The Problem of Envy

For most of my life, I’ve had a negative affect.  I’m not sure how I got there, but by the time I went to college my world was painted black.

Ironically, I knew I was blessed.  But I felt like my own inadequacies outweighed any number of blessings in my life.  I was so focused on what was missing that I couldn’t see what was present.

Then maybe five years ago, a friend of mine and I went to a weekend workshop on Spiral Dynamics.  During the course of the presentation, I made a comment on the dangers of comparing ourselves with others, and how Spiral Dynamics invited such comparisons.  The presenter said something like, ‘That may be a problem for you, and it’s good that you are aware of it.’

For some reason her comment really pissed me off.  I tried focusing on my breath, tried to listen to what she was saying, but I could not shake my feeling of anger.

I sat by her during lunch, and explained to her what I was feeling and why.  She told me I was a four, and was motivated by envy which was the source of my anger.  Huh?

She went on to explain a little about the enneagram, which is a model of human personality types.  The enneagram is a nine pointed star, and each point represents a type, the fourth point or type having the vice or passion of envy.

Now the Enneagram of Personality is beyond the scope of this post.  The point here is that I knew she was right.

Jealousy was a passion I had struggled with in my youth that I thought I had overcome as an adult.  But what I didn’t realize was that those feelings of inadequacy were another manifestation of envy, or the fixation I had of comparing me with others.

That epiphany led to what has been a sea change for me which I will explain in the next post.