For other uses, see Envy (disambiguation).
Portrait of a Woman Suffering from Obsessive Envy; Théodore Géricault

Envy (from Latin invidia) is an emotion which "occurs when a person lacks another's superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it".[1]

Bertrand Russell said that envy was one of the most potent causes of unhappiness.[2] Not only is the envious person rendered unhappy by his or her envy, but that person 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.[3] However, psychologists have recently suggested that there may be two types of envy: malicious envy and benign envy—malicious envy being proposed as a sick force that ruins a person and his/her mind and causes the envious person to blindly want the "hero" to suffer; on the other hand, benign envy being proposed as a type of positive motivational force that causes the person to aspire to be as good as the "hero"-but only if benign envy is used in a right way.[4][5]

Socioevolutionary view

Invidia, allegorical painting by Giotto di Bondone, ca. 1305-1306

One theory that helps to explain envy and its effects on human behavior is the Socioevolutionary theory. Based upon (Charles) Darwin's (1859) theory of evolution through natural selection, socioevolutionary theory predicts that humans behave in ways that enhance individual survival and also the reproduction of their genes. Thus, this theory provides a framework for understanding social behavior and experiences, such as the experience and expression of envy, as rooted in biological drives for survival and procreation.[6] Recent studies have demonstrated that inciting envy actually changes cognitive function, boosting mental persistence and memory.[7]


Main article: Schadenfreude

Schadenfreude means taking pleasure in the misfortune of others and can be understood as an outgrowth of envy in certain situations.

Regarding possessions or status

Often, envy involves a motive to "outdo or undo the rival's advantages".[8] In part, this type of envy may be based on materialistic possessions rather than psychological states. Basically, people find themselves experiencing an overwhelming emotion due to someone else owning or possessing desirable items that they do not. For example, your next door neighbor just bought a brand new ocarina—a musical instrument you've been infatuated with for months now but can't afford. Feelings of envy in this situation would occur in the forms of emotional pain, a lack of self-worth, and a lowered self-esteem/well-being.

In Nelson W. Aldrich Jr.'s Old Money, he states that "envy is so integral and painful a part of what animates human behavior in market societies that many people have forgotten the full meaning of the word, simplifying it into one of the symptoms of desire. It is that (a symptom of desire), which is why it flourishes in market societies: democracies of desire, they might be called, with money for ballots, stuffing permitted. But envy is more or less than desire. It begins with the almost frantic sense of emptiness inside oneself, as if the pump of one's heart were sucking on air. One has to be blind to perceive the emptiness, of course, but that's what envy is, a selective blindness. Invidia, Latin for envy, translates as "nonsight," and Dante had the envious plodding along under cloaks of lead, their eyes sewn shut with leaden wire. What they are blind to is what they have, God-given and humanly nurtured, in themselves".[9]


Envy may negatively affect the closeness and satisfaction of relationships. Overcoming envy might be similar to dealing with other negative emotions (anger, resentment, etc.). Individuals experiencing anger often seek professional treatment (anger management) to help understand why they feel the way they do and how to cope. Subjects experiencing envy often have a skewed perception on how to achieve true happiness. By helping people to change these perceptions, they will be more able to understand the real meaning of fortune and satisfaction with what they do have. According to Lazarus, "coping is an integral feature of the emotion process".[10] There are very few theories that emphasize the coping process for emotions as compared to the information available concerning the emotion itself.

There are numerous styles of coping, of which there has been a significant amount of research done, for example, avoidant versus approach. Coping with envy can be similar to coping with anger. The issue must be addressed cognitively in order to work through the emotion. According to the research done by Salovey and Rodin (1988), "more effective strategies for reducing initial envy appear to be stimulus focused rather than self-focused.".[11] Salovey and Rodin (1988) also suggest "self-bolstering (e.g., "thinking about my good qualities") may be an effective strategy for moderating these self-deprecating thoughts and muting negative affective reactions".[11] Further research needs to be done in order to better understand envy, as well as to help people cope with this emotion.


Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder are often envious of others or believe others are envious of them.[12]

A narcissist may secure a sense of superiority in the face of another person's ability by using contempt to minimize the other person.[13]

In philosophy

Aristotle (in Rhetoric) defined envy (φθόνος phthonos) "as the pain caused by the good fortune of others",[14][15] 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).

Religious views

In Hinduism

"One who does not envy but is a compassionate friend to all ... such a devotee is very dear to Me." - Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12, Verse 15.

In Hinduism, envy is considered a disastrous emotion. Hinduism maintains that anything which causes the mind to lose balance with itself leads to misery. This concept is put forth in the epic Mahabharata, wherein Duryodhana launches the Kurukshetra war out of envy of the perceived prosperity of his cousins. He is known to have remarked:

"Father! The prosperity of the Pandavas (cousins) is burning me deeply! I cannot eat, sleep or live in the knowledge that they are better off than me!"

Thus, Hinduism teaches that envy can be overcome simply by recognizing that the man or woman who is the object of one's envy is merely enjoying the fruits of their past karmic actions and that one should not allow such devious emotions to take control of their mind, lest they suffer the same fate as the antagonists of the Mahabharata.

In Christianity

The Seven Deadly Sins - Envy, by Jacques Callot. The snake and the dog are both symbols for envy.
Cain killing Abel, painting by Bartolomeo Manfredi, c. 1600
Envy Arch in the nave with a gothic fresco from 1511 of a man with a dog-head, which symbolizes envy (Dalbyneder Church, Denmark)

Envy is one of the Seven deadly sins of the Catholic Church. In the Book of Genesis envy is said to be the motivation behind Cain murdering his brother, Abel, as Cain envied Abel because God favored Abel's sacrifice over Cain's.

A ruining flesh sin Envy is a sin of flesh.[16] Envy is among the things that comes from the heart, defiling a person.[17] The whole body is full of darkness when the eye, the lamp of body, is bad.[18] He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished, said Solomon.[19] Envy ruins the body's health, making bones rot[20] and prohibiting the inheritance of the kingdom of God.[21] Sometimes, as a punishment, people are left in their sins, falling prey to envy and other heavy sins.[22]

Universal and profound sin Envy is credited as the basis of all toil and skills of people.[23] For example, mankind will choose occupations to gain wealth, fame and pleasures to equal or exceed their neighbours. Envy is, therefore, a sin deeply ingrained in human nature.[23] It comes into being when man lacks certain things, a circumstance that exists when God is not approached for provision or when the provision is used for one's own selfish passions and pleasures.[24]

Genesis and causes Envy may be caused by wealth[25] (Isaac, envied the Philistines),[26] by the brightness of wealth, power and beauty (Assyria kingdom envied of other kingdoms),[27] by political and military rising (Saul eyed David from the moment he heard the women song of joy),[28] fertility (Leah, envied of Rachel),[29] social ascent (Joseph whom his brothers were jealous of),[30][31] countless miracles and healings (the apostles envied of high priest and the Sadducees),[32] popularity (Paul and Barnabas, envied of unfaithful Jewish from Antioch),[33] the success of Christianization of many Thessalonians (Paul and Silas, envied of unfaithful Jews from Thessalonica),[34] virtues and true power to heal, to make miracles and to teach people (Jesus envied of the chief priests).[35][36]

God will reward each according to his deeds Christians must not fall into the trap of envying of the wicked[37][38][38][39][40] of the men of violence[41] of those who seem to have a happy, prosperous, untroubled life, but always be aware that God will reward each according to his deeds. The true Christian will be sure, as the psalmist the moment he enters the temple of God, that those bloated, with "pride as necklace" and "violence as garment" (clothing), which are stumbling block to the faith of ordinary people,[42] will fade like greens,[43] will be cut down quickly like the grass ", being thrown away and ruined the right time.[42]

Happy for anyone saved Also, the Christians must not look with evil eye at the last converts to avoid therefore becoming the last ones, missing the kingdom of God.[44] They should be happy for anyone saved, like Christ, who came to save the lost, as the shepherd seeking the lost sheep.[45][46] Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, was among the lost ones and he succeeded in bringing salvation to him and to his house.[47]

No good eating the envier's bread It is no good eating the envier's bread, nor desiring his delicacies, because he is like one who is inwardly calculating", his heart is not with you" and so, you will vomit up the morsels that you have eaten, and waste your pleasant words".[48]

Envy and wisdom Sometimes arisen out of sophistry,[49] envy cannot coexist with true and spiritual wisdom, but with false, earthly, unspiritual, demonic wisdom.[50]

Struggle against envy Throwing away envy is a crucial condition in our path to salvation.[51][52][53] Envy was seen by the Apostle Paul as a real danger even within the first Christian communities.[54][55] Envy should remain a sin of the past, defeated by God teaching,[56][57] which, as in the tenth commandment, forbids us from coveting our neighbour's things, woman, and servants,[58][59] and urges us to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, as Apostle Paul said,[60] and to love our neighbours as ourselves.[61] Because brotherly, Christian love banishes definitively envy from our hearts.[62]

In Islam

In Islam, envy (Hassad حسد in Arabic) is an impurity of the heart and can destroy one's good deeds. One must be content with what God has willed and believe in the justice of the creator. A Muslim should not allow his envy to inflict harm upon the envied person.

Muhammad said, "Do not envy each other, do not hate each other, do not oppose each other, and do not cut relations, rather be servants of Allah as brothers. It is not permissible for a Muslim to disassociate from his brother for more than three days such that they meet and one ignores the other, and the best of them is the one who initiates the salaam." Sahih al-Bukhari [Eng. Trans. 8/58 no. 91], Sahih Muslim [Eng. Trans. 4/1360 no. 6205, 6210]

A Muslim may wish for himself a blessing like that which someone else has, without wanting it to be taken away from the other person. This is permissible and is not called hasad. Rather, it is called ghibtah.

"There is to be no envy except in two cases: (towards) a person to whom Allah has granted wisdom, and who rules by this and teaches it to the people, and (towards) a person to whom Allah has granted wealth and property along with the power to spend it in the cause of the Truth." [Al-Bukhaari & Muslim]

In Buddhism

See also: Irshya

In Buddhism, the term irshya is commonly translated as either envy or jealousy. Irshya is defined as a state of mind in which one is highly agitated to obtain wealth and honor for oneself, but unable to bear the excellence of others.

The term mudita (sympathetic joy) is defined as taking joy in the good fortune of others. This virtue is considered the antidote to envy and the opposite of schadenfreude.

Cultural references

In English-speaking cultures, envy is often associated with the color green, as in "green with envy", and yellow.[63] Yellow is the color of ambivalence and contradiction; a color associated with optimism and amusement; but also with betrayal, duplicity, and jealousy.[63] The phrase "green-eyed monster" refers to an individual whose current actions appear motivated by jealousy not 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!"

The character Envy from Fullmetal Alchemist series is one of the seven homunculi named after the seven deadly sins.

The character of Zelena on ABC's Once Upon a Time, takes on the title "The Wicked Witch of the West" after envy itself dyes her skin in the episode "It's Not Easy Being Green".

In Nelson W. Aldrich Jr.'s Old Money, he states that people who suffer from a case of malicious envy are blind to what good things they already have, thinking they have nothing, causing them feel emptiness and despair.[9]

See also


  1. Parrott, W. G., & Smith, R. H. (1993). "Distinguishing the experiences of envy and jealousy." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 906–920.
  2. Russell, Bertrand (1930). The Conquest of Happiness. New York: H. Liverwright.
  3. Russell (1930), pp. 90–91
  4. van de Ven N; et al. "Leveling up and down: the experiences of benign and malicious envy.". Retrieved 2016-03-23.
  5. "Why Envy Motivates Us".
  6. Yoshimura, C.G (2010). "The experience and communication of envy among siblings, siblings-in-law, and spouses". Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.(subscription required)
  7. Fields, R (2011). "Eat Your Guts Out: Why Envy Hurts and Why It's Good for Your Brain".
  8. D'Arms, J. (2009). Envy. Unpublished manuscript, Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy, Stanford, Retrieved from Plato.stanford.edu/entries/envy/
  9. 1 2 Hacker, Diana. A Canadian Writer's Reference, 2nd Ed. Nelson Canada, 1996. p. 23.
  10. Lazarus, R. S. (2006). "Emotions and Interpersonal Relationships: Toward a Person-Centered Conceptualization of Emotions and Coping." Journal of Personality, 74(1), 9–46. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2005.00368.x
  11. 1 2 Salovey, P., & Rodin, J. (1988). "Coping with envy and jealousy." Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 7, 15–33.
  12. Narcissistic personality disorder - Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) American Psychiatric Association (2000)
  13. Hotchkiss, Sandy & Masterson, James F. Why Is It Always About You? : The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism (2003)
  14. Pedrick, Victoria; Oberhelman, Steven M. (2006). The Soul of Tragedy: Essays on Athenian Drama. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-226-65306-8.
  15. 2.7.1108b1-10
  16. "1Corinthians 3.3 ESV;NIVUK;ASV;AMP;NKJV - for you are still of the flesh. For - Bible Gateway".
  17. "Mark 7.14-23 ESV - What Defiles a Person - And he called - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2016-03-23.
  18. "Luke 11.34-36 ESV - Your eye is the lamp of your body. When - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2016-03-23.
  19. "Proverbs 17.5 ESV - Whoever mocks the poor insults his - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2016-03-23.
  20. "Proverbs14.30 ESV - A tranquil heart gives life to the - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2016-03-23.
  21. "Galatians 5.19-21 ESV, - Now the works of the flesh are evident: - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2016-03-23.
  22. Romans 1:28-29-32, Bible, English standard Version, 1971, Biblegateway
  23. 1 2 "Ecclesiastes 4.4 ESV - Then I saw that all toil and all skill - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  24. James 4.1-2-3
  25. "Psalm73.3 ESV - For I was envious of the arrogant when - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  26. "Genesis 26.12-16 ESV - And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  27. "Ezekiel31.1-9 ESV - Pharaoh to Be Slain - In the eleventh - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  28. "1Samuel18.5-9 ESV - And David went out and was successful - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  29. "Genesis 30.1-2 ESV - When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  30. "Genesis 37.1-11 ESV - Joseph's Dreams - Jacob lived in the - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  31. "Acts 7.9 ESV, - "And the patriarchs, jealous of - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  32. "Acts 5.12-20 ESV - Many Signs and Wonders Done - Now many - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  33. "Acts13.44-47 ESV - The next Sabbath almost the whole city - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  34. "Acts 17.1-5 ESV - Paul and Silas in Thessalonica - Now - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  35. "Mark15.6-15 ESV - Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  36. "Matthew 27.15-26 ESV - The Crowd Chooses Barabbas - Now at the - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  37. "Proverbs23.17 ESV - Let not your heart envy sinners, but - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  38. 1 2 "Proverbs 24.19 ESV - Fret not yourself because of evildoers, - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  39. "Proverbs24.1-2 ESV - Be not envious of evil men, nor desire - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  40. "Psalm 37.1-2 ESV - He Will Not Forsake His Saints - Of - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  41. "Proverbs3.31 ESV - Do not envy a man of violence and do - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  42. 1 2 "Psalm 73". Bible Gateway.
  43. "Psalm 37". Bible Gateway.
  44. "Matthew20.1-16 ESV - Laborers in the Vineyard - "For the - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  45. "Matthew18.10-14 ESV - The Parable of the Lost Sheep - "See - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  46. "Luke9.51-56 ESV - A Samaritan Village Rejects Jesus - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  47. "Luke 19.1-10 ESV - Jesus and Zacchaeus - He entered - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  48. "Proverbs 23.6 ESV - Do not eat the bread of a man who is - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  49. "1 Timothy 6.4-5 ESV - he is puffed up with conceit and - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  50. "James 3.13-16 ESV - Wisdom from Above - Who is wise and - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  51. "1 Peter 2.1-2 ESV - A Living Stone and a Holy People - So - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  52. "Job 31". Bible Gateway.
  53. "Obadiah1.12 ESV - But do not gloat over the day of your - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  54. "2 Corinthians 12.20 ESV - For I fear that perhaps when I come I - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  55. "Galatians5.25-26 ESV - If we live by the Spirit, let us also - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  56. "Titus 3.1-7 ESV - Be Ready for Every Good Work - Remind - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  57. "Romans 13.12-14 ESV - The night is far gone; the day is at - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  58. "Exodus 20.17 ESV - "You shall not covet your neighbor's - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  59. "Deuteronomy5.21 ESV - "'And you shall not covet your - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  60. "Romans12.15 ESV - Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  61. "Matthew22.34-40 ESV - The Great Commandment - But when the - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  62. "1Corinthians13.1-10 ESV - The Way of Love - If I speak in the - Bible Gateway". Bible Gateway.
  63. 1 2 Eva Heller (2000), Psychologie de la couleur- effets et symboliques, p. 33.

Further reading


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