Jealousy and envy are strong emotions that focus on the self. Envy is a powerful feeling of longing for what belongs to someone else, and jealousy is an aggressive or vindictive desire to protect or take what we yearn for away from the person who has it. We often experience guilt or shame for having these self-centered feelings, and sometimes even the embodiment of these emotions—how they physically make our bodies feel—is unpleasant. But these are natural feelings that are not bad in and of themselves: they are important signals about where our attention and attitude are focused. When we act on these feelings unexamined, we can cause great harm to our relationships and ourselves. But when we instead pause to look at what gratitude our envy is ignoring or what fear our jealousy is masking, we can use these feelings as powerful motivators for reorienting ourselves toward inner peace and stability.
We’ve all heard tales of the overly jealous spouse or significant other. Maybe we’ve even been that jealous person, though we may not want to admit it. It’s hard to imagine anyone sailing through life without either having feelings of jealousy or being the target of someone’s jealousy.
If you’re trying to show off for people at the top, forget it. They will look down on you anyhow. And if you’re trying to show off for people at the bottom, forget it. They will only envy you. Status will get you nowhere. Only an open heart will allow you to float equally between everyone.
All too often kids are snared by the comparison trap. They see the successes and gifts of others but instead of celebrating with them, they can only see their own shortcomings. When this happens, it is easy for envy and jealousy to blossom.