You can be going along through your day just la te da, then a friend phones you to inform you of her promotion and pay raise at work. You suddenly feel an evil twinge in your gut. You quickly catch yourself and offer your friend congratulations. Your friend goes on and on about the benefits of her new position, the prestige and respect she will garner from her coworkers the new office desk and oh the paycheck will be glorious! Inside, you’re seething. You can feel tension in the back of the neck, your heart begins pounding. You feel an insecurity wash over you. Yet, you have the presence of mind to laugh and offer more congratulatory words to your friend. Will she soon be your ex-friend?
It’s a terrible feeling to feel jealousy and envy. It seems that the more you fight it, the more entrenched it becomes. Resistance is futile. You might finally come to the conclusion that you need to accept your emotional response, ride through it and then let it go. This happens after you’ve finally accepted the new status of your friend. At least the lion’s share of envy will leave. Once in awhile you’ll still feel a twinge of jealousy for her. That little tweak is manageable.
To be on the receiving end of envy is also uncomfortable. It’s a helpless feeling. Many years ago, I was hired by a radio station where one of my close friends had a job as an announcer. It was great fun to not only be friends, but to collaborate on the job as well. A few months into my employment, the boss gave me a department head position. I hadn’t actively sought the position. I had been chosen strictly on merit and job performance.
The staff was informed of my new status. My friend suddenly became very distant. Soon, he had no more time to eat lunch with me. His communications were more cold and distant. He turned down invitations for an after work drink. I not only knew he was envious; I felt disappointment about his extreme and lengthy negative reaction. I found out that our friendship didn’t have a strong foundation of mutual trust and admiration.
Envy is the dead giveaway that you are discontented with your lot in life. The superficial veneer of faux self-esteem is stripped away. You have a strong desire to be the genius. You wish you were more sexy and attractive. You want the luxurious home or condo, European vacations, a prestigious job. You want more power and money than other people you know. You feel the desire to be seen as more spiritual, more religious, more righteous, more enlightened than others.
You know, deep inside, that this envy is evil, so you struggle against the emotion. This struggle is simply a part of the envy due to the fact that you desire to be different than who you are.
We must also realize that envy differs from jealousy. You might be jealous upon hearing of your colleague’s new job. But envy goes further. You wish and may even actively try to subvert the activities of your colleague’s work. You hope that your colleague loses her new position. Envy might be called jealousy on steroids.
How can a person best avoid these destructive feelings of envy? Something called “Mudita” can be purposely cultivated. Simply stated, Mudita is the act of being sincerely joyful for the success of others.
Perhaps I hear about a friend’s pending marriage. I can then consciously and sincerely wish the new couple well. Maybe an acquaintance tells me that his son has qualified for an athletic honor. I can go out of my way to congratulate his good fortune. We can think of numerous times when people around us accomplish something admirable. These are times to practice joy at the good fortune of others. When this practice becomes natural, it is easier to accept and to sincerely congratulate a friend when good things shower upon him.
Can one carry this over to feeling joy at the good fortune of one’s rival? I don’t know for sure, but I can postulate that it is possible. Is such a joy possible for humanity at large? I don’t know. We can certainly give it a good try, can’t we?