Today, a close friend told me they “wish they had my stoicism.” I responded that they really don’t wish that. From my perspective, it was a very paradoxical comment. Although it may make perfect sense to someone looking in from the outside as I prepare to make a geographic move that will separate me from family and friends for a relatively short duration, it makes no sense to me because the stoicism this person envies is based on a nearly complete lack of love and affection in my formative years that drove me to depend only on myself in my early years among many other mental and emotional shortfalls I developed throughout that time. Whenever we wish for something someone else has, we should not only think about the thing but also the cost of garnering that thing.
This got me to thinking about envy and jealousy. We don’t often make a distinction between the two, but it exists. Envy is a feeling related to lacking something as opposed to jealousy which is the feeling related to losing something. In other words, envy has to do with a feeling we’ve never had and jealousy has to do with a feeling we don’t have anymore. Conceptually, jealousy makes sense to me but envy makes no sense. I completely understand the concept of having something, losing it and then wanting it back. That sequence of events creates a void for something we’ve felt, experienced, touched, etc that can only be filled if we get that specific thing back again. Envy is focused on something we’ve never had, don’t’ fully understand, and can’t begin to comprehend other than our imagination’s idea of what that thing is.
I think this is why envy is listed in the seven deadly sins as opposed to jealousy. Jealousy is tangible. Envy is ethereal. Jealousy can be positive. Envy always has a negative aspect. I’ll end with a quote that should take on a different meaning based on this discussion of the difference between envy and jealousy. Be careful what you ask for. Even if it appears to be a positive thing on the surface, it may have cost more than you’re willing to pay to develop.