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Envy (also called invidiousness) is best defined as an emotion that "occurs when a person lacks another's (perceived) superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it."[1]

Envy can also derive from a sense of low self-esteem that results from an upward social comparison threatening a person's self image: another person has something that the envier considers to be important to have. If the other person is perceived to be similar to the envier, the aroused envy will be particularly intense, because it signals to the envier that it just as well could have been he or she who had the desired object.[2][3]

Bertrand Russell said envy was one of the most potent causes of unhappiness.[4] It is a universal and most unfortunate aspect of human nature because not only is the envious person rendered unhappy by his envy, but also wishes to inflict misfortune on others. Although envy is generally seen as something negative, Russell also believed that envy was a driving force behind the movement towards democracy and must be endured to achieve a more just social system.[5]

In psychology


Envy and narcissists

Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder are often envious of others or believe others are envious of him or her.[6]

Envy, jealousy and schadenfreude

"Envy" and "jealousy" are often used interchangeably, but in correct usage they stand for two different distinct emotions. In proper usage, jealousy is the fear of losing something that one possesses to another person (a loved one in the prototypical form), while envy is the pain or frustration caused by another person having something that one does not have oneself. Envy typically involves two people, and jealousy typically involves three people. It is possible to be envious at more than one individual at any given time. Usually envy involves wanting the beauty, wealth, or socioeconomic status of another individual. Envy and jealousy result from different situations and are distinct emotional experiences.[7] Both envy and jealousy are etymologically related to schadenfreude, the rejoicing at, or taking joy in, or getting pleasure from the misfortunes of others.[8][9]

In philosophy

Aristotle (in Rhetoric) defined envy (φθόνος phthonos) "as the pain caused by the good fortune of others",[10][11] while Kant defined it as "a reluctance to see our own well-being overshadowed by another's because the standard we use to see how well off we are is not the intrinsic worth of our own well-being but how it compares with that of others" (in Metaphysics of Morals). In Buddhism the third of the four divine abidings is mudita, taking joy in the good fortune of another. This virtue is considered the antidote to envy and the opposite of schadenfreude.

In the arts

In English-speaking cultures, envy is often associated with the color green, as in "green with envy". The phrase "green-eyed monster" refers to an individual whose current actions appear motivated by envy. This is based on a line from Shakespeare's Othello. Shakespeare mentions it also in The Merchant of Venice when Portia states: "How all the other passions fleet to air, as doubtful thoughts and rash embraced despair and shuddering fear and green-eyed jealousy!" Envy is known as one of the most powerful human emotions for its ability to control one as if envy was an entity in itself. Countless men and women have fallen prey to brief periods of intense envy followed by anger which then translates into aggression. One of the most common examples is a pair of lovers in which a secret love is discovered and can lead to sorrow, then intense envy, and eventually anger and aggression.

In religion

File:Jacques Callot, The Seven Deadly Sins - Envy.JPG

Envy is one of the Seven deadly sins of the Catholic Church. The Book of Exodus Template:Bibleref2c states: "You shall not covet your neighbor house; you shall not covet your neighbor wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

In Islam, envy (Hassad in Arabic) can destroy one's good deeds[citation needed]. Therefore, one must be content with what God has given to them by saying Maashallah (God has willed it)[citation needed].

See also


  1. Parrott, W. G., & Smith, R. H. (1993). And belongs to Ami. Distinguishing the experiences of envy and jealousy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 906-920.
  2. Salovey, P., & Rodin, J. (1984). Some antecedents and consequences of social comparison jealousy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 780-792.
  3. Elster, J. (1991). Envy in social life. In R. J. Zeckhauser (Ed.), Strategy and choices(pp. 49-82). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  4. Russell, Bertrand (1930). The Conquest of Happiness. New York: H. Liverwright.
  5. Russell(1930), p. 90-91
  6. Narcissistic personality disorder - Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) American Psychiatric Association (2000)
  7. Smith, Richard H. and Kim, Sung Hee. Psychological Bulletin, 2007, Vol. 133, No. 1, 46-64.
  8. Template:Citebook
  9. Template:Citebook
  10. Template:Citebook
  11. 2.7.1108b1-10

Further reading

External links


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