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Why Bother Noticing Envy?

Envy is a dangerous thing. It is sly, subtle and silent. If we carelessly ignore it, we might wake up one day wondering how we grew into a hostile, resentful and antagonistic individual.        


Envy begins when we compare ourselves with another. We long for something that we do not have, but someone else does. Envy, if detected early, can be nipped in the bud so to speak, recognized and admitted. We can walk away from envy unscathed and a little wiser. But, if we ignore it, or we don’t detect it, envy can lead us down an unethical road. We exchange truth for lies, being authentic for being disingenuous, vulnerability for defensiveness, and contentment for discontentment. 

Long ago I was personally introduced to envy. It was a painful encounter, but one I never forgot. 

I had a friend in junior high. I was the new kid in town and she and I became fast friends for which I was grateful. Entering high school, though, changed everything about our relationship. She became popular while I remained obscure. She was cute while I was plain. She wore fashionable outfits and styled her hair while I remained clad in jeans, flannel shirts and pulled my hair back into a ponytail. My friend was quickly accepted into the rich and famous crowd while I was not. 

For a while, I envied her from a distance. She seemed carefree, happy and well liked. Then, I began to hate her. I resented the fact that she got “in” and left me “out.” Walking down the hallways alone, I’d see her surrounded by a small group of other kids just like her; beautiful, accepted and happy. I’d stick my tongue out at her, but she never noticed because she no longer even looked at me. 

For a minute or two I fantasized about what it would be like to be like her. Could I call her up? Could we talk like we used to talk back when we were friends? Could I ask her to show and tell me the secrets of being popular? Could I ask if I could join her club? Then I came to my young senses. I knew myself well enough to know that I could never follow in her footsteps. I wanted to, but at the same time I did not want to. Somehow I knew that entering into that rich and famous club would entail giving myself up. I’d have to offer myself as a sacrifice so to speak.  I’d have to become someone I was not in order to become one of them.  Doing so, I somehow knew I’d lose what little I knew about myself. I’d lose me. 

Why bother noticing envy? Envy can show up at any time in our lives. But once we’ve encountered it, and felt its smothering effects on us, we can certainly nip it in the bud and hold steady to who we are; even if no one else notices. 


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