7 Deadly Sins - Day 5
Definition / Formal Thoughts
Like greed and lust, Envy (Latin, invidia) is characterized by an insatiable desire. Envy is similar to jealousy in that they both feel discontent towards someone's traits, status, abilities, or rewards. The difference is the envious also desire the entity and covet it.
Envy can be directly related to the Ten Commandments, specifically, "Neither shall you desire... anything that belongs to your neighbour." Dante defined this as "a desire to deprive other men of theirs". In Dante's Purgatory, the punishment for the envious is to have their eyes sewn shut with wire because they have gained sinful pleasure from seeing others brought low. Aquinas described envy as "sorrow for another's good".
Envy can be defined as a resentful emotion which "occurs when a person lacks another's (perceived) superior quality, achievement or possession and wishes that the other lacked it."
Bertrand Russell said that envy was one of the most potent causes of unhappiness. Not only is the envious person rendered unhappy by his envy, but they also wish to inflict misfortune on others. Although envy is generally seen as something negative, Russell also believed that envy was a driving force behind the movement towards democracy and must be endured to achieve a more just social system. However, psychologists have recently suggested that there may be two types of envy: malicious envy and benign envy - benign envy being proposed as a type of positive motivational force.
"Envy" and "jealousy" are often used interchangeably in common usage, but strictly speaking, the words stand for two distinct emotions. Jealousy is the result or fear of losing someone or something that one is attached to or possesses to another person (the transfer of a lover's affections in the typical form), while envy is the resentment caused by another person having something that one does not have, but desires for oneself.
Often, envy involves a motive to "outdo or undo the rival's advantages". In part, this type of envy may be based on materialistic possessions rather than psychological states. Basically, people find themselves experiencing an overwhelming emotion due to someone else owning or possessing desirable items that they do not. For example, your next door neighbor just bought a brand new ocarina — a musical instrument you've been infatuated with for months now but can't afford. Feelings of envy in this situation would occur in the forms of emotional pain, a lack of self-worth, and a lowered self-esteem/well-being.
In Nelson W. Aldrich Jr.'s Old Money, he states that "envy is so integral and painful a part of what animates human behavior in market societies that many people have forgotten the full meaning of the word, simplifying it into one of the symptoms of desire. It is that [(a symptom of desire)], which is why it flourishes in market societies: democracies of desire, they might be called, with money for ballots, stuffing permitted. But envy is more or less than desire. It begins with the almost frantic sense of emptiness inside oneself, as if the pump of one's heart were sucking on air. One has to be blind to perceive the emptiness, of course, but that's what envy is, a selective blindness. Invidia, Latin for envy, translates as "nonsight," and Dante had the envious plodding along under cloaks of lead, their eyes sewn shut with leaden wire. What they are blind to is what they have, God-given and humanly nurtured, in themselves".
I do struggle with envy sometimes. Not so much of material envy (big house, cars, toys), but more from relationship envy. Like many people I do long (on occasion) to find a strong, supportive partner to walk through this life and sometimes find myself envying people that have (seemed to) found that partner.
One thing I can say is that I am blessed to not have envy when it comes to my family relationships. In this area I am truly blessed to have a loving, kind, funny and caring family from top (grandma) to bottom (my nephew due in October).
365 day challenge - Day 158
...Portrait of a Woman Suffering from Obsessive Envy - Jean Louis Théodore Géricault (1791–1824)