After taking a few bites of food, I casually mentioned to Dharma that I was a little concerned about a friend of mine. Lately, he's been expressing quite a bit of jealousy over the job promotion that another friend of ours recently received. I can see that his jealousy is impacting all of our friendships but is having the worst impact on himself. He is becoming sullen and withdrawn. "Dharma, how can I help my friend feel happy and not jealous of the success our friend is having? I mean, after all, he's worked very hard for it and is deserving of the recognition." Dharma thought for a few minutes then replied, "Tadpole, a jealous or envious frog is troublesome to others but a torment to themselves. Do you know, my boy, if he's simply jealous or is he envious? There's a difference." I gave out a huge sigh. "Gee, Dharma, I'm not really sure. I thought they were the same thing." "Irwin, my boy, you're not alone. Most frogs and humans as well, think jealousy and envy are the same. But if you'll permit me, I'll explain the difference." "By all means, teacher, go right ahead."
Dharma explained that while envy and jealousy are often used interchangeably, they actually do have different meanings. Jealousy, as Dharma explained it, is "solicited anytime there is a threat to something that is of value to an individual. In other words, it's that icky feeling you get when you are afraid something will be taken away from you. While envy is the emotion solicited when somebody has something that you want for yourself." After listening to Dharma's explanation, I'm pretty sure my friend is envious. But either way, he's been held captive by that ugly "green-eyed monster." According to the wise old frog, "With envy, "the gap is between what you have and what the other person has -- the other has something you want to have but don't have. So the goal becomes to reduce this gap by bringing the other down (through harming them), or bringing yourself up. But with jealousy, the idea is to protect yourself from having something taken away from you." I was beginning to see things a little more clearly now. "Okay, so Dharma, how do we cope with these emotions and prevent them from ruining our lives?"
According to Dharma, and I believe him, jealousy and envy can both result in aggression which only makes the jealousy or envy harder to recognize. "My boy with envy, you want to harm the person because you don't want them to be superior over you. In jealousy, you harm because you don't want them to take something away from you. to make matters far worse, jealousy is often -- though not always -- accompanied by envy."
"Yikes! I can see that my jealous friend is heading down a dangerous path." "Yes, Irwin, he is. But knowing a little bit about where these emotions are rooted can help us, and them, move past them before things escalate even further." Jealousy, say the experts, is often rooted in self-esteem problems. Whether it's high or low, is to a great extent predicted by the quality and strength of our relationships. "Since jealousy and self-esteem seem to be so related, focusing on our positive attributes can help to boost the latter. It all has to do with a term in psychology: the "working self-concept." This is the idea that there are many ways to define yourself -- for instance, you can be a brother, a career professional, and an athlete, all at once -- but you're not always going to be working all of these aspects of yourself at one time." On the upside, according to Dharma, jealousy is a sign that we value a relationship. "Sure, jealousy can get out of control quickly -- and it often doesn't look pretty. But at the end of the day, jealousy is about protecting a relationship. It signals to others -- not only the relationship others but also the rival -- that you're going to fight for the relationship."
Envy, however, is emotional pain and that can often lead to physical pain. "The goal of the envious person is to reduce the pain, and they will do everything that will help them reduce the pain, even if it involves doing something nasty like spreading a rumor or backstabbing someone. Envy is considered a bad emotion...one of the 'seven deadly sins, Tadpole. There seems to be a strong connection between envy and competitiveness. It can help to create some distance between you and the envied other."
In closing, Dharma explained that envy is far worse than jealousy...it can eat us alive and torment in unimaginable ways. But that if we take the difficult first step of admitting that we are envious, we can move away from this destructive emotion. Reminding ourselves that while we can't be the best at everything, each of us has our own skills and talents were we excel. Envy is about a specific thing or aspect of life and not about our entire existence. Thanks to Dharma and his wise words, I know that I am now better equipped to help my friend deal with the envy he is feeling.
Tomorrow is National Handshake Day and I'll be taking a look at the meaning of and proper etiquette of the handshake around the globe. I know you won't want to miss that! Until then,