Columnists Features

Envy can lead to self-destruction

NAPOLEON Bonaparte had it. Julius Caesar had it. Alexander the Great had it. Despite all their power and glory, these men harboured in their heart a trait that can poison one’s mind – envy.
All three envied someone else.
“Napoleon envied Caesar, Caesar envied Alexander [the Great], and Alexander, I daresay, envied Hercules, who never existed,” wrote English philosopher Bertrand Russell.
Envy can plague anyone, regardless of how much wealth he has, whatever virtues he possesses, and how successful he is in life.
It is a feeling of resentment and displeasure toward others because of their belongings, prosperity, advantages, position, reputation and so forth.
Envious persons want what others have and may feel that those possessing what they are coveting are not entitled to it.
Distinguishing envy from jealousy, one reference work says: “‘Jealousy’ . . . refers to the desire to be as well off as another, and the word ‘envy’ refers to the desire to deprive another of what he has.”
Not only does the envious man begrudge what others have, but he wants to take it from them.
One concept of why people may compare themselves with others is that it serves to maintain or enhance their self-esteem.
Comparisons are attempts to reduce uncertainty about ourselves.
Many who strive to come off “winners” in comparisons display a competitive spirit.
They want to be better than others, and they are not content until they feel that they are.
It is not pleasant to be around such individuals. Friendships with them are strained and tense.
Not only do such people lack humility but also pent up hatred against those they envy since their attitude can easily arouse in others feelings of inferiority and humiliation.
Making people feel that they are “losers” injures them in a sense. According to one writer, “our failures are all the more painful when it appears that people who are in the same situation as we are have procured the possessions that we want.”
A competitive spirit thus provokes envy, resentment and displeasure towards someone because of their belongings, prosperity, position, reputation, advantages and so on.
This leads to more competition – a vicious circle.
While imperfect humans have “a tendency to envy” various factors can feed and strengthen this inclination.
The spirit of competition mentioned earlier can make our imperfect leanings toward envy even worse.
Envy can have devastating consequences. By degrading the achievements of rivals, envious ones attempt to save their own injured self-esteem.
Such reactions may seem petty, but if not recognised and checked, they can lead to malicious wrongdoing.
They can lead to hatred, injustice, and murder.
The favourable response of the people to Jesus filled the chief priests and many Jewish elders with envy.
Their envy reached a climax when they handed the Son of God over to Pontius Pilate in order to have the death sentence imposed. Mt 27:1, 2, 18; Mrk 15:10.
People who gain their ends by fraud and violence may for a time enjoy prosperity, security, and good health.
When someone looks at his possibly less favourable circumstances, he may allow envy of the circumstances of wicked ones to erode his appreciation of the value of what he has presently.
The person with an envious eye is actually heading for want. While struggling to raise himself to the level of those he envies, he degrades himself morally, sacrificing right principles for expediency.
We need to resist competitive thoughts, replacing them with positive ones.
We need to evaluate ourselves and find contentment about ourselves and what we have.
The author is a motivational writer working as a marketer for the Zambia Daily Mail.

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