Envy is one of the Roman Catholic Seven Deadly Sins. As a tarot reader, I have an interesting perspective on envy. On one hand, I see a lot of it at my table. On the other hand, because I get a sense of what life is really like for people whom I might have otherwise perceived as more fortunate than me, being a tarot reader precludes my envying others.
I grew up with a clear understanding of those Seven Deadly Sins. Although we were not Catholic, my mother had a romantic fascination with medieval Christianity. Apparently, the Seven Deadly Sins are categorized as such because they are the sins that lead to other sins.
Often I read for people who envy the wealth of others, especially here in Palm Beach County where many live in the shadow of the opulent Palm Beach lifestyle. They wonder why they can’t live in mansions, own yachts and have a staff of servants.
Many times people envy their friends’ relationships, or good looks, as well as the wealth of their neighbors. I often think that if people took all the time and energy they spend wishing they had somebody else’s home, husband or hair and spent it at something productive, they would find themselves in a more enviable position.
On a political level, it makes sense to question the distribution of wealth, especially when it comes to access to clean water, decent food and affordable health care. But that’s not what envy is. Envy, as it shows up at my tarot table, is the belief that other people have something more or something better than you do. Envy is a frustrated six-year-old inner child stamping her feet and yelling “That’s not fair!”
The problems with envy are myriad. First, envy is based on what is often a faulty supposition. It is impossible to know for sure that the person in the mansion is happier than the person in the economy apartment, or that the person in the Bentley is somehow enjoying life more than the person in the Honda. The strikingly attractive woman may suffer from debilitating anxiety. The charming, wealthy husband may be a cheater.
In my career I have read for people from all walks of life, many cultures and all economic strata. That’s why I have learned to envy no one, and to simply be grateful for the blessings in my own life.
Another problem with envy is that it seems to go hand-in-hand with low self-esteem. In short, to envy someone else’s life is to say that your own life isn’t valuable.
Envy is disempowering. When we spend time and energy envying others, we deny our own ability to set goals and work toward them to improve our own lives.
There is a great line from Desiderata, my eternal go-to for wisdom. “If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain or bitter”. Maybe that is a way to look at envy. Perhaps envy is what happens when we compare ourselves to others and find our own life wanting. If that comparison inspires us to be better and do more, that’s a good thing. If it makes us bitter, we sink into the disempowerment of envy.