- Feelings of inferiority and desire can spur us to bring down our competitors—or to better ourselves.
- Our ability to successfully control envy impulses is hampered by outside factors such as stress, exhaustion and inebriation.
- Transforming malicious envy into its more productive cousin, benign envy, may be a way to harness the emotion's power to motivate.
Envy. Socrates viewed it as “the ulcer of the soul.” Shakespeare's Iago, in Othello, gave us the term “green-eyed monster,” forever tingeing it an emerald hue. In Dante's Divine Comedy, once resentful individuals trudge through purgatory with their eyes wired shut, never to see the world through jaundiced lenses again.
Most of us are well acquainted with this powerful sentiment, often defined as the pain of occupying an inferior position relative to another and a desire for what that other person has. The yearning could be directed toward a gleaming red Ferrari, a fortuitous business deal or something as simple as a piece of Scharffen Berger chocolate. Among the seven deadlies, it occupies a unique position: it's the only sin that is never fun.
This article was originally published with the title Untangling Envy.