An Argument for the Necessity of Envy | Sat Oct 9, 2021
Most days, I envy someone: my military peers who retired with a higher rank; friends & family members who own a home with a yard and dog; anyone who has built a successful, scaling business. I especially envy my peers who finish things they start — finishers, executors, or whatever buzz word we’re calling them right now.
Envy according to a Christian upbringing
I was raised in Christian churches, and what I learned about envy was pretty black and white. Envy was bad. It was a poisonous emotion that distracted us from a strong spiritual connection with God.
It was envy that led good Christians to desire material things and to ‘keep up with The Joneses’ — an expression many southern ministers would say. That definition of envy still makes sense to me in a way that I could defend. My problem is that I don’t think this definition is complete.
How is envy beneficial? Or when?
This morning, I’m struggling with that conflict, and I have to talk out on paper the missing discussion about the necessity of envy. The question is simple: how is envy beneficial?
Thinking about that question, I immediately of the professional world. Whether we work for ourselves or work for others, we all want to succeed. To be clear about succeed used in this context, I’m not talking about advancement (we don’t all want to be someone’s boss or add onto our list of responsibilities). Here, to succeed professionally means to reach a point where YOU FEEL your compensation matches the value of your work.
The nature of the professional world is competition. I feel like that is an absolute and a constant. Because competing is embedded in professional environments, succeeding wages on some degree of envy.
And how could it not? When you watch a good Ted Talk, you might think, “I do want to know more about that subject.” Or if you’re one of the cool kids with a home, maybe you cut your grass a little more meticulously than your neighbor. Of course, I could spit out a list of examples for how we interact with co-workers and superiors in work centers, but you get the point.
Not all envy is bad. It’s like fats from food: there’s good fat and there’s bad fat. Which is which is subjective, but with good or bad, it’s still a good idea to monitor your consumption.
*😬resisting urge to continue making analogies and puns*