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Envy and Jealousy

Written by David Davis on April 27, 2014

en·vy [en-vee]: a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another's advantages, success, possessions, etc.

jealousy [jel-uh-see]: vigilance in maintaining or guarding something.

What's the difference between envy and jealousy? Aren't these really just the same?

Not only are these concepts not synonymous, but one is debilitating and the other is, potentially, highly motivating for leadership!

  • Envy is to wish to have something that is not yours. It is the opposite of contentment. A life fueled by envy will lead you to disquietude and corner cutting. It provides a playground for unethical behavior.

  • Jealousy is to want someone not to have something that is yours. While such an attitude can lead to stinginess or suspicion, it can also promote highly disciplined and properly protective behavior.

What?! Jealousy is a good thing?

Did you know that God identifies himself as jealous? He does not want someone or something else to have his people. He knows that any other god will not be able to care for them like he does. He wants his people for himself, not because he is neurotically needy but because he is love.

So before you throw out jealousy as a "bad" concept - consider these points:

  • PARENTS ought to be jealous regarding their children. They will not abdicate their role as parents to coaches or teachers. It is for them to be the parents, not for others.

  • EMPLOYEES ought to be jealous regarding their place of business. They do not want any outside force or inside issue to work against their workplace.

  • EMPLOYERS ought to be jealous regarding their employees. They want them so well trained, motivated and compensated so that a competing company does not lure them away.

So envy: no, never.

Jealousy: yes, sometimes, properly understood.

Shakespeare famously identified jealousy as a green-eyed monster which doth mock. But sometimes, in the right context, it is a monster that protects.

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