Envy Shoots at Others, But Wounds Herself
A reader writes, “One of my biggest challenges is overcoming envy and resentment. My Father was very successful but became ill about 10 years ago and stopped working and lost a lot of money.
“A lot my friends have extremely wealthy parents and for some reason I resent it very much!
“I pay my rent every month and am doing extremely well for myself but for some reason I keep focusing on what I don’t have and what my friends do have.
“Most people would do anything to be in my position; yet, I’m still focusing on what I don’t have. And it bothers me that I will have to work so hard to get everything I want.
“Do you have any suggestions?”
Envy is pervasive and, therefore, makes an excellent topic. Even though it is widespread, however, the degree to which it is troubling varies from person to person. Yet, there is good reason to try to remove it from our lives, for envy is a thief that robs us of happiness. Or, as Buddha put it, “He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.”
Besides robbing us of happiness, envy also prevents us from enjoying what we already have. Worse than that is the physical damage done to our bodies by the toxic emotions of envy, resentment, and frustration. By the way, the knowledge that negative emotions have an adverse effect on our body is hardly new. For even the Old Testament teaches, “Envy and wrath shorten the life.” (Ecclesiastes, 30:24)
Even if you were to think of envy as a trifling matter, at times the smallest of concerns can lead to huge problems if we do not nip it in the bud. For this reason, the British Cleric, Poet, and Mystic Thomas Traherne (1636 ~ 1674) wrote, “A little grit in the eye destroyeth the sight of the very heavens, and a little malice or ENVY a world of joys. One wry principle in the mind is of infinite consequence.”
When his family was well-off, our reader felt comfortable among his wealthy friends. But after his family’s finances fell, he felt that life was unfair. He wondered why this was happening to him and not his friends. After all, he was just as deserving, if not more so. Therefore, he grew resentful.
Why did this happen to our reader? Probably because life has better plans for him. You see, when everything is handed to us on a silver platter, we are denied the exhilaration and joy that follows success after a long struggle. True, if we inherit great wealth, we can spend it on various pleasures, but how short-lived they are! How shallow they are! Unless we struggle for our success, we will never know what it means to live a thrilling adventure, which is what life was meant to be.
The moral for our reader is embrace your turn of fortune. Delight in the knowledge that it represents an opportunity for you to reach undreamed of heights. You were placed on earth to live as a hero, not a beggar. Besides, why do you want to be like your friends? Greatness lies in following your own path. Strive for uniqueness, not conformity. The paradox is that often having less is having more. For when we have less wealth, we often have more drive, more ambition, more direction, more purpose, and more adventure.
Also, please understand there is a great difference between those who have had wealth handed to them and those who have had to work hard for their success. The difference is the former can lose everything they have, for all they have is wealth. But if the latter lose their wealth, they still have the skills and knowledge they got during their struggles. Armed with know-how and the scars to prove they can overcome obstacles, they have the resilience to bounce back after a so-called disaster. They are true survivors, for it is not wealth that provides security, but resilience.
It also needs to be said that envy is ignorance of the problems that others have. Your friends may be unhappy, have relationship problems, be ill, worried about the future, be bored, feel lost, be unsure of themselves, or have any number of a host of other problems. It is only your ignorance of their complaints that makes you envy them.
Additionally, you seem to be confused about the true nature of wealth. Wealth is freedom from want. By “freedom from want,” I don’t mean freedom from a lack of possessions, but freedom from a NEED for possessions. What you, your friends, and I really want is happiness. Constantly bombarded by commercials, however, we are often led astray, believing the next great product will bring happiness.
But, alas, happiness does not come from HAVING more, but from BEING more. Being MORE cooperative, helpful, encouraging, accepting, patient, understanding, trusting, supportive, compassionate, forgiving, cheerful, and caring. This form of behavior is aligned with our true nature, so when we act that way, we feel good and discover what it is like to have heaven on earth. Moreover, when we wish others well and celebrate their successes, we uplift ourselves and destroy any remnants of envy.
In the second paragraph, our reader writes “..for some reason I keep focusing on what I don’t have.” His behavior doesn’t stem from some mysterious reason; it’s simply based on force of habit. So, it’s time to change the habit. It’s simple to do. Just start each day by writing the following questions and answering them in a journal: “What am I grateful for today? What am I excited about today? What am I looking forward to today?”
Answering these questions keeps you focused on the positive, energizes you, and jump-starts your day. Repeat this daily, and in a short time, you’ll begin to see life in a new way. Much has been written about the importance of gratitude and I’m sure you KNOW all about that, but now it’s time for you to FEEL it.
For a book you may find helpful, see “LAW OF ATTRACTION: The Science of Attracting More of What You Want and Less of What You Don’t” by Michael J. Losier, Wellness Central, 2007. This book is less metaphysical and much more down-to-earth and practical than other books on the same subject.
Summing up, I suggest our reader strive to BECOME more rather than HAVE more. One way of doing so is by living by the creed of William A. Ward (1921 ~ 1994): “Blessed is he who has learned to admire but not envy, to follow but not imitate, to praise but not flatter, and to lead but not manipulate.”