Living cross-culturally consistently provides opportunities to learn. Every week, and during some weeks, every day is a new lesson, a new experience or a character trait further developed. Last week was no exception.
Imagine I told you I just won a vacation to the beach in that photo, and those two chairs were my very own. If you were happy or excited for me but wished you had won, you may have experienced what we recently learned about called white envy.
Ever been envious, like really envious? I have and know the feeling well, and my guess is that I am not alone. Most prominent in my memory of some fairly intense envy is when I was still working in ‘corporate America.’
Although enjoying much success of my own, my vision was frequently clouded by watching the success of others and how they seemingly surpassed my own with what seemed like much less effort.
Admittedly, what I often experienced was envy, pure and simple. I saw what others had earned in my line of work, and occasionally what they hadn’t earned and yet still achieved, and I felt envious. You may have experienced that raw, unadulterated jealousy at some point as well.
This kind of obvious, apparent envy is not the only type as I have recently learned.
The level of envy we learned about, known in this new culture as “white envy” is definitely something we’ve experienced, but not something I could have put a name on in the English language.
White envy is kind of like a mild emotion, where your sentiment is along the lines of, “Look what you have! I’m so happy and excited for you, I will someday hopefully have the same!”
Is this always jealousy? Of course not, sometimes the feelings can be genuine and could very well result in our own motivation to do something better or to work harder to acquire what others have.
But if I’m going to be honest with myself, in my thinking there is an extremely fine line between motivation, envy and coveting and my natural tendencies are to covet.
This is the concept of white envy as we have learned about in the Russian speaking culture. It’s not motivation, it’s not flat out envy, it may even produce genuine feelings of happiness for others.
In itself, this is not necessarily a bad thing, and quite honestly, envy doesn’t have to be negative, either when one can keep it “healthy,” but I have a suspicion that “healthy envy” is as fleeting as “righteous anger.”
The heart of the matter is, well the heart itself. It’s what’s in my heart that determines if my anger or my envy is justified, or if it is I who am providing the justification.
Let me just get this out of the way and be done with it, I personally don’t experience righteous anger for more than about 3 seconds, and I have learned, and continue to learn to surrender anger when it does come up.
So it can be with envy in my life as well, there can be justifiable and there can be justified envy, the difference being what I allow to harbor in my heart that may or may not graduate my thoughts to covetousness.
And so the lesson we learned is that in the Russian speaking culture, there is a name to go with the idea of justifying one’s envious feelings and that is “white envy.”
The more thought I put into it, the more I realized that in my own culture we have the same concept, except I couldn’t put a name to it other than the harsh reality of self justification.
Benefits of Overcoming Envy
I’ve already mentioned anger and envy in the same sentence, and for good reason as envy and anger, as well as insecurity, general unhappiness, fear, intimidation and feelings of humiliation are all unhealthy emotions that commonly associate with envy.
Psychiatrists have pointed out for years that envy easily leads to physical symptoms like nausea and loss of appetite. Neuroscientists have also made the connection of envious feelings to physical pain, increased blood pressure and even hypertension and heart disease if this emotion is allowed to fester unchecked.
If continuously left undisciplined, the negative affects of envy can be devastating while the benefits when you overcome envy can result in improved health, happiness, contentment, confidence as well as physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
How to Overcome Envy
Stop comparing yourself to others. My most frequent feelings of envy appear when I start to compare myself to others. This is where I strive to shut down envious emotions because it only gets more difficult the longer they are allowed to run.
Envy comes from counting others blessings instead of our own.Unknown
Entitlement is not a virtue. There are so many forms of entitlement in today’s world that entire generations believe they deserve things simply by their existence. Don’t adopt this mindset. You and I must earn our way by doing, not just by being. So remember, when overcoming envy, entitlement is not a virtue.
Live your own calling. Realize that you are not just randomly taking up space on Earth. You have a reason. Find it, fill it. One of the books I enjoyed reading last year is It’s Your Call: What Are You Doing Here? by Gary Barkalow. I can recommend that book as well as Gary’s blog at The Noble Heart.
Be thankful, count your own blessings. What more can I say than this anonymous quote, “Envy comes from counting others blessings instead of our own.” -Unknown