January 09, 2007

So, Which Is More Destructive?

Fear, or envy?

I'm talking about on the individual level, here: which emotion tends to be more corrosive to someone's personal development? Discuss.

Posted by Attila Girl at January 9, 2007 07:19 AM | TrackBack

Envy is more corrosive. But you rarely see envy
without some sort of (sometimes hidden) fear/anger
strings attached.

As an aside, I read somewhere (can't recall or I'd attribute) that the tool
Satan used to persuade Eve to eat the Fruit of Knowledge
of Good and Evil was envy. He evoked it by say she would
"be like God", implying she was somehow deficient and
therefore needed to do something about it.


Posted by: Bob at January 9, 2007 10:46 AM

Anything to excess can destroy. And even intrinsically bad things can have value to our lives.

Fear can keep you from trying new things. But if those things turn out to be harmful, then that is a good thing. Envy can make you decide to get 'some of that' for yourself. As as long as you're not taking it away from someone else, that might be a good thing. Both fear and envy can be destructive, personally and to others.

As with most things in life, there are no easy answers--especially when no specifics are given. Did this help anyone? I am envious! And more than a little afraid. . .

Posted by: Darrell at January 9, 2007 12:55 PM

"I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the Eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker.
And in short, I was afraid."

T.S. Eliot was a stud.

Posted by: Attila Girl at January 9, 2007 02:25 PM

I'm sticking with the choice of envy as the most corrosive.
It's listed as one of the seven deadly sins, fear is not.
(Although unrighteous anger is, and anger is often a cover
for fear.)

Envy is the sidelong glance through which we behold
those we _feel_ are better or better off than ourselves.
Envy is not satisfied until harm befalls its object. It is
the reputed motive behind Cain murdering his brother.
It is one of the fruits of the depraved mind listed in
the first chapter of Romans.

Self-help authors note that envy prevents you from
attaining or enjoying a better life for yourself.

That's my choice, and I'm stinking with it.


Posted by: Bob at January 9, 2007 06:27 PM

Well, before Socialism, people thought that God bestowed all that we have. Or don't have. So envy also combined elements of jealousy---sibling rivalry, so to speak "God loves LMA more than me! Wahhhh!!"

Hush! Envy can drive people to take what they believe should be theirs (hence the birth of Socialism). Those aspects of sin (against the Will of God and against man) are the impetus for envy making the Seven Deadly list. I don't believe that this is what we are talking about here.

The only sensible thing to do is to conduct an objective assessment of fear and envy in your life. And to make a list of the positive and negative consequences of each occurrence. Did it motivate you toward good? Or bad? Were you happy with the result? The flaw is that one can never really know the outcome of the road not taken. The quote should be "The saddest words of tongue or pen describe the life that might have been."

And when I'm handed my coat, I just reach for the cigarettes in my pocket. And the lighter of course.

Posted by: Darrell at January 9, 2007 09:19 PM

But coveting is directly tied to envy, and it's proscribed in the Ten Commandments. So there's that.

The "Big Book" of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests that "sometimes we think fear should be classed with stealing; it causes almost as many problems." (Or something like that--I might be paraphrasing a bit.)

Posted by: Attila Girl at January 9, 2007 10:50 PM

Here's the distinction between envy and jealousy:

I would be envious of Atllia the Hub's (AtH) relationship with LMA if I desired a chick as cool that deeply involved in my life, and resented AtH's good fortune.

I would be jealous of AtH if I desired LMA to be that cool chick involved in my life, and resented AtH's good fortune.

Envy, and to a lesser extent jealousy, of and by themselves are kind of neutral. When mixed in with a touch of resentment, then it becomes destructive. Add in other of the deadly sins, and it takes on a life of its own, sort of a personal fire storm that burns out-of-control until it uses up all available fuel. And if it causes one to act out, then you can cause grave harm to others.

Fear pretty much is limited in scope to the person doing the fearing. Unless it causes them to act out.

The most obvious example of that are people of faith - doesn't matter which, some atheists come immediately to mind - who are not strong in their faith, and are not completely comfortable with it yet. They're uncertain of their beliefs, and have not learned enough yet to argue on the merits should someone challenge them, so they lash out.

But so long as they're not picking up a lead pipe and aiming for the back of your head, they're only harming themselves.

Posted by: I R A Darth Aggie at January 10, 2007 09:21 AM

Ah, yes--but there is harm to society when talented people sit around envying the abilities of others, rather than acting on their own true strengths.

"Admiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy, contented least.
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising . . ."

Shakespeare knew about that.

Or people can sit on their talents out of fear: fear of failure, fear of success. Fear, as an ex-boyfriend of mine once put it, of "succeeding too moderately."

Society loses when people stew in their own self-destructive juices.

Posted by: Attila Girl at January 10, 2007 12:25 PM

Ever notice that certain of the Commandments can be grouped into "Don't do it!" and "Don't think about doing it!"? You shall not commit adultery. And, You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. You shall not steal. And, Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Not much wiggle room there.

Shame on anyone who was aroused by that reference to juices! Or to stew. No matter how tasty.

Fear can be overcome by just doing it(H/T to Nike). What are you waiting for?

Posted by: Darrell at January 10, 2007 01:16 PM

Of course, as Freud pointed out in Civilization and Its Discontents, we can hardly help having these impulses/fleeting desires (e.g., lust, desire for material possessions, etc.).

What's destructive is indulging them--obsessing about how nice it would be if one had, say, Brad Pitt's money or Oprah Winfrey's connections or Thomas Sowell's brains. THAT is coveting.

Posted by: Attila Girl at January 10, 2007 02:33 PM

Shouldn't that be Oprah's money and Pitt's connections? Or should that be "connections"?

Me? I am content now that I'm taller than James Bond. It took me years to accomplish that. Excluding that Peter Sellers/Woody Allen farce, of course.

Posted by: Darrell at January 10, 2007 08:50 PM

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