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February 18, 2019

Going green does not include envy

Just as I was wondering who was going to call us out on the subject of envy, that if not checked, will destroy all of us, starting with the female of the species - along comes Joan Barsulai (Daily Nation) in the knick of time. As it were, since all our focus was on the stunning lady cop that is Linda Okello. Mine eyes, scanned her article and since she had set the ball rolling, it’s only right that I pick it up and keep it going.

In her article, Barsulai, alerts us to the fact that the green-eyed monster perches on many a woman’s shoulder, scrutinising anyone deemed as competition, and hissing out a list of flaws. This is a memo to women and especially those who took one look at Linda Okello's fabulous behind in uniform and made it their life's mission to destroy her. That green-eyed monster Joan Barsulai referred to is called envy and shouldn't be confused with jealously. You see, envy is a sin and a dreadful one at that.

The Webster definition of the word is pedestrian: "(1) malice; (2) painful or resentful awareness of the advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage."

The Oxford English Dictionary does it best: It defines envy first as "malignant or hostile feeling; ill-will, malice, enmity," and then as "active evil, harm, mischief," Take note - active evil, harm. This goes out to those who waste precious hours trolling, Muli, me, Julie, Vera, Madowo and everyone else whom you shouldn't be wasting time on - Envy betrays you and worse still, it exposes what you hate about yourself.

Tell us what you envy, and you reveal a great deal about yourself. I can see you shifting uneasily in your seat. Good. Read on. There is a crucial distinction between envy and jealousy, the nasty thing about envy is that it points back at us. Jealousy is properly restricted to contexts involving affairs of the heart, envy is resentful contemplation of a more fortunate person. Envy asks one leading question: What about me? Why does she have beauty, a slim waist, nice bum, flawless skin, talent, sex appeal, rich husband, wealth, power, job, talent, or at any rate a larger share of them than I? Why not me?

Envy has been part of human experience since Cain killed Able in the garden. Envy is a painful experience. Those who feel it, incubate it, nourish it and live it endure a lot of pain. Their minds can't stop asking "why her, why her, why her?" The worst thing about this sort of personal pain is that it consumes you and because hurting people hurt people, it becomes a crazy cycle of envy, hurt and pain that can literally make one mad.

However as a woman who in my younger greener (pun intended) days was given to envy, I think it's also imperative that I highlight the worst thing about Envy. It halts our own progression. When that "kiwaru" settles in, it actively destroys experiences that should be enjoyable. Being surrounded by beauty, lovely things, or admirable people is better than hanging out with the dregs of society, unless the potato in your throat has been joined by another three or so, then the ugliest will do.

When the monster of envy takes root in our souls, we prefer to spend time with people we feel superior to, rather than those we could emulate and learn from.

Envy makes you miserable. The only reason you want to join a band wagon of bottom feeders to write cruel or nasty things about a person you have never met and has never done anything to you, is because you are miserable and misery loves company.

Envy makes our lives look grey and dull and ugly. All of a sudden, what we used to count as our blessings are taken for granted or disregarded. Instead of focusing on what we have, we are only aware of what someone else has. The life we should be grateful for becomes a burden. Envy blinds us to the truth.

Dorothy Sayers, tells us "Envy is the great leveller: if it cannot level things up, it will level them down. A self-poisoning of the mind, envy is usually less about what one lacks than about what other people have. Envy is madly "intent on the destruction of the happiness of others." Enter the saga of Linda's shapely behind, Vera Sideka's newly "brighter?" glow, Lillian Muli's skills, Gladys Shollei's witch hounding out of office etc. The great leveller – if you can’t make yourself better you will make the source of your envy appear smaller.

Envy, to qualify as envy, has to have a strong touch-of malice behind it. Malice that cannot speak its name, cold-blooded but secret hostility, impotent desire to have what the other seems to have. The weave, the shoes, the body, the fame, the Oscar award (oh come on you saw those little trolls when Lupita won) the job, the money.... all the things the other has, that you so wish to have.

But before we turn our collective gun-power to the trolls and those who let envy get the better of them - it's important we also take into account that these people are suffering and are in great pain. Yes - pity the envious troll. They live in tremendous pain. In his collection of essays on the Seven Deadly Sins, Joseph Epstein singles out envy as the most painful of those sins to experience. Those who have allowed the green monster to take up residence in their hearts deal with two things. The envious woman (usually, sadly, it's a woman) can’t change the way she or the other person looks. Secondly, because the envious one cannot acknowledge publicly how they feel, they have no way of sharing their pain or putting into words the depth of their deprivation - until they can do so “chini ya maji” on social media and even then, it's still an act of cowardice. For the truth is that envy, the green-eyed monster, wants to destroy what it cannot have. The “solution” to envy — the way to find relief from the suffering it causes if you can’t have what you envy for yourself — is to make the envied object less worthy of that emotion, by spoiling or destroying it. Aaaaah you say. Aha! I say right back - now you know.

So what is the answer? Instead of wishing for others' failure, we should practice what Buddhists call "mudita", or rejoicing in the good fortune of others. The way I put it is this. You cannot attract to yourself what you resent in another. If you desire success and prosperity and you pray for it every Sunday, then for heaven's sake celebrate it. You can't see it manifested and resent it - the message you send to the heaven's is "I hate success and prosperity". Go figure.

Some advice from Barsulai’s article in The Daily Nation-To counter envy, try and achieve some of these things you so admire but will not dare to admit even to yourself. Do you want that expensive weave she has on? Buy yourself one. It is not a skinny woman’s fault that you are overweight.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón,is honest and ice-cold clear “Envy is the religion of the mediocre. It comforts them, it soothes their worries, and finally it rots their souls. Such people are convinced that the doors of heaven will be opened only to poor wretches like themselves who go through life without leaving any trace but their threadbare attempts to belittle others and to exclude - and destroy if possible - those who, by the simple fact of their existence, show up their own poorness of spirit, mind, and guts. Blessed be the one at whom the fools bark, because his soul will never belong to them.”

I decree and declare the green monster vanquished -ashindwe! It is not Linda Okello's fault that she has a nice butt - work on yours.

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