We have a thing in our house that you must not envy someone, unless you are prepared to take on the whole package, the whole box and dice, the good with the bad. It is such a useful thought bubble because it insists that you look really closely at people and not just see the superficial extremities.
Envy is quite widespread in our society some might say almost ubiquitous. It is actively fed and encouraged by tabloids and TV which has helped to normalise the behaviour. I don’t want to get too heavy, but to understand it, it is helpful to realise that it really only happens on a broad scale in modern democratic free economies. We are taught from day one that we can become anything, do anything, have anything we desire provided we work (or dream) hard enough. That is the modern fairytale and in my opinion a complete social myth. It all very successfully feeds envy as a behaviour though.
Society is constantly being bombarded with stories about Mr So and So or Miss Who-ever becoming fabulously successful, or looking amazing, or performing at a level, and all from ordinary roots. Society is being told it’s perfectly acceptable and really almost cool to envy someone else’s whatever.
But what does that lead to? An awful lot of unhappiness is what I see. We know that unhappiness sells papers magazines, TV subscriptions etc If you take only the good bits of almost any individual and compare all of your bad bits to that, you are never going to be comfortable with that outcome.
So let me return to where I started this ramble. Our rule, in our house is if you want to envy someone, you have to take the good with the bad, the crazy aunt, the outraged fan, the debt collector, the tortured school friend, the appalling self-image, the cocaine habit, the unusual sexual proclivities, the mis-shaped toes, the halitosis, the bad temper, the sexual abuse history, the disability (we all have them).
That one simple and very elegant behaviour change quickly results in us no longer envying anyone, because we take a little time to understand people before “wanting what they’ve got” which, when it’s all said and done, is a much healthier way to live.