Of all the ‘deadly sins’ envy is the most debilitating, sapping every ounce of sensible behaviour, compassion, rationality, and skewing every action. In moderation I might even encourage you to commit any of the other six sins, and I recommend, in particular a little bit of lust, but at all cost, avoid envy.
Envy is mostly centred on money. If only I had as much money as <insert any name you think of here> I could go on holiday six times a year. Maybe it wouldn’t be six times a year. Maybe I would be on one long holiday. Pay differentials, big houses, happiness, Kardashians. We can envy them all, but it does no good. If luck or hard work don’t succeed you are exactly where you are. Sit back and enjoy yourself. There is nothing more you can do.
However, the aspect of envy that frightens me most is jealousy and that is totally in your control.
I know I am being a little lax with my definitions. This is what the internet says: ‘The main difference between envy and jealousy is that envy is the emotion of coveting what someone else has, while jealousy is the emotion related to fear that something you have will be taken away by someone else.’ I hope language pedants will let me carry on.
There is an imaginary young couple and for this we will call them George and Lydia. In many ways George and Lydia are very normal. They have just bought their first home, and both are working. Lydia, has just been promoted and instead of congratulating and praising her all George can think about is what he is going to lose and how he is going to explain to his friends that she is more successful than him. He punishes her in subtle and distressing ways.
And then there is Bill and Kathy. Kathy likes to go out occasionally with her girlfriends. It is just a drink, maybe after work, and only once or twice a month, but Bill insists that he knows where she is, who was there, what they did and every detail. He has even taken to turning up at the same place and trying to sit in with her. Kathy doesn’t like that.
Gina loves her partner, Mike, and is devoted to him. She is also an extrovert and loves partying while he is a little more reticent and hates Gina’s behaviour which culminated at one party in a huge scene when he shouted and accused her of being unfaithful and a slut. Neither of which were true.
As their love diminished, all three relationships finished.
These are not real couples, but composites of people I have met and the situations I have seen. It was so sad because all of this could have been avoided if jealousy had been managed and controlled.
I can speak with some authority on this issue because there was a time, in my late teens and early twenties when I was almost unable to operate as a social being because of jealousy. I could see small benefits in envy because it also fuelled ambition. I worked harder to get what others had but there was nothing good in jealousy. I still shudder as I remember those days. I knew it had to be eliminated totally from my life.
For me the solution was in Zen. How it happened and how I did it, is for another day but eliminating jealousy was the one of the best things I ever did.
The problem is that jealousy kills and removes the last vestige of trust which is at the corner stone of all that is good.
Sasha, is in Kiev and we meet far less frequently than I could ever hope. So far apart, if I had any hint of jealousy, then I would be as mad as a hatter. I could spend every moment wondering what she was doing and who with. Instead I have total trust and I don’t ever think my trust will be betrayed.
Of course, it may happen. For a thousand reasons it could happen, but if one day my trust is shown to be ill founded, then so be it. Then I will know there was never a real and lasting love and the pain at that loss, however great, will be far less than fighting jealousy every day.
Jealousy destroys the chance of love growing. Jealousy can always be replaced by positive actions and a powerful want to help your partner grow. Imbue the relationship with confidence, trust and positivity and wonderful things can start to happen.
George can gain pride from Lydia’s promotion. Bill may find that on the nights that Kathy is out he can watch the football, have some indulgent chips, or even go and have a beer with his friends. Mike can look at Gina and see how beautiful and admired she is.
Envy and jealousy are the most destructive and insidious of all emotions in any relationships. I have it under control but, even still, I am jealous of everyone who has the person they love next to them, but it will not drive me mad. All I can do is work harder to change our situation.