There is a famous quote that says that money is the root of all evil. I think that statement is wrong. I think that the envy of money is the root of all evil. How can money be evil? Money is an inanimate object, and as such, is incapable of any action at all, let alone evil.
Now envy, on the other hand, is dangerous. Envy is an emotion. A strong emotion. It ranks right up there with love, hate and desire. Envy is not to be confused with jealousy. Jealousy involves at least three people; the person who is jealous, the much-loved person and a perceived competitor. When jealous, it is the much-loved who the person is jealous of, not the competitor.
Aristotle said, “Envy is pain at the good fortune of others.”
We are coming into an exceptional time in our nation’s history. We stand on the cusp of a new year that threatens our financial comfort and holds the promise of new leadership. Never have so many had so much. People, who a few decades ago wouldn’t have been able to purchase a house or own dependable transportation on their meager salaries, have homes, vehicles, boats, several televisions, computers, video games and a lot of nice stuff.
People have a tendency to gauge their own success and well-being by comparing themselves to others. This is envy. What makes it dangerous is the comparison. When you start to judge how well you are doing by the amount of money you have, or the amount of stuff you have, compared to a family member or the couple down the street, you are setting yourself up to be unhappy. When you compare your lifestyle to that of a successful millionaire, you cannot help but realize your shortcomings.
Envy is within all of us. It can be used constructively. It can motivate you to achieve certain goals or drive your ambitions. Wouldn’t it be better to learn to manipulate envy for your own happiness then to let it control you?
My husband and I desperately want to own a home. We envy the people who own the beautiful country homes that we see on our Sunday drives. We talk about our dream a lot. We wonder if the people in those beautiful homes know how lucky they are. We’ve been so tempted to put down a small down payment and purchase our dream house. Then we could be lucky too. But we made a decision to have at least half of the purchase price saved up to use as a down payment and we are sticking to it.
Recently, we’ve noticed several of these homes have sprouted For Sale signs. In talking to some of the local realtors, we’ve discovered that our envy was misplaced. Those people weren’t happy or lucky; they were eyeball deep in debt and will now pay the price.
I’m so glad we didn’t let envy push us around. In reality, we are perfectly comfortable in our little rental home. Owning a house wouldn’t make us more comfortable. When we examined why we want our own home, we threw envy out the window. We decided that it didn’t matter how it looked or what other people thought about it. We want it for ourselves and our own needs. In the beginning, when we started saving and dreaming, envy played a big part in our dream. We are middle aged and everyone we know has their own home, complete with toys, built in BBQ pits and swimming pools. We thought we wanted that too. Our dream has changed. It’s become more realistic and less expensive, more suited to our budget.
The year ahead may be more difficult than this past year. More people may lose their homes and their jobs. Envy will no doubt cause much resentment and possibly even spawn hatred of those who manage to do financially well. I encourage you to stop comparing your life to everyone else’s. Work for what you have and own your successes. Don’t base them on any one else’s ideals. Don’t worry if someone has more than you do. Worry about yourself and your family. That’s all that really counts anyway.