27.40 Jealousy and Envy


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From Rabbi Brian 27/40

Jealousy and Envy.

Today I’m going to talk about the seemingly twin notions of jealousy and envy, and how they’re different.

The first word “jealousy” has its root in the word “zeal.” You can hear the similarity in the Spanish word, celos. And that makes sense, because there’s some zeal, some excitement, in jealousy! When we’re jealous, we feel passionate about getting something.
Aristotle suggested that there’s jealousy, and then there’s envy. The two aren’t necessarily the same.


Jealousy leads people to strive for greater things: “Oh, that person has a really cool car,” you tell yourself. And suddenly, you’re trying to figure out how to get a really cool car for yourself, too. That’s jealousy.

Envy, on the other hand, is much more insidious. You see that another person has a really cool car, chariot, etc., and you say to yourself, “I don’t have that. I’m gonna take their wheels so they can’t enjoy it.” Envy occurs when you won’t let the other person have something, because you’re so upset about it. You’d rather deprive that person of their right to possess something – instead of working to get your own.
All jealousy and envy stems from a perceived lack. You can only feel either emotion if you think there’s something important missing in your life. If you were content, truly content, you wouldn’t desire anything, so you couldn’t possibly feel jealous or envious about anything.
Here’s another example of how people often get confused about the nature of jealousy and envy. Sometimes we think the more we love a person, the more jealous we ought to be of that person’s relations. “Oh, I’m jealous that he’s spending so much time with anyone else besides me.” The more jealous we are (this tends to be the case with adolescents), the more we think it’s love. That ain’t love, that’s jealousy! And that’s not even the good kind of jealousy.
So why bring up this topic? There’s a spiritual-religious exercise lurking in all of this, of course.
Moral indignation is often jealousy with a halo, said H.G. Wells. He was right. That’s an awesome statement. Moral indignation is often jealousy with a halo.
Moral indignation is where you say something like, “Well those kids shouldn’t be going out and doing blah blah blah.” It’s when you get on your high horse and start judging and condemning other people.
Moral indignation occurs, because deep down inside, you wish you had whatever those “morally corrupt folk” have. You, perhaps only secretly, wish you would allow yourself to do what they’re doing.
Maybe those kids feel free, and you lack a sense of freedom. To make yourself feel better, you get your panties up in a bunch. You get all freaked out, and tell yourself, “Morally, what they’re doing is just wrong.” Maybe it’s not wrong, maybe you’re just jealous.
Here’s what I want you to do. This is our moral-spiritual-religious exercise for the week:



Think about something in your life which you get morally righteous about. Is there some way of flipping that thing upside down, looking at it, and thinking perhaps you’re just jealous? Maybe you feel some envy over people whom you are supposedly morally superior to.

If there’s a perceived lack in your life, work to examine what is causing the lack instead of directing your envy onto someone else.

Spiritual-religious advice: investigate the cause of your jealousy and moral indignation.


With love,

Rabbi Brian

Rabbi Brian

Rabbi Brian
Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer is the founder of Religion-Outside-The-Box.

His day job is teaching advanced mathematics to Los Angeleno High School students. The rest of the time is with his family.


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