envy, malice, Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Grow With Contentment

Grow With Contentment

© 2006 Wellness Clubs of America.com

A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones. So writes Solomon in Proverbs 14:30. A number of his proverbs address the issue of health, and we would do well to heed his advice.

A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones. Something that is rotting is breaking down; it is decaying. An envious personís level of wellness is in a state of decline, and there is no food, no exercise, and no supplement that will reverse the process.

What is envy? Envy is defined as a painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by someone along with a desire to possess that same advantage. Envy is often accompanied by malice, a desire to see its object suffer. Pain and resentment separate envy from a healthy desire to attain a goal. A desire to see others suffer loss rather than a motivation to improve oneself characterizes envy with malice.

I find that many people confuse envy with goal setting, with a desire to better ones circumstances. There is a vast difference.

I believe in setting goals. I believe in striving to achieve them. To a very great extent this is what gives life meaning. The habit of setting goals is what expands our horizons. It is what leads to new discoveries, and makes life better not just for ourselves, but also for those around us.

Envy is, in a sense, the opposite of goal setting. It is the difference between taking and giving. Envy focuses upon the achievements of others; goal setting places the emphasis upon ones own growth. Envy tries to tear people down; goal setting seeks to lift people up.

It is not the success of another person that causes envy; it is my reaction to that success. When I learn that someone has achieved a new level of success in his or her profession, when I see a neighbor driving a new car or when an associate shows up in a new suit or dress I can choose how to react. If my response is, ďThatís not fair! Youíre no better than I am. If anyone deserves success itís me! I hope you get what you really deserve someday. He who laughs last laughs best,Ē I am exhibiting envy. It is a response that will ruin my health; it will cause my bones to rot.

My response to anotherís success could just as easily be, ďGood for you! Iím so happy for you. If anyone deserves it, you do. I hope you enjoy what youíve achieved as much as Iíve enjoyed watching you get there.Ē Thatís an attitude that will not only lift the spirits of others; it will strengthen your own heart as well.

A sure way to eliminate envy and malice is to become more loving, to invest oneself in the success of others. Just as envy and malice are the epitome of selfishness, love is the pinnacle of selflessness.

I believe that one of the keys to wellness is to develop the ability to grow with contentment, to consistently reach for the stars while remaining firmly rooted in what really matters.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn spent years in the Soviet prison system, the gulag. He was not a stranger to hardship. He saw all that he had worked for taken from him in a moment, yet he was not bitter or envious. When asked about this he spoke eloquently of the importance of love and the folly of envy. This is what he said:

"If you want, I'll spell it out for you right now. Do not pursue what is illusory--i.e. property and position: all that is gained at the expense of your nerves decade after decade, and is confiscated in one fell night. Live with a steady superiority over life--don't be afraid of misfortune, and do not yearn after happiness; it is after all, all the same: the bitter doesn't last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing. It is enough if you don't freeze in the cold and if thirst and hunger don't claw at your insides. If your back isn't broken, if your feet can walk, if both arms can bend, if both eyes can see, and if both ears hear, then whom should you envy? And why? Our envy of others devours us most of all. Rub your eyes and purify your heart--and prize above all else in the world those who love you and who wish you well. Do not hurt them or scold them, and never part from any of them in anger; after all, you simply do not know: it might be your last act before your arrest, and that will be how you are imprinted in their memory!"

Whom should you envy? No one. You have been given the most precious gift in the world, the gift of life. You have been given the ability to live that life to the fullest extent. You have been given the opportunity to strive for excellence in yourself, but you have also been given a chance to celebrate the achievements of others.

May you grow with contentment. May you not envy, but rather find joy and happiness in the achievements of those around you. Above all, may you strive for excellence and set exciting goals while never losing sight of the things in life that really matter. It is a wonderfully healthy way to life.

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