Since I decided to cover the 7 Deadly Sins and their Angelic Counterparts, I’ve realized some will be easier to write about for 7 weeks about than others. Lust and love, for instance, were a piece of cheesecake.
Envy is the next one up and I’ve spent an entire week trying to figure out what its opposite is. I toyed with philanthropy, since envy does have an element of selfishness to it. But, philanthropy is closely related to generosity and that is greed’s angelic counterpart.
So, I did a little research on the topic and found out a number of surprising things.
According to studies done at Texas Christian University, envy increases memory and cognitive function. A good thing? Apparently not. The only thing the subjects were sharper about were the objects of their envy. Sounds an awful lot like obsession.
Some argue envy is positive because it challenges us to reach higher and be better. But, another in the same group of studies showed that envy decreased subjects’ ability to complete an unrelated, challenging mental task. This was blamed on something psychologists call “ego depletion.” Ego depletion is the idea that we only have so much self-control to go around. If we expend a lot of energy fighting the nasty emotions associated with envy, we won’t have as much persistence with other things.
Not only that, but envy is a downer.
It engenders feelings of depression, hostility, and painful inferiority. These emotions have an impact on both our physical and physiological health. Have you ever tried to accomplish anything constructive when you were feeling inferior or depressed?
Lest you think envy is somehow a higher emotion and, at least, proves our intelligence, apes and monkeys can be envious. One poor man lost his nose, his foot and a testicle all because he brought a birthday cake to a chimp and the other chimps got jealous. Unfettered envy is violent.
A recap of envy’s qualities:
- obsessive-compulsive behaviors
- ego depletion
- painful inferiority
- violence (in some cases)
So, what antonym would work for all of the above?
My prelude to 7 weeks on envy was a silly story I wrote for St. Patty’s Day, Grendel and the Green Eyed Monster. Grendel is envious. What would have fixed her? What trait was she missing that made her vulnerable to the Green Eyed Monster of envy?
It came to me in a flash of brilliance – contentment.
Grendel didn’t feel good about herself. She was unhappy with her lot in life. But, rather than do something positive about it, she turned on the person who seemed to have the things she was lacking. A feeling of contentment would eradicate all of the negative emotions listed.
The question I will be tackling for the next seven weeks then is, how do you find contentment? Envy is not only unproductive, but is actually harmful to ourselves and those around us. So, how do we overcome it and become happy with who we are and what we have?
The price one pays for living an envious life in Dante’s Inferno is to have his eyes sewn shut with wire. Ouch. This is because envy has a quality of blindness about it. Envious people are looking at the wrong thing.
So, what is the right thing?
I hope you join me for the next 7 weeks as I take a look at various ways to fight the Green Eyed Monster and live a happier and more contented life. To read the see the rest of the posts in this series on The 7 Deadly Sins and Their Angelic Counterparts click here.
Have you struggled with envy in the past? Care to share how you overcame it? Comment below.
photo courtesy of “Jealousy” by Lee https://www.flickr.com/photos/ljhar6/3026200145/