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Help me understand envy and jealousy and how it affects the quality of our friendships?

heart to heart The questioner's philosophy
Muslim, not the type that's on media these days but the normal kind that goes through normal things just like other people.
The questioner's hopes and aspirations
Do the best in the given short time, and leave the rest to fall into place.
I know success comes to those who work hard. It's for those people who don't give up. And they are not just lucky - it's their hard work that they are there. I have a friend who is really hard working, she is great. It's like nothing can stop her. She has gone through a hard life and her life is still difficult, but it makes her strong everyday and she keeps fighting. I see some of her other friends, who I would say are jealous of her and who make really bad comments about her sometimes. This girl is too nice to realize that they are just jealous and she should not be sad about her 'friends' commenting on her.

These comments include character blows such as Miss Goody, as well as blows to her career. In the past it had been these same people following her, her handwriting, the way she talks, the way she dresses, and even competing with each other to be her friend. Recently, she had enough when one of these friends commented on her mother and she just hid away from everyone, even me. I know she will come back in her own time.

To me she is an inspiration, and to them she is intimidating. This makes me wonder if there is a comfortable level of jealousy. If I were her I would get rid of those friends, as I wouldn't have been comfortable with people commenting on me, while following me and then talking behind my back - people commenting on my mother, my career or the way I talk or call me 'Ms Goody.' I would never be comfortable with that level of jealousy. And I think it's because of this jealousy that she hid away from everyone. Their jealousy is slowing her down, slowing my inspiration. How do people deal with such jealousy? Is there such a thing as a 'comfortable level of jealousy?'

Wallace's reply
Wallace I think the first thing to clarify is the meaning of the word, 'jealousy.' Jealous may be based on a strong feeling of envy, or it may imply an intense effort to hold on to what one possesses. It is often associated with distrust, suspicion, anger, and other negative emotions.

You say that the girl you are concerned about has friends who are jealous of her. Their behavior sounds more like envy to me. Envy implies wanting something that belongs to another and to which one has no particular right or claim. To give an example, a young woman might be jealous of the girls who flirt with her boyfriend, because she doesn't really trust him, while they might be envious of his obvious preference for her.

Envy occurs when we compare ourselves to others or compare our own accomplishments to another's. This envy may be laced with bad intentions where we wish bad things to happen to those persons we envy. Envy is fueled by our negative-self view; if we accept ourselves and feel gratitude for all that we have, we don't spend much time comparing ourselves with other people. We wish them a good and abundant life.

Jealousy, like anger, is an emotion that has its place. For example, if your boyfriend started dating another woman while he was still dating you, that might invoke feelings of jealousy in you. Such feelings would be entirely appropriate and can be used constructively to motivate you to take action by confronting your boyfriend and challenging him to be a person of integrity by only dating you and not someone else at the same time. This is an example of feeling jealousy appropriately and where the jealousy is constructive.

However we can also feel jealous inappropriately. For example, I might feel jealous when my wife laughs with friends at work, particularly male friends, and perhaps gives them a hug. This however is not constructive jealousy; her behavior is innocent and genuine and any threat to myself is totally in my own head. My feelings may be based on envy of my wife having a happy life of her own. Such jealousy may also be based on insecurity in the relationship, and a wish to control and manipulate - to take over the life and choices of the partner. It may be rationalized internally as 'love' but it is about as far from authentic love as can be.

The feeling of insecurity that underlies jealousy may have developed in early childhood. When we get the message that we are not good enough, or if someone we love is unavailable to us in some way, our sense of who we are can be very wounded, and we feel abandoned as children. We then can feel very unsure of ourselves in later life, comparing ourselves to others and always seeming to come out less than they are. We may feel unsure that the people we give our love to will be there for us.

Jealousy can certainly be healed. Sometimes it helps to recognize that what we dislike in ourselves is actually just the fear of a small child, a fear that he/or she would not survive. When we can view something we dislike in ourselves with love and compassion, which is the way we would perceive a small child, we can let go of the painful feelings.

So when we feel jealous, we need to recognize that is the case and then use our God-given discernment to ask ourselves, is this jealousy appropriate and constructive and if so what action am I being guided to take? Or is it inappropriate and destructive? In which case our awareness of its destructiveness, will lead - if empathetic love is applied - to acceptance and then to release of the inappropriate jealousy or envy.

The bottom line is that jealousy should be resolved through proper communication. Let the other person know what you are jealous about. Make him or her understand how you feel about the past so that you can both create a good solution for the present. Best of all, try to make each other feel special and loved. Keep in mind that jealousy is basically rooted in insecurity. When a person feels 100% assured that he or she is greatly loved by his or her partner, there is no room for jealousy.

If others are envious of you, it makes it hard to retain a friendly relationship. You can not afford to keep envious people in your private world. People that envy you are not your friends. If they have to stay around, don't pay attention to what your an envious person says. If he/she is extremely envious, any small reaction to their envious remarks or actions may cause them to get worse and try to hurt you. Worse, they may even try to convince others that you are the envious one. If an acquaintance is hostile to you because of envy, remember that the real problem is the person feels inferior, and so try to be gracious with them and respectful.

You are lucky to have such an inspirational friend. I suggest you make it your business to draw close to her so you can offer your support when she is having a difficult time. She may be strong, but she is human too and like everyone else needs loyal companionship.

Read more questions on this topic


Suzanne, November 2008
It's lovely to see such loyalty to your friend. I have had similar experiences happen to me and I reacted the same way - by withdrawing from people. Speaking from my own history, I remember feeling wary of everyone for a period - wondering who I could trust since the people I regarded as friends were making me feel bad about myself. During the time I withdrew, I started thinking about all of my qualities that they had "rubbished" and realised that these things were the very qualities in myself that had served me well, allowed me to keep going day after day and rise above the odds to succeed. Qualities such as:

  • Letting go of worry and trusting that the Universe will somehow provide for me and my kids.
  • Being willing to share whatever I had even if it was only a morsel at the time.
  • Always looking on the bright side of life.
  • Making the best out of any circumstance.
  • Being kind to others or helping someone without the need for recognition - this means that sometimes the person you were kind to never knew who it was that had showed them kindness or helping someone and having no need to talk about it.
  • Believing that the most important thing that one wears is their outlook and mine is always happy.

It will really help your friend to know that you believe in her and are willing to support her. Help her to regain her belief in herself. Rather than talk about all of the bad things those people say, focus on what it is about her that inspires you and how that makes you feel. Always focus on the good. Whatever you think about most is what manifests in your life. Try not to mention those other people at all. Wallace is right - there is no room in any one's life for people who are jealous and envious of you. They are not your friends and one way or another, they will eventually take something from you - if it isn't your spirit, it will be possessions.

Friends do not do or say things that will hurt you. Friends love you and support you and allow you to become the best that you can be at any moment in life. Friends are important in a person's life. People can only hurt you if they are important in your life and the people who are important don't want to hurt you because they love you. If she makes these people unimportant their comments will become words without meaning.

Help your friend to shift her perspective on what these people are saying. For example, Miss Goody is a compliment for she is indeed, a very good person. If it happens that your friend runs into one of these people and they say something to her that is hurtful, tell her to walk away as if they haven't even spoken to her, as if she hasn't even seen them. She does not have to acknowledge them in any way, nor explain why she is leaving the conversation. She just does not need people like this in her life. She doesn't need to retaliate, when you don't acknowledge something in your life, it looses its importance and eventually falls away.

Your friend has a spirit in her to 'never give up' that means not giving up on herself also. Help her to recognise that the very same things that others have critised are the things that make her exceptional.

I still look at the world through 'rose coloured glasses'. I believe it to be a lovely quality - it helps me to see that there is some good in everything - in this case, who and what is important.

As for you loyal friend, I believe that true friends are your best mirror. Everything quality you admire in your friend, you possess also, even if its only in some small way, whether you realise it or not. That makes you both very loved and fortunate.

Bless you both. Your friendship will take you both on to greatness. Sending you white light to protect and guide you, and healing energies of love.

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