The difference between envy and jealousy

Envy is a natural feeling of wanting what somebody else has. Jealousy, however, is qualitatively different.

Whereas envy simply says, “I want what you have,” jealousy says, “I can’t stand that you have something I don’t,” usually followed up with “thus you should not have it!”

You can be envious of somebody without being angry at them. Envy is an open feeling, one that does not predetermine that you will or will not act a certain way. Even when you envy somebody that has something you don’t, that does not stop you from coming up to them and picking their brain about how they got there – and maybe making common cause with them! You can use your envy to motivate yourself.

Jealousy does not allow that. Jealousy is a closed emotion built on resentment. The object of your jealousy is at fault somehow (even when you know that’s not true, jealous emotions make a person act like this) and they must be put in line somehow.

It’s like the difference between sadness and depression. Sadness is a normal, natural emotion that comes and goes and can be very healing to experience, whereas depression is a longstanding feeling that does not simply go away; it is a destructive state of mind.

We’ll all get these feelings of desiring somebody else’s situation many times in our lives, and we’ve all heard the stories about how people become driven to do the craziest things out of jealousy. But where jealousy is a purely negative emotion, envy can not only be a motivator for positive progress, but can sometimes, also feel good in and of itself – if you can experience it in a space that does not put you or anyone else down.

Sometimes, jealousy is felt without envy being the principal emotion behind it. If one gets jealous out of a desire toprotect something they don’t want to lose, then there are other emotions at work here, fear of abandonment often foremost among them. But jealousy itself, when it sticks around, becomes a cover for other emotions that we really have. It’s important to take this cover off if we are going to live life to the fullest, without regrets.

Often, in order to do that, we’ve got to know more about why we get jealous, and why it has such a hold on us.

This entry was posted in Beliefs and worldview, Healthy vulnerability and weakness, Love and compassion, Short posts and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The difference between envy and jealousy

  1. omalone1 says:

    I’ve read that jealousy can be viewed as mental instabikty as healthy people do not entertain it and yet, I am sceptical about the envy part. read hakim hey, “the envious eye.”

  2. I am *very* envious of the rather attractive boyfriend my husband has. Not jealous in the slightest. Sad that he’s so very gay, however! 😉

    • That indeed would be envy and not jealousy. 🙂 Sounds like a very interesting polyamorous situation you’ve got there. Yes, poly folks do tend to have to examine these things a great deal, eh?

  3. I disagree with you.
    Jealousy is fear of losing what you have, usually a person, to someone else. Envy is wanting what someone else has. Both can be good, and both can be awful.
    Jealousy can be good in small doses, it shows you care about that person or relationship enough that you don’t want to lose them. They are not indifferent to you. Also you may be right in feeling jealous if you see your partner flirting with someone else.
    Envy can be good if you simply admire what someone else has, and strive to have the same things, it can be a motivation.
    However both can get really ugly. Jealousy in extreme can become abusive, violent, agressive. You’re so dependent on that someone that you do all these terrible things to keep them with you, almost like your prisioner. Envy can be atrocious when you covet something someone else has so badly, that you are willing to steal that away from them. You feel hatred and resentment towards that person so much that you are happy when they fail in live. And if you can’t take away what that person has that you want so badly, you will destroy that possession, because if you dont deserve it, then they dont deserve it either.

  4. My bf tells me and his friends that I am jealous but I am not. He tells any female that comes around that I think they are having sex which is also not true. I don’t make any comments to him that I think they are having sex, if I thought he was doing that I would definitely tell him I think you are sleeping with her. Why would he do this to me? I have had some trust issues with him because I have caught him in many lies. I don’t understand and I just moved 1000 miles away from him. Any thoughts?


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