Envy is all around us. Envy occurs when we lack a desired attribute enjoyed by another. Envy occurs when we lack something that our neighbor has, that we don't. Envy reflects an insecurity that we want for the perfect and projected image of ourselves deep inside.

World history abounds with all too real examples of it, and so too in many films and fairy tales. We've moved from a place of face to face envy to having our online lives dominated by Instagram or Facebook envy of friends or acquaintances who seem to have it all.

Because envy says – I want what you have – this is our desire for another’s possibilities, status, money, talent or looks, and we also get upset with their success and happiness. At the heart of envy is a belief that having this “thing” that we want that the other person has will provide us with greater security, stature, satisfaction or happiness – and not having it somehow diminishes us in some way. We can’t appreciate our gifts because we want what others have. So we find ourselves mired in a mindset of envy, resentment and bitterness, comparing and telling ourselves that we are not good enough while feeling pained by the good fortune of others, and we reject kindness and love when shown to us. We end up unconsciously rejecting our very nature, the gifts, talents, assets, material and immaterial attributes that we have innately as we compare ourselves to others.

Jealousy on the other hand occurs when something we already possess (usually a special relationship) is threatened by a third person. So with what we already have, usually in abundance, unless we tell ourselves otherwise, what good does envy or jealousy do for us when it takes us away from appreciating and using our gifts for that which we already possess? Perhaps it's in being conscious that when we envy someone we are only focusing on some aspect of the person’s life because behind the outward look of success or the filtered photos, things are not always what they seem on the outside.

When we move to a place of generosity, the voluntary act of generously sharing, giving of oneself, our time, energy, gifts and talents, material and immaterial, we shift our focus of seeing what we don't have to a place of sufficiency to give of ourselves, however little we have to give. Generosity is a practice, a courageous search from within that reflects a mindset of abundance for oneself and for the other. It is said that charity begins from home, charity begins from our internal world, inside of us, of self acceptance, of a belief that we have so much to contribute to.

And when we bring envy to the light, we acknowledge envy and realize it begins to lose its foothold over us. In the face of envy, as Sharon Salzberg wrote, generosity makes room for letting go of our attachments or limiting beliefs, it creates space for us from our insecurities.
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Sharing questions
  • 1. How have you experienced envy in your life and how have you responded to the pressure around you when such a situation of envy arises?
  • 2. In what ways can you respond with charity when envy creeps in? Might there be any new practices of charity to oneself or for another that you can cultivate in your life?

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