Over the past two weeks, two people have approached me about experiences they are having concerning jealousy. One person has told me that she is jealous of a friend. The other has told me that her friend is jealous of her. There are 3 points that I want to pick up on this:
The difference between envy and jealousy
Envy refers to a sadness at the sight of another’s perceived advantage. From the Latin invidia, meaning “to look against the affairs of others hostilely”, envy breeds resentment and turmoil eventually leading to begrudging the other, to selfishness and to implicit covetousness if it is not remedied.
Jealousy wants to vigilantly guard what one possesses (or wants to possess) and to keep others from having it. The etymology for this word brings up “zealous (which means a fiery kind of fervent), enthusiasm, and longing”.
Jealousy in its rightful and balanced form, isn’t a bad thing. A prime example of this is a marriage. It is right that a husband or wife vigilantly guard the marriage (the person possesses the grace & mission of marriage, but does NOT possess the person who is the spouse **very important**). What often goes wrong in jealousy is when that husband or wife forces the action of guarding beyond the point of vigilance into an extremity of paranoia, and knowingly or unknowingly interchanges guardianship of the sacrament of their marriage into a possession of their spouse. A human being is not the possession of another human being, and should never become one. This will lead to enslavement, objectification and imprisonment in both parties. The human being rightfully belongs only to God, but they have to want to choose that for themselves.
As mentioned, jealousy in its rightful and balanced form can be considered quite a healthy thing. However, envy, in any form is not a healthy thing. At all. Nothing about envy can be good for you, or for the other. Unfortunately, what many people don’t really realise, is that envy is beyond the human dimension. Envy is of a spiritual nature. So if someone is envious of another, there is no cure for this except by spiritual means. Envy employs your emotional, psychological and social (psychosocial) faculties, but the issue of the envy one experiences is not emotional or psychological or social at its very root. In other words, your thoughts, feelings and relational capacities are not the fundamental cause of the envy. We can then deduce that envy is not of human nature. However, the nature of envy can become manifest in anything human. This leads to the thoughts, feelings and relational circumstances where we would experience envy, which then of course fuel our decisions, choices and consequently our actions.
This highlights how the spiritual becomes manifest in the human being. There is a journey there, that envy takes, to infiltrate a person’s spiritual faculties, which they will feel the breadcrumbs of in their soul. And it’s here in the soul that envy will do most damage, depending on the person’s response to it. However, unless you are an extremely spiritual person, do some sort of reflection and recollection on yourself at the end of everyday through prayer and are conscious about where your moral compass is pointing at any one time, then it is very difficult to spot your own envy in yourself. It’s often either pointed out to you, or you notice the effects of the envy, by your own feelings, thoughts, choices, actions, and consequences of those actions.
So whilst jealousy may be taken out of its correct context and would still need addressing, the priority for me, would be to address envy. You’ve probably heard of something called the seven deadly sins? Well… envy kills you. And if you’re a spiritual person, it will kill your relationship with God. My primary concern for souls would be to address this – but it can’t be done on a purely human level. It requires spiritual work that combines your efforts, with that of divine help. There are 3 steps I would recommend to take:
- Identify if you are envious, or jealous, or none of the above! Be honest, try to be objective when thinking about it and put your pride to the side during this task. I’ve put some questions below to help you discover if you are or not.
- Increase your spiritual capacities. You will need them to remedy your envy.
- Remedy the envy. This will take a lot of time, often a lot of painfulness, past hurts may come to the surface. The key to this is perseverance, and keep up your spiritual practice. I will write a blogpost on the remedy at a later date, but for your information, the 3 things necessary to remedying envy are:
- Deep generosity
So to help anyone who is perhaps experiencing envy, or knows somebody else who is, here is step 1 of my recommendation:
How do I know if I’m being envious?
Here are questions I would ask myself to determine if I’m being envious. Remember, be honest, try to be objective when thinking about it and put your pride to the side during this task. Answer these questions with a candle lit safely by your side, in a quiet place and time that is today’s ‘me-time’.
- Is there something someone else has/doesn’t have/is/isn’t, that I have/don’t have/that I am/am not, which hurts me or which I can’t bear?
- What is it that hurts/upsets me?
- Where could that hurt/upset be coming from? (Reflect on your past, and do a lot of digging)
- How is it taking me away from my true self and living out my values?
- How is it affecting my productivity?
- Where has it affected my (personal/professional) relationships? What have those outcomes been? What have the impacts of the outcomes been?
- Which choices have I been making in my heart as a result of this?
- Where have those choices stopped me from growing, overcoming and practising virtue or character strengths?
- Where has this situation driven me to act irresponsibly, unfairly or irrationally?
- Which concrete actions that have I taken were influenced by this hurt/upset, if any?
- Could I survive without/with (without if your envy is because of a lack of; with if your envy is because there is too much of)? Could I excel without/with it?
- What would the situation look like if I were not envious?
Answering these questions should give some clarity as to whether there is envy going on in any particular situation – whether that’s in personal or professional life. Envy is extremely detrimental in the workplace. It breeds:
- Deterioration in trust
- Irrational conflicts
- Lack of commitment & focus / Increase in distraction & fault-picking
- Avoidance of accountability
- Diversion from achieving end goals and results
Managers can observe attitudes and behaviours stemming from envy, and should pull staff up on it gently and in the right way, should it be causing dysfunctionality within teams or inhibiting progress and team excellence. When a personal matter affects an organisation’s productivity, then managers have a duty of care to their staff, and can offer support or help. Nobody deserves to work in a negatively charged environment – whether that’s implicit of explicit.
Keep an eye out on my next blogpost for part II, containing the remedies to envy.
I’m Claz, a Professional Career Coach based in West London, accredited in the UK. I am also a Life & Wellbeing Coach, working with individuals as well as organisations. You can contact me through my website www.touchofclarity.com.