The Two Faces Of Envy

The two faces of envy

In Western culture, envy is not wanted to be recognized even remotely. If women have had to bear the burden of “betraying Adam” throughout history, then envy already has a long history. It was also a disgrace to  Cain in his  motivation to murder his brother Abel. In fact, it has become part of everyday sayings in some languages, “you are worse than Cain”. This saying has become common, especially when children are rebuked, either directly in reproaching their actions or in sharing them with a third party.

In addition to this, envy is understood as one of the basic sins, very closely linked to greed. In addition to the religious context, the accounts of the life of medieval courts are full of assassinations that have their roots in the envy of that person’s dominance. Without us even having to go back too far in time, this feeling is familiar to many from dinner invitations as well, where people we haven’t seen in time share their wonderful experiences.

a statue of jealousy

If envy is so evil, why does it still exist?

There are two reasons that may justify the survival of jealousy as one of the strongest motivators.  The first is related to its usefulness in setting goals. Jealousy can act as a blatant accent that draws attention to the things we want and – in some very rare cases – also need. If we are jealous of someone else’s job, for example, this may be a hint of our own calling, for we like everything we hear about that job.

Jealousy touches not only on goods, but also on abilities, attitudes, and behaviors. Some people have a phenomenal ability to blend into any environment. Others illuminate the place with their existence, and some have a calming, trusting effect on the people around them. When we recognize what effect a certain kind of being has, it may motivate us to set the direction for the development of such a quality within ourselves.

Jealousy is also very closely related to jealousy. Just like the fear of loss, the feeling of jealousy signals that we need other people’s attention. We have had that need since we were little, and that is why for many of us it has been one of the most difficult feelings to deal with, for example, when a little sister or brother came into the world.

Jealousy and motivation

Another reason why jealousy still exists is related to motivation. You may think that envy is not a noble motivator because rarely does it transcend selfishness.  However, it is a motivator. When we see how kindly someone behaves, we become jealous of the echo they receive from other people.  When we compare this kind of behavior to our own reality, it may motivate us to develop ourselves in a  more positive, more enriching direction for the people around us.

Of course, not every attitude needs to be positive. It may be that we have worked overtime for what we are paid. So soon we will start noticing our co-workers leaving work earlier without any sanctions. It wouldn’t be weird at all if we started following in their footsteps.

In many cases  , therefore, envy does not arise from a particular factor, but from the effect that that factor has on the surrounding reality. There are people who are jealous of people who have bought a new car. In fact, people do not envy the car, but the status that the car and its owner have. They are jealous that someone owns an object that symbolizes power and wealth.

Studies show that there are many people who, for example, do not buy a particular brand of phone if they need to keep it within protection. The reason is that they don’t want that brand to be invisible. For many, it can be difficult to understand that just like envy, brand awareness communicates our emotionality. The reason for this is that most of us want to communicate that we are rational.

In fact, in many cases, our justification for certain behaviors is not sufficient as a primary motivation for a particular behavior. We may justify our own choices on flimsy rational grounds when, in fact, we make a choice driven by emotion.

Woman, man and dog

The problem of envy

One of the biggest problems with jealousy is that it prevents us from being  happy  with what we already have. Envy can capture our attention to such an extent that we no longer see the forest from the trees.  In addition, it changes shape and digs its cavities like a termite, making that hollow feeling of dissatisfaction even more fundamental qualities. The need to always be on the go, to strive unattainable, and to continue to climb to the top forever is usually an act of envy.

Envy is an emotion, and like all emotions, it produces the energy and information needed to control it. Envy becomes negative when we let it take the reins and blur our vision. That’s when we have given it the power to stop us from enjoying all the good that is in our lives .

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