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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Blessings of Envy

Are you envious of anyone?  Is there something to learn from the envy?

 I once shared the leadership of a retreat with a person I didn’t know very well.  Both of us had been brought in as outsiders to speak at this event.  On that day I felt both appreciative and grateful for this guy’s  abilities.  He was good!

In the afternoon it was my turn.  I rambled and people yawned.  Even as I talked, I heard the voice in my head saying “You are losing them Doug.”  I talked louder and faster as if that might wake them up. Later I braced myself for the evaluations, and they confirmed my fear. People were kind in a tepid sort of way.   It was the rave reviews for the morning guy that really got my jealousy going.

Envy is a funny thing. I generally don’t waste a lot of time feeling envious of people who are very different from me.  I’m not jealous of Bill Gates, Meryl Streep, or superstar athletes.  But sometimes when I encounter someone similar to me-- someone who does what I do only better—I feel jealous.

My friend Nina Frost has helped me to see that even envy can be helpful in discerning a call.  She says that the point isn’t to imitate another’s life, or feel badly about measuring up to another.  Rather “our spiritual task is to identify the qualities we need to claim in our own lives and think of how to incorporate them in ways that are unique to us.  The person admired is the starting point—an energy locator.  Our sacred task is to  translate and appropriate these beckoning qualities.”

Just thinking about working with envy as a spiritual task is helpful.  As is the idea that envy is just the starting point, perhaps a signpost to some quality in myself I want to develop.  Envy can get us in trouble for sure. But there is also good stuff to be found in our jealousy.

How about you--is there an invitation in your envy?

Doug Wysockey-Johnson

1 comment:

  1. Good post Doug. It definitely happens that you see someone doing what you might like to be doing and feel a sort of "envy". For example, I look at some young writers and think: "I want to be like them..."

    More than likely, though, I romanticize that "other" life and totally overlook the challenges they face every day -- just like me. They have different life circumstances than I do, so the comparison may be like apples to oranges. And the hard fact is they may be in a place that seems "better" than me because they've done some "hard" things or made "hard" choices that I have not yet been willing to make. They've have put in the time and "earned" the status they have.

    As they say, "The grass always seems greener..." but it probably isn't -- just a different shade of green. :)