Saturday, December 03, 2005

Envy vs. Jealousy

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I know several jealous people. It's evident in the way they speak about matters, it's evident in the way they present a topic, and it's often evident in their look. My husband and I refer to these people as "farbissiner" -- Yiddish for "bitten up" or "bitter". We might know it better as having a chip on one's shoulder. Usually bitterness is tied in with jealousy.

Personally, I differentiate between envy and jealousy. I am not a jealous person by nature, but sometimes I deem myself envious. Jealousy is a harsher term, with some sense of malice underlying your attitude. "Why does she get to have ______________? She doesn't deserve it. What did she and her husband do to deserve ___________?" A jealous person is almost casting a silent evil eye on another person, wishing that the other person's good fortune would wear thin.

Sometimes I'm envious. In my case it's more of being in a state of wistfulness or wishful thinking with hints of admiration. "It's so nice that so-and so and her husband are able to travel at the drop of a hat. Wouldn't that be nice if we could do that?" I don't mean anything bad towards someone else; I admire what they have or can do and think it would be nice if I could find myself in the same state.

So...with that explanation behind me, I want to make it very clear to Doctor Bean and Psycho Toddler: "I am not jealous that Psycho Toddler and his wife are going to L.A. and will get to meet Doctor Bean and family. I am very happy for them, but I would like to be going to L.A. at this time, thus I am envious of Psycho Toddler. Yes, I've already met Doctor Bean, but yes, I'd like to be back in California and socializing once again with his clan, this time with my husband in tow. So, I repeat: I am not jealous...I am merely envious! I am envious that you are going out for Chinese food together, along with other bloggers. I am envious that you will be meeting the Beans as a couple, and I only got to meet them as a single. I am envious that you, Psycho Toddler and Doctor Bean, are both doctors, while I am merely a doctor's patient. And while we're at the confessional booth, I'm envious that I don't get as many comments on my posts as you two get on yours. But please remember that I am happy for you that you will be finally having a tete-a-tete!

"BTW, Doctors, my skin is just beginning to have a green tinge -- what's up with that? Is it something serious? Do I need to be quarantined so that nobody else catches whatever it is that I have, or is it something that will pass with time? Basically, I guess I want to know if there's a cure. "

Envy vs. Jealousy: Up for Grabs!


Neil said...

Interesting, only because I've always been a bit confused about these two words myself. I'm not sure your definitions are Webster-true, but I buy it. I also have my bouts of envy and jealousy and then feel guilty about it.

MC Aryeh said...

I don't see much difference between envy and jealousy, but I get what you mean...I don't like where envy or jealousy take me, so I try and nip them in the bud whenever they appear...

PsychoToddler said...

If it makes you feel better, this is only the second "vacation" I have taken with Mrs. Balabusta in our 18 years of marriage. The first was in 1996 when I took her to Israel for 7 days. It was her first trip there and she was 6 months pregnant.

All our other trips have been with the kids to visit my parents.

Maybe I was envious of your trip to LA and that's why I'm going now?

rabbi neil fleischmann said...

I think of "farbissener" as one of those things that are hard to describe, but I know it when I see it. The first time I recall hearing the word was when I crossed paths with someone that my friend Aaron Bulman (of blessed memory) had know long before . And Aaron asked me, "is he farbissener? Because when i knew him he was." And, as was so often the case Aaron hit the nail on the head.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, OP, but you're off the mark. There is an actual definitional distinction between the two terms:

Jealousy is the fear of losing what one has, while envy is the desire to obtain what someone else has. The two are related, but almost complementarily so in a three-way relationship. Here's an example:

John and Mary are dating, but Bill also likes Mary. In this case, John is jealous (he is afraid of losing Mary to Bill), but Bill is envious (he wants what John has, namely Mary as a girlfriend).

In this light, the distinction is not in degrees of feeling or good versus bad, but from whose perspective one is looking at the situation.

P.S. Envy is a sin of the Bible whereas jealousy is not, for whatever that's worth.