Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joyful Relationships--How Envy Hurts Them

There’s a lot of talk about going green these days—a sense of social consciousness regarding our planet and how to take good care of it including energy resources. Another kind of green issue is that of resentment—a social consciousness that robs us of energy, thought, and time. It happens in families, at work, and at play. Resentment or envy is the negative feeling when we want something that belongs to someone else. A close relative of envy is jealousy -- the toxic sensation that someone might take something we already possess—usually a love interest. Envy is quite common and is also corrosive. Most of us deny that we’re doing it.

Coming from competitiveness, emotional insecurity, and situational dissatisfaction, resentment wreaks havoc on relationships. It can be mild and stated clearly as when we envy someone’s new painting while admiring its beauty. It can also be destructive as we make critical remarks about how someone received a promotion or attention. Envy flourishes in competitive settings, under weak leadership, with favoritism in our families, and with high levels of achievement.

We’re good at hiding our envy from ourselves. It’s embarrassing to admit we feel this way at times. According to Judith Sills, PhD, these are signs that green is driving us:

We avoid cooperation because we don’t want others to benefit.
We just don’t like something about a person, but can’t articulate it.
We’re critical of traits in a colleague that didn’t bother us before.
We hear ugly verbal remarks pop from our mouths about someone’s success.
We blame special privileges of others for their success.
We feel picked on or burdened since others get all the breaks.

The impact of envy can keep us stuck and unable to use our own creativity and skill. As soon as the negative thoughts enter our heads, we need to acknowledge them and do some healthy self-soothing. At a meeting recently someone announced a new program he would be offering this month. As I looked around the room I noticed skeptical expressions and mine was among them. I have to ask, “What is this about? Is this person doing and saying what I wish I could do or say? How am I sabotaging myself by not stepping up to the plate?”

We can use the energy of envy to transform ourselves to be more goal directed or more determined to succeed in our own unique way. We can change envy to ambition and tell ourselves to “stop whining and start acting.” It may be easier to pout about other’s successes, but it sure doesn’t move anything forward. Using some mental magic and initiative, green can change from greed and resentment to inspiration and aspiration. It’s a different kind of energy that warms the heart instead of freezing the spirit.

Instead of mean green, we can choose far-reaching red—the color of passion and drive to guide us to healthier and happier sense of self and accomplishment. We can learn to appreciate the success of others and tell them about it. Then we can tell them about our own successes.

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