I recently read a person’s justification for disassociating from an organisation with which they had been affiliated.  There were various reasons expressed for the decision to disassociate.  A primary one related to a slipping of standards.  Another related to a dogmatic implementation of certain rules that was not perceived as being effective.  The reasons were well-explained and I could understand the person’s choice to break their ties.  But, in amongst the reasons given, was a comment that the head of the organisation being broken away from was someone wealthy sitting in a privileged position in a beautiful home in a beautiful part of the world.  This comment was redolent with envy.

Envy is irrational:

The person explaining their decision had moved from the rational to the irrational.  They moved from asserting that the organisation was no longer serving them to a complaint that the founder of the organisation was rich while they were not.  That envy of another’s position, their abilities or material situation, does not make for wise decision-making.  Envy does not make for connection.  Envy gnaws away at a person.

In Shakespeare’s play Henry VI, the character Exeter says “When Envy breeds unkind division: There comes the ruin, there begins confusion.”  Exeter is speaking of different lords in the royal court being jealous and harbouring “rancorous spite” and “the discord of nobility”.  Envy breeds division.  It creates confusion.  Envy is the source of ruin.  Strong language but true.

Differences in ability are a fact of life:

There can be no escaping the fact that each of us has different attributes.  I am intelligent.  I am of regular appearance.  I am physically capable.  Yet, my elder brother is noticeably more intelligent.  He was a better sportsman than I.  He was a better long-distance runner than me.  That was a sport in which our father was engaged and to which he introduced us.  The differences in our abilities has been a factor in my life.  I have experienced some envy at times.  More, it has been a perception that my parents’ love for me was conditional upon me achieving to the same degree as my brother.  A flawed perception but one I held nonetheless.

The difference in abilities is inherent.  Difference is the given.  The issue is our management of the differences and our ability to reconcile ourselves to the differences, to celebrate our own accomplishments and to value others for their accomplishments.

You will have some experience of envy to draw on from your life.  It may be envy of someone who was smarter than you at school.  The envy may relate to someone who won the affections of a person to whom you were attracted.  The envy may relate to someone with greater material wealth than you – a higher paid job, a fancy car, a bigger, flasher place to live.  Take a moment to reflect on the feeling envy evokes…

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Apollo Power Yoga Christchurch yoga studio image of extreme salabhasana/locust pose - do not envy this
Apollo Power Yoga Christchurch yoga studio image of extreme salabhasana/locust pose – do not envy this