Envy is the mud that failures throw at success

To be envious is to regret one’s failure to achieve good fortune or to regret the successes of others. It is often accompanied by a false sense of entitlement. Instead of working for what they want, envious people may believe they deserve it merely because they want it. Also, in their twisted perspective, they may imagine that the gains of others have been taken from them, so they are filled with resentment. The envious suffer twice, when they don’t succeed and when others do. Their negative attitude makes them unpopular, which further escalates their envy.

Envy manifests itself three stages. The first is the regret of one’s loss. For example, you may have been in a golf tournament, beauty pageant, speech contest, or a political campaign. And despite your best effort, you may have had to watch someone else win. To feel a bit envious at that time is hardly surprising. As long as you lose gracefully, congratulate the winner, and wish them well, you have nothing to be ashamed of. Occasional losses are helpful as we can use them to develop our strength and character.

This first stage of envy is harmless, but not so for the second stage, which is to resent the good fortune of others. This animosity may be expressed by ill will toward others. For instance, to increase our chances of winning, we may wish our golf opponent lands his ball in the sand trap. A beauty contestant may hope her rival falls off the stage during her dance routine, or a speaker may prayer that his challenger freezes in fear and forgets his speech. And a politician may hope the opposition drops out of the race because of a blunder.

What’s so bad about wishing our rival a streak of bad luck? After all, thoughts can’t harm anyone, can they? Wrong! Firstly, they can harm US by festering in our soul, for as the Greek Dramatist, Antisthenes, wrote 2,400 years ago, “As iron is eaten away by rust, so the envious are consumed by their own passion.” Second, where do malicious acts originate? Don’t they all begin as thoughts? That’s what makes the second stage of envy harmful. It has the potential of becoming the third type, which is action taken to hurt others.

So you see, if we’re not careful, a little “innocent” envy can develop into hateful actions. This is why envy is treated seriously in The Bible: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17) Again, “A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30)

Those who act maliciously because of envy usually begin by criticizing and maligning others, as well as lying and spreading rumors. Although the envious are troublesome to others, they are a torment to themselves. As they sink further into despair, they may engage in violent behavior. Thus, envy can lead to hate crimes and more. Envy and its harmful results cause one to feel ashamed and may lead to self-loathing. Envy springs from a sense of emptiness or unworthiness and the resultant thoughts and malicious acts are done to dull, soften, or conceal the pain. The cure for envy is goodwill, benevolence, and generosity. The secret is to focus on others instead of ourselves. It is only by helping others that we will be helped.

Is there someone you envy? The best thing you can do is to befriend them. When you express your admiration for their accomplishments, they will be happy to pass on tips on how you, too, can be successful. Instead of nurturing resentment, inspire yourself by their example, and emulate their success. Focus on, “How can I achieve that?” instead of “I wish I had that.” Use your negative emotions to help you grow. Life is like photography; we need negatives to develop.

If someone is envious of you and treats you coldly, try to be compassionate. They may act cruelly, but it’s not because they dislike you, but because they’re unlike you. They lack your strength. If they belittle you, they’re just trying to cut you down to their size. Yet, if you extend your hand in friendship, you may have the power to change their life. By your own example, you will be able to teach them that blowing out another’s candle will not make their own shine brighter.