The Green-Eyed Monster: How to Get Rid of Envy and Entitlement
Envy. Entitlement. Those are two words I hate.
That isn’t to say I haven’t ever practiced those vices. But I really do hate them.
Envy is, of course, inward turmoil stimulated by a heart that cannot celebrate another’s good fortune. It involves wanting what another has. Jealousy, envy’s evil twin and hellacious handmaiden, involves personal resentment toward the one in question. Whereas an envious person wants what another has, jealousy [at least] simply doesn’t want the other person to have it.
Clearly, both usually go together: The envious person sometimes, if not usually, becomes jealous. The results of envy-jealousy includes the dropping of one’s countenance toward the fortunate (or blessed) person, then self-justifying (and sometimes-irrational) frustration which often deteriorates into further ungodly manifestations.
If I can take a bunny trail here— let me share a word about those ungodly manifestations. It seems to me that jealousy-envy often contaminates and/or wounds both the perpetrator and its victim(s). What I mean is that, once envy erodes into jealousy, it is not unusual for the jealous person to be contaminated by seething anger, internal rage, and finally contempt. Sometimes these emotions are accompanied by abuse and violence– verbal, physical, or both. As a result, the jealous person often ends up suffering a sense of guilt, personal condemnation, self-loathing, and, at worse, despair.
And if that were not enough, the victim of jealous envy also suffers, wittingly or not.
But this post is not only about envy; it’s also about entitlement. But I mentioned both because envy is often accompanied by entitlement. But entitlement can also be an “independent vice.” So entitlement doesn’t require the presence of envy though, like women who go to public restrooms in groups, they often appear together.
So, what of “entitlement?”
Entitlement is a perspective… a mentality. It usually manifests itself as an assumption that one DESERVES something– an expectation of a perceived (or moral) right. Now keep in mind that there ARE legitimate entitlements. But those are not my concern, nor are they the topic of this post. Rather, I am concerned about the general and pervasive “entitlement mentality” that hangs like a dark cloud over many people, including certain sections of the American populous. And just as “groups” of people develop entitlement mentalities, individuals do it as well. Those who do so consider it an outrage that they sometimes must “do without” or otherwise should actually “do something”– rather than doing nothing but having an expectation of receiving something nevertheless.
All this serves as a long introduction to the central idea of this post: The Elimination of Envy and Entitlement.
In the past, I assumed several things… Things like:
- BLESSINGS SPOIL PEOPLE
- MATERIAL NICETIES STIMULATE THE BASE INSTINCTS OF OUR HUMANITY AND DRIVE ENVY INTO PEOPLE
- THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN GIVEN MUCH ALWAYS DEVELOP AN ENTITLEMENT MENTALITY THAT SPOILS THEM, AND FINALLY…
- BLESSINGS PRODUCE ENTITLEMENT IN THE PERSON WHO RECEIVES THEM AND ENVY IN THOSE WHO DO NOT.
But I no longer think those things.
Oh, sure, we’ve SEEN EXAMPLES of those ideas– but I have come to believe that no cause-effect relationship exists between blessing and entitlement or envy.
I remember when my elder son, Dakota, turned 11. For his birthday he got this insanely great gift that virtually no child his age has. To boot, Dakota enjoys a life foreign to my own early years. He (and his brother Christian) is, in many ways, a child of plenty. He has never known “need.” He would hardly even understand the concept of “want.” And yet, the enormous blessings he enjoys are (a) not “expected” by him, nor (b) have these opportunities and experiences soiled or spoiled him. Dakota is genuinely thankful and grateful. And though all the results aren’t in– his life and demeanor has shown me that envy, entitlement, and blessing CAN BE mutually exclusive.
So what makes the difference?
I believe that envy and entitlement are eliminated from blessed people when those people possess character.
Character (or its absence) is, I believe, the single arbiter of envy and entitlement mentalities. With character, those bad character qualities are not present. Without character, those vices breed, mutate, and multiply.
So now, instead of withholding “good” from my child/children, I feel the freedom to bless them liberally. And rather than spending all my energies regretting my generosity and battling their growing envy and entitlement, I work on ensuring that they are developing character. I think that’s the way God intended it to be, and it helps me enjoy being a generous father– just as my Heavenly Father is.
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