okaaaaay we get it! Can we please move on now!"

    I think I will write this down and post it on my fridge and my mirror, in my car, in my room-everywhere- so that I can be reminded of what you wrote here and remember to stay the course-wake each day with the thought that "today I will change my thinking and I WILL not fall into the same trap"
    Who knows? Perhaps someday it will sink in and I will -by the grace of God-avoid that trap I seem to keep stepping on?!

  4. You are so right, it is completely pointless and counter-productive to envy!

    I think I have fallen prey to the green-eyed monster from time to time. I think the problem stems from tending to not take responsibility for my own happiness.

    I like the Muslim thing of saying "mashaAllah" (in my head) when I see someone's good fortune, because it reminds me that everything is subject to the will of God even if I don't like it or think it's unfair. (Nothing to do with evil eye for me!)

    I also find counting my blessings helpful, as well as recognising that a lot of the things I don't have that I wish I did are a result of my choices.

  5. Loved the proverb and quote! And I think one cure for envy is realizing how blessed I am. As the quote says about counting blessings -- why not start with my own! Definitely I am blessed!

    Loved this reminder - thank you!

    I am envious of your challenging post! ;-)

  6. LK,

    Yep. It's a fine line, though. But I think we can all feel it when we go from wanting a thing to having negative feelings towards those who have the things.

  7. Sanil, hasn't worked for her, so I'm gonna call it a 'no go' from my side. :)

    Thanks. I do occasionally have those.

  8. Nobody,

    We all do it. Every last one of us. I think the trick is to be aware of it and correct ourselves when we realize we're heading that way. Of course, that's the hard part. :)

    I'm glad this post struck something for you.

  9. Sarah,

    We all do it, I think it's just a part of the 'fallen' nature of man, that we're prone to seeing what we don't have, rather than what we do.

  10. Susanne,

    Of *course* the proverb is good. It's *German*. ;)

    *Ack!* I feel your envy! :p


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