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.