Envy, Enmity and Jealousy

Envy is a sense of discontent arising out of jealousy of a person about the advantages, possessions, fame and glory of others. On similar lines, Jealousy is a type of resentful longing of a person aroused by possessions and qualities of another person or group of persons.

According to Charles Darwin envy is part of evolution: Envy enabled species to survive; envy helped prevent catastrophic mass destruction of species. Darwin’s theory tells that humans behave in such a way as to help one individual to overtake another in the survival track of existence. The theory targets biological drives of humans which include the urge for procreation.

Even though envy involves jealousy, in essence, envy is not jealousy but it is the feeling of acute resentment inflicted by the possessions of others that the afflicted one does not possess or could not afford to acquire. In contrast, jealousy is an insatiable thirst of a person ignited by someone or something that the person is somehow or somewhere attached to.

‘Envy’ has so many other explanations, too: A person who enjoys pleasure out of another one’s misfortune is envy. Similarly, an urge to outdo or to undo the advantages enjoyed by rivals is envy. It is not rare where some people feel overwhelmingly driven by envy when they come across someone else owning desirable items including properties that the envious do not have. For example, think of a person whose neighbour bought a costly new brand car which the person concerned couldn’t afford to buy. Here the feelings of envy make the person lose self-esteem and he becomes a worried person. In similar situations envy brings in frantic sense of emptiness inside oneself. In substance, as Aristotle put it straight, envy is “the pain caused by the good fortune of others”.

The root cause of envy could be the reluctance or inability to realize one’s own well-being instead of comparing it with others’ well-being or possessions. Envy is a widespread, evil-filled phenomenon that pervades the minds of ill-groomed persons among the human chain.

A group of Researchers has come up with a theory that envy and jealousy are inborn traits having their roots in genealogy. But this theory does not contain proven scientific evidence. It is abundantly clear that the parental trajectory of a person has nothing to do with his or her emotional feelings of envy and jealousy. There are innumerable cases where the fathers and the mothers or even the great grant parents of envy-ridden people were gracious with full of love and compassion for fellow humans including neighbors and relatives despite the fellow humans being in more advantageous situations and possessions. It is doubtful, therefore, whether genes which are the blueprint for life are related to envy. Genes only determine physical traits like what to look like and what to inherit from paternal routes. In the same context, some physiologists in the West have propounded that envy and jealousy are the working results of the frontal cortex of the brain. The theory appears to be reliable because all feelings, emotions and thoughts are produced by excitation and inhibitions that take place in the sensory centres in the cerebral cortex of human brain. But the scientists, it seems, have failed to put forward the factors that cause excitation of brain center concerned for building up the emotive mental attitudes of envy and jealousy.

There comes the significance of the discoveries made by the Russian Physiologist Dr. Ivan Petrovich Pavlov on reflex action of the central nervous system. Pavlov through his extensive researches had proved that various stimuli emanating from internal and external sources which he named the “environs” excite the sensory centres in the cerebral cortex. Repeat excitation creates nerve to nerve communication-channels, namely the reflexes. The nerve to nerve communication of reflexes is necessary for the reach of stimuli from various environs to excite the sensory centres for feelings and emotions. Depending upon the nature of input from the environs and the human type, sensory experiences vary from person to person. Children brought up in surroundings which have ambiance of love and compassion, mutual respect and honesty, affection and happiness for everything in the vicinity grow up into adulthood as nascent citizenry devoid of harmful thoughts of envy and jealousy. This is the working of the conditioned reflexes formed in the nervous system by the influence of the surrounding environs. On the other hand, there are isolated cases where the family atmosphere is altogether in a reverse trajectory: The parents, especially male bastions in such families fight throughout their life for quenching their insatiable thirst to acquire and possess properties and valuables, fame and heritages of others by hook or crook. Alongside, they nurture the illicit feeling of envy over what others have. They cannot tolerate any one else owning more than or equal to what they possess or what they are. They look at others not with love and compassion but with jealousy. With the pull of conditioned reflexes, the children of such families when they grow up into adulthood, no doubt, will turn out to be envious of others; envious of the possessions of others.

The analysis thus brings out the truth that the basic reason for envy and jealousy of a person is nothing other than the environs that surround the individual. Surrounding environs comprise family, neighbourhood, schools, colleges, friends and the workplace. Persons infected by envy have mistaken or wrong notion about how to achieve real happiness through possessions. This is because of the influence of the environs where the persons are brought up. What is needed in such situations is to bring in a change in the environs whereby the afflicted are guided to find satisfaction in what they possess and reinvent their own abilities and acumen to achieve goals instead of envying on others.

Evaluation of envy cannot be completed unless its co-brother enmity is elucidated: Enmity is that state of mind which nurtures active hostility of hate, bitterness, friction, malice, animosity, aversion, antagonism, acrimony and ill will towards outside agencies such as individuals, groups or nations. Envy and Enmity have common links: Quite often envy incites enmity.  There is a saying that “the enemy of my friend is my enemy; the friend of my enemy is my enemy and the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

No wonder, there is hardly any place for enmity without the company of envy. Throughout the history, enmity has worked its way ahead through clashes and fights among families, clans, tribes, religions and nations all of which had envy as its booster. Human evolution itself is an example for envy and enmity. Envy can be regarded as positive attitude so long as it limits itself in achievements and progress of the individuals concerned without the interference of jealousy and anguish against others. Overwhelming envy gives birth to enmity: All the destructive trends that prevail across the world can be rightly attributed to enmity born out of envy-jealousy paternity.


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