I like to think that my opinions are pure and well-reasoned, and more importantly, that they are not based in shallower, less noble passions. So, when I consider the mannerisms and moralities of some of my less-favorite people, I want to believe that my attitude’s foundation is in more nourishing soil — that my judgementalism is based in Ethics and not weaker, more sensuous needs. I would so love to believe myself free of those despicable impulses like jealousy or – worse – envy. Sadly, I know myself too well. Not so well that I willingly martyr my emotions, but still, well enough that there is an uneasy disturbance surrounding the force of my moral superiority.
I’ve spent years declaring that my hurt feelings (pride?) have been due to a misalignment between my values and someone else’s. (Mine, of course, being far more aesthetic, noble, inspiring, and Pure.) However, I begin to wonder if perhaps I were protesting too much. If perhaps some of my venomous criticism is due to an unacknowledged sense of injured justice. (As in, “but I am *so* much more *deserving* than ….. whomever!!!) I fear I am a baser creature after all. I’m not saying that my earlier comments were unwarranted – no, Sir! – but, maybe they aren’t the entire situation, either…. Um, maybe even some of my offense correlates to my own sense of being slighted.
Slighted by whom? Fate? Fate has favorites; life is unfair. Seems pointless to be peeved at a nonentity not bound by human mores. Others? Gulp. Well, who? People in whose opinions I plant great value? No. People whose opinions I cannot understand (and, embarrassingly, sometimes celebrate this ignorance, as if my inability to empathize again makes my value system superior to theirs) and with which I do not agree? Well…. sometimes….
How embarrassing (again). If I disagree with their assessments, then why do I care if they approve of mine? Seems silly. Nevertheless, sometimes, at 3:45 am on a sleepless night, I catch myself wishing for acceptance. If I disapprove of their values, why do I envy their ______??? What do I envy?
Well, let’s pull this apart, I think to myself. Do I envy their relationships? No way. Their priorities? Nope. Education? Nope. Careers? Uh, no… but, I do wish that I had the same opportunities that they disregard callously each day. So, I envy opportunity. Physical / material luxury? Well, not exactly… but, I do wish that it was as possible for me to repair my house or car, attend to physicians, travel, replace clothing that is falling apart or no longer fits… I envy their security in the material world. I don’t want their *things* — but I do long for the absence of that particular stress. I envy their insurance policies.
This envy is aggravated by the disregard that the owners of these conditions have towards these two things. They have no gratitude for their fortunes. I fail to understand this lack of appreciation. (And I feel superior in this failure.)
How is it possible to envy people whose lives are not ones I would want to live? Well, let’s see, I think some more. I squirm in my chair and play with the ends of my hair. I don’t. At least, not exactly. I don’t want their things, as said before. I don’t want the house or car or whatever. But, I wish that mine were as well cared for, and that I had the means to do so, to care for my home and so on. As it is, I skate by on what I do have, MacGyvering the rest, and saying prayers of gratitude that the car I hate still runs and carries all my groceries. What more do I need, really? I have no rights to anything grander, and I am not owed what I have. I am in fact, fortunate.
As also mentioned earlier, I do wish I had the same opportunities to *work* as they do. I loved working. I miss my career. I miss the intellectual challenge of it, the personal challenge – and the benefits package. I miss the food for my competitiveness, and even (gulp, gag, and blush) the praise. I miss the stage.
Oh, God. I thought that I was, well, Better than this. I do desire that which is not mine.
It is possible, then, to be at war within one’s self. And the shame, my own condemnation of my inner thoughts, roils and boils. Should I retreat to my favored intellectual grounds and claim that this is evidence of Yin and Yang within and without the Universe? Or, shall I just take this situation, this internal civil war as a humbling token of my humanity? As proof of my theory that each person is equal, although some people’s greater advantages or hardships are different? I may prefer my company, may find myself more relevant, but I am not more valuable or “special” than another.
My humility must be restored. In my hurry to disparage the value they place on their condition, and blast them of the searing ingratitude through which they view the world, I hide my own covetousness. I lie to myself about my motivations to avoid responsibility for these less attractive feelings and comfort myself with chilling hatred and loathing. I eat my own soul. I must begin the fast.
- Envy as the Source of Anxiety and Discontent (my.psychologytoday.com)
- June 18 – Seven Deadly Sins: Envy (lelandfleming.wordpress.com)
- Why rich people are NOT screwing you (thinklikeablackbelt.org)
- Envy (philosophystone.wordpress.com)
- Are You Sure the Grass is Greener? (communionwithjesus.wordpress.com)
- “First take the log out of your own eye” (worryisuseless.wordpress.com)
- 6 Ways Envy Destroys Career Advancement (forbes.com)
- Reading, Writing, and Envy (chronicle.com)
- The Dark Side of the Martyr (gleaningthefields.com)