By Tola Adeniyi

Envy and jealousy, according to psychologists, are complex emotions that have fascinated writers, poets, and thinkers for centuries. While they are often portrayed negatively, they also offer insights into human nature and relationships.

Experts say envy arises when we desire something that someone else possesses. It is a feeling of discontent or resentment triggered by another person’s success, possessions, or advantages. Unlike jealousy, which involves a fear of losing what we already have, envy focuses on what we lack.

Envy can be both motivating (spurring us to improve) and destructive (leading to bitterness and hostility). Jealousy on the other hand emerges from a fear of losing something we value—whether it’s a relationship, status, or possession. It often occurs in intimate relationships when we perceive a threat to our connection with a partner. Jealousy can be sometimes protective (alerting us to potential dangers) or possessive (leading to controlling behaviour).

Both envy and jealousy are in most parts, destructive. Envy can poison relationships, erode self-esteem, and breed resentment while jealousy on the other hand can lead to suspicion, insecurity, and even violence. The two emotions often damage trust and create rifts between individuals.

Certainly, envy is the worse of the two emotions and it is generally long-lasting and it shows in the behaviour, the demeanor and even the speech peculiarities of the afflicted person. Envy is a disease, an affliction and almost incurable, simply because an enviable person is inherently not contented with his state in life. An envious person is not happy with his or her own face, not happy with his or her body structure; height, physique, and features like legs, lips, nose, mouth, forehead, breasts and buttocks, and may not even be happy with his home background. And because those who happen to be more blessed are always around, their mere sight is a tormenting reminder of the envious person’s deficiencies.
Nigerian philosopher, song-writer and musician Chief Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi put it succinctly in his celebrated song ‘The man, his son and his donkey’ where he opines with air of finality that success in one breeds envy and resentment in the other. A brilliant person who tops his class in examinations is automatically the subject of envy to, especially the dullards in his class or the lazy ones who never apply themselves to serious studies. The same goes to all professions; lazy lawyers who are incurably envious of their more successful colleagues and contemporaries and indolent civil servants who are forever miserable because others with proven productivity have climbed the ladder faster.

A professor-friend’s wife, a medical doctor, affirmed several years ago that ‘it takes the special grace of God for someone to embrace the success of another person’! It may sound alarming but life experience has taught all successful individuals that their roaring successes have always been source of sadness to most of their friends, colleagues, associates and even relations who have not been as lucky or successful.

Someone [a university graduate, but out of job] was taking me to Mississauga in Canada to inspect a franchise in 1996, half way to our destination, he stopped his car and parked by the roadside. “Egbon”, an endearing word for an elder, “I have a confession to make and I need your prayers” he said. “Go ahead, what’s it?” I was curious. “I don’t know how to say it. Do you know I always feel sad whenever a friend’s achievement is brought to my notice? I have never attended any house-warming ceremony. It is that bad. If I visit a friend and his furniture is better than mine, I will not go to that friend’s house again!” he said, looking morose with wickedness written all over his face. “But you are a religious leader in this country”, I didn’t know what exactly to tell him. He started the engine again and his car hit the road.

The malady of envious people is due to their inability to appreciate the fact that human beings are wired differently and the Creator of the universe endows his/her/its creations and creatures differently and apportions luck, favour, and grace to individuals in varying degrees. Unquestionably so! Aside that, attitude and character, major ingredients in the determinant agency of success or failure are attributes that follow individuals in their path to success or ruin in life.

Envious people are madly desirous of what others have, and because they don’t have what it takes to have that which they crazily crave, they turn their failure to anger, resentment or even cruelty and arrant unreasonableness. And this leads them to bad-mouthing and character-assassinating the object of their paranoia.

“You can’t really blame envious people. People who are envied are the beneficiaries because being envied spurs people to better themselves. Nobody envies failure. The more outstandingly successful you are, the more the envy and jealousy you incur”, a younger colleague and financial expert Tunji Asiwaju explained while discussing the subject of envy.

Envious people are petty, mean, very mean, always brooding and senselessly critical of others, permanently sad and generally unpleasant to be with. They contrast their ugliness with the beauty of others, contrast their verbosity and incoherence with the oratory of others, contrast their awkwardness and gracelessness with the sunny nature of others, contrast their meanness of spirit with the largeness of others and generally contrast their lack of taste and heartwarming aesthetics with others who are blessed. With the closed and clogged mindset inherent in the envious person it is always difficult for such wretched characters in society to ever wean themselves of this terrible anti-social cancer.

All of us must develop a brighter and more positive attitude to life and recognize the fact that although we might all have been created equal because of the commonality [until coning technology and artificial insemination came in] in the process of procreation, all other extraneous factors make us unequal and that throughout life all of our efforts are geared towards creating equality.

Competitiveness rather than envy and pulling others down is the better way of bridging gaps.
Jealousy as bad as it is, pales into insignificance when compared with envy. Jealousy, as earlier mentioned may propel one to ensure not losing something/someone dear, envy on the other hand poisons both the envious and the envied, simply because the envious has no other desire than to frustrate, destroy or pull down the envied with poisonous tongue. Or rat poison.

Shakespeare has a description for both the envious and the jealous, and details of his characterisation of both overflows in his plays and poetry. Brilliant man. Clever man. Even though he says there is no art to tell a man’s character by reading his face, he still tells us in ‘Julius Caesar’ Act 1, Scene 2, the relationship of Cassius’s ‘lean and hungry look’ with his jealousy and hatred for Julius Caesar and the invocation of the ambition and in-built envy of Brutus and his gang.

It may therefore be appropriate to take a clinical look at the spiteful envious people and their perennially jealous kinsmen whenever and wherever you meet them.

Hear them speaking of the brilliant career-woman who has just been appointed the CEO of a major Commercial Bank “Don’t mind her.
That Stella, she’s my childhood friend. She slept her way to the top” exclaimed the envious smelly Theresa, her friend.

“No. I’m going to stop you from night-shift. That your doctor in your Ward. Or I stop you from working altogether” the lousy possessive jealous husband, screaming at his hospital matron shapely wife!

You can’t mistake them.

Death, wretched death is always the ultimate of all envious people simply because they can never be happy or contented with their lot in life and there would always be people around them who are more resourceful, more successful, more prosperous, and more famous, more admired, more popular, more articulate than they are or can ever be. As long as the objects/subjects to be envied are in abundant supply the more the pain and anguish of the envious people. Hence, all little-minded and pathologically mean-spirited envious people die of frustration after living a wretched life.

Envy, man’s worst affliction!

High Chief Tola Adeniyi, syndicated columnist, author, playwright, poet, dramatist, philosopher and mystic. May 29, 2024.

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