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The Root of All Envy

March 20, 2012

I came across a research study the other day linking envy with sabotaging behavior at work. You wouldn’t think business researchers were so interested in such catty workplace predicaments, but apparently our inner lives have a lot to do with productivity.

I can’t say I’ve been plagued much by envy at work, but I do remember years ago, as a hungry, up-and-coming professional, I’d be sitting in various airport terminals observing the other business men – how smartly they were dressed, the way they carried themselves with such confidence, talking trash on the phones as they closed important deals – and, well, they all appeared so much more successful and commanding than me. This realization would then trigger a bout of negative thoughts: I’m not smart enough. I’m not accomplished enough. And why can’t I afford a decent suit?

The most preposterous thing, of course, was that I knew nothing about these strangers, other than what I was projecting on to them from my own deep longings and insecurities. To make matters worse, I would then concern myself with the sinfulness associated with those envious feelings.

Jesus would surely have given me a good smack upside the head had he been sitting next to me. “What,” he would say. “My infinite love isn’t good enough? Like some Armani suit is gonna do it for you?” Then he would spit on the ground in disgust.

I came home once and mentioned it to my wife during a late night sheepish confessional.  She is a very insightful psychologist, and offered another perspective.

“Envy is nothing to be ashamed of,” she said. “Those feelings are coming from somewhere for a reason. You need to pay attention to them.”

Rather than stewing in it, she suggested I hunker down and face off with the thing, to get at the root and find something of value there.

The key to working through envy, she said, was to do something about it. To channel those negative feelings into productive, affirming actions that would move me in the direction my subconscious self-image was nudging me towards.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Susan DiMickele permalink
    March 20, 2012 8:47 am

    On my way~!

  2. March 20, 2012 9:07 am

    For men, this is a real truth. We are envious, and that’s why we so many stupid things. At work, the jostling, the hustling is all part of the competitive quest. For a long time, I was in the hunt. Then finally, I took a breath, looked in the mirror, and heard the Voice that I had silenced saying, “Relax.”

    Now, I just don’t care and I’m finding that success is finding me.

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