Jay Rifenbary

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Envy and Jealousy – Twins of Emotional Destruction

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Have you ever felt a twinge of irritation or anger when someone had something and you did not? For example, a relative who married into wealth and now lives lavishly and did little to earn it, or a person who achieved and you thought you could do better if only you had what they had, or an individual who attained a position of power only because of who they knew? Envy is defined as, “a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities or luck”, and jealous is defined as, “feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages”. Participation in either of these two destructive behaviors is emotionally crippling, and a profound waste of personal time and energy. Why would we allow someone else’s possessions, title, wealth or fame be the barometer for our own sense of dignity and value? Granted, there are many instances where life appears and is not fair, but happiness and self-worth are established not by what one has, but by what one is. It is the character and core values of an individual when implemented, which are the most memorable, meaningful and impactful qualities of a person’s legacy. I am not suggesting acceptance of unfairness in regard to human rights and human necessities, but our self-respect should not be based on a comparison between what someone else has versus what we have. When we display envy it is an indicator of our own insecurity and self-doubt. It is also a common excuse used to mitigate a lack of personal accountability in one’s life. It is self-defeating when we justify our own lack of achievement by comparing it to others based on envy. Envy and jealousy dismiss the necessity to take accountability for our own lack of self-perceived success by demeaning what others may have more of.

Materialism is irrelevant in regard to internal long-term happiness, or the generation of respect from others. If it were relevant, than the more one would have the happier and more respected one would be. Look around and you will discover materialism and long-term happiness are not necessarily congruent. There are many who have much, but not necessarily possess the substance of character to align with it. Take away the money and possessions and what is left is the true measure of one’s value, character and self-respect. Personally, if I were to be envious I would want to be envious of another’s strength of character and humility. Hopefully, those who put enormity on the possession of things are in balance with the enormity of personal character. On a personal note, I find it distressing when fellow citizens flaunt their wealth and possessions when many others are struggling financially, looking for employment, or just attempting to make it through each day. Flaunting ones possessions publically does little to unify a community or a society but does much to divide it; based on an increasing awareness of what many have versus those who do not. It is gracious and selfless to be philanthropic, but having it over publicized to revolve around the philanthropist only diminishes the genuineness of the giving.

Here are four steps we can take to suppress the negative influences of envy and jealousy. * Assess what it is we are actually envious of. Is it the money, the notoriety, the power, the recognition, the perceived happiness? If we had what we determine we are envious of, would that genuinely be the answer to our dissatisfaction and unhappiness? If so, what action steps are we taking to begin to achieve in that direction? * What would bring about a sense of true personal and professional security in our lives? The only way to assess that is to revisit what core values in our life are most important. * What are you most proud of in your life? Take the time to reflect on the accomplishments, and the impact that you have had on others. If the effort made has been genuine, selfless and with sincere intent, those are things to be proud of. * If the emotions of envy or jealousy permeate, take an opportunity to redefine success in your life and determine what is most meaningful for your fulfillment. Materialism provides comfort, but it is not the answer to long-term happiness and contentment. It is important to understand the things we tend to be envious about have no relevance in regard to one’s character, or what one is remembered for. Namaste!



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