Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Love Is Not Envious

there doesn't seem to be good antonym for envy.  as a state of being, one who is envious is not contented, and so, perhaps "contentment" is the best opposite of envy.  we all envy attributes or the possessions of others.  we long to look like another who is closer to our ideal of good appearance.  we wish that we had the wherewithal of another who has more than we.

one wonders if contentment is always a virtue.  why make the effort to be a better person if one is content with things as they are?  is the ambition which grows from envy always a bad thing?  perhaps the inherent problem with envy is a matter of degree.  when we have enough of something--good looks, health, material possessions--we ought to be content with enough.  when we lack the basic necessities of life, we should not be content, but neither should we envy those who do have what they need and wish that we could possess what they have at their expense.

at its most base, envy covets that which is not ours.  when we become envious, we wish to take from those who have what we want and deprive the possessor of that which we envy so that it may become ours.  without this covetousness, there is no envy.  when we say we envy someone's appearance, do we mean we wish to have the same attractiveness or do we wish that we could become more handsome while the other becomes less so?  in the first instance, we are not envious in the bad sense, but rather we are wishing for something we do not have without depriving another of that quality.  in the second, we are truly envious, desiring to take from the other in order to appear to have that quality ourselves, to be better looking in comparison and not because we are inherently good-looking or because we have worked to improve our appearance so as to be more attractive.

envy is an insidious evil.  may we understand where the desire for self-improvement ends and the coveting of that which we do not have begins.  may our effort be the right effort, not the effort that grows from envy and a lack of contentment when what we have is enough.  may our effort grow from a generous, not a covetous, spirit.  shalom.

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