YOU’VE BEEN WRONGED. You’re livid and your first instinct is to get revenge. You can’t help it; you are so stripped of any good feeling towards this person, and your whole world seems consumed with retribution. You’re filled with hatred of anything that might be construed as success for this person, or any situation they might be involved with.
Most people can identify with this situation; in truth, everyone can. It’s good old-fashioned envy. When we’ve fallen for the trap of envy, seduced by it and deceived no less, it can be a hard thing (and at times seemingly impossible) to reverse the poisonous effects of this emotion. It is acid for the victim and the perpetrator alike.
According to Wikipedia, Envy is defined as “an emotion that ‘occurs when a person lacks another’s superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it.'”
The causes of envy are often drawn from an upward comparison to others, though we’re particularly susceptible to feeling envious when making comparisons with those of similar standing to ourselves.
So, how do we tackle and conquer this ‘green-eyed’ monster? The wisdom of Proverbs is a good place to start, particularly chapter 24. There is a simple idea in theory; be aware of and challenge our thinking. Our challenge is to divert our thinking to this:
What to avoid: Attitudes lead to actions. The sort of envious attitude that “informs” our actions unfortunately ‘circles back’ and reinforces our held perceptions at a heart level — this is precisely why the emotion of envy is so poisonous and dangerous for our relationships. Envy is a power that seeks to destroy. It is clear that thinking that seeks to destroy must be remedied.
What to embrace: Paul Koptak says that, “Envy is a power, but so is wisdom,” so we should embrace wisdom by replacing the destructive power of envy, with a power that builds and establishes, especially others like those weaker and less fortunate than ourselves. The power of advocacy! In some ways it is about diverting the attention from ourselves and placing it on those we can help. This employs the power of humility and pays heed to the truth that there are always others around us that don’t fare as well as we do.
This change in thinking defeats envy at its source — an overweening focus on “me” versus a healthier focus on others.
It is such a breath of fresh air to our souls to defeat envy; and always worth the effort.