WHY ENVY

Envy is natural. It gives us 'unhappy self-satisfaction'. It is open, as well as hidden. Duryodhan’s envy was open. He was ambitious. Envy did not cause him any kind of discontent. Dhritrashtra's envy was hidden, “so hidden, that he himself was often not aware of it, let alone admit it.” Envy is different from jealousy. If you want to protect what you have, it is jealousy. If you want to have what others have, it is envy.

In Satyajit Ray's film Seemabaddha, Shyamalendu, the central character in the film, gets promotion. You can see envy in his colleague's eyes. Shyamalendu perhaps had behaved similarly, had he not got the promotion. Often the charm of a friend overshadows the performance of the other friend, and that may cause heartburn. ‘Rejoicing in the good fortune of others’ is not everybody's cup of tea. Envy is most damaging to the self. Too much fixation on others causes most harm to the self. When one is obsessed with someone else's success, his self-respect suffers, and in the process, he may neglect or even sabotage his own performance, and possibly his career.

The metaphor of 'social microscope' has been used to describe envy. An envious person always compares his rewards. The reward could be monetary. It could be the boss's attention. “Your least-generous self surfaces as you try to boost your fragile ego at your rivals' expense.” The outcome of envy results in both personal and professional loss. An outstanding performer may lose a friend, and also his reputation in the organisation. “When people have qualities we envy but cannot easily acquire, like beauty or charm, we tend to dismiss the value of those qualities and even treat them with scorn.” Envy tends to ignore the good things of the rival. We experience this emotion more intensely with people who are close to us.

It is common practice to envy successful colleagues. Research suggests that people want to learn more about ideas that come from other companies than ideas that originate in their own organisations. Recognition of the circumstances and qualities in others trigger our envy. Too much comparing yourself with others also leads to envy. This is particularly true for the persons who are 'ungenerous' towards themselves. For this reason, it is important to remind ourselves, our own strengths and successes. Why do we cooperate? Do we cooperate for the sake of others, or for our own sake? Take a living organism. In order to protect itself, it protects the environment it lives in. If there is a mismatch between the self and the environment, the chances of survival of either or both are threatened. This conflict can be resolved when either or both compromise to ensure their survival. Mahatma Gandhi is well known for noncooperation and also for serving the needs of the people. One of his friends once asked him if his serving the poor was purely humanitarian. He said, “I am here to serve myself only, to find my own self-realisation through the service of others.”