Monday, April 4, 2011

Jealousy and Envy

When we were getting ready to go to Iraq, Colonel Perry spoke to the battalion in Oklahoma.  The most memorable part of his speech for me was when he said that envy ruins units at every level.

Of course, envy ruins every kind of community--civilian, military, secular, religious, law-abiding or criminal.  I got a dollar book at a used book store with the title "Envy."  It is one of a series on of seven books, each on one of the Seven Deadly sins.

I am just two chapters into this brief and entertaining look at one of the three worst of the seven sins and I plan to follow the authors advice in thinking about envy vs. jealousy.  Joseph Epstein "I am jealous of what I have, I envy what you have."  He makes clear that jealousy can be good, or at least appropriate, but envy never is.

God is jealous, the Bible says.  He wants to keep those who have chosen to love Him for Himself.  A spouse or lover can be properly jealous.  Of course we all know someone can be crazy with jealousy also, but jealousy is not evil, like envy.

Envy is always bad.  Col. Perry told us that when we feel envy we should go out and get something for ourselves.  Envy can be both evil and passive.  It wants what it doesn't have and does not want to find something else.  Epstein says we always try to keep envy secret which is why it eats at us.  No one wants to admit envy.  Admitting envy is to admit someone else has something better or actually is better than us.  We want what they have, we want them not to have it, but we don't want others to think of us as being that small and venal.

I will be at summer camp in June.  I remember how much it means just to have a bottom bunk.  Envy doesn't have to be about a big topic to be a big problem.

The Philosopher of War and Terror and Politics: Hannah Arendt

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