Conversation: Envy and Greed in Artists’ Relationships

Left: Chris Burden, Shoot. Right: Marina Abromavic and Ulay Laysiepen, Relation in Time.

Left: Chris Burden, Shoot. Right: Marina Abromavic and Ulay Laysiepen, Relation in Time.

by Glendalys Medina 

Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own. – Harold Coffin

Or maybe envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of our shared blessings. ‘I’ against ‘We’ can be tricky except when we replace ‘against’ with “and” and think of ourselves as a community, a force that when joined together creates a giant ripple and when apart sinks dead to the ground.  But it can be hard to remember to put on our glasses of abundance and focus on  counting our blessings when our colleague has just received our dream __________________ (fill in the blank) . If you are creative, there is a 90% chance that most of your friends are artists and that you will often find yourself in the incredible position of competing with your closest friends for opportunities. No wonder we sometimes succumb to bouts of envy and greed! You finally find a little bit of success and you’re scared to share it with anyone, fearing that they might steal your chance, your money or your happiness. Or, ugh! You can’t believe so-and-so got that publicity, show, representation or award when you are more deserving. We’ve all been there–don’t worry. Feel the thought and then let it go quickly because “What is intended for you no one can take away”  and “What you keep to yourself you lose, what you give away, you keep forever.” Be aware that it’s our perspective that drives us and forms our reality.

Suzzies BNTM - Dream job (Name: Cleo)

Courtesy of Sarah

So what do you do? How do you cope? How do you share when you feel like you don’t have enough? How do you keep your eye on the bigger picture and give love to your friend?

Of course you want the best for them, and you want the best for yourself. First, there is nothing to cope with because you have lost nothing. Second, this is the perfect moment to realize how much you have to give and how much you have to potentially gain. To share what it was like to be interviewed by that organization, to share what angle you used to make yourself look like an outstanding candidate or the potential of a new door opening, a new contact, or an important tip that will get you closer to your goal.  Doesn’t that seem like a blessing to give and to receive?  A friend, family member, or passerby with a smile on their face in your presence is a gift; so smile back. Achievements bring about more achievements just like smiles are contagious. The more people around you who grow and give back, the more you can grow and give back–this is what builds a community, this is what causes progression and abundance for all. So don’t miss your chance and be quick to smile, be happy, then give and watch how your achievements and appreciation grow.

Greed Kills ....

Courtesy of Ian Reid

So we have the bigger picture in mind, now what? Envy and Greed will always be around. How can we turn them around and use them?

Envy, the resentment, which “occurs when a person lacks another’s superior quality, achievement or possession and either desires it or wishes the other lacked it,” can also inspire us to compete and improve our work and personal lot. Now that the bar has been raised, the goal is less of an illusion and has been set in reality. Now  you know it’s possible to achieve and you can use what your friend has learned to fine tune and drive you to achieve that or something else of equal or higher value.

Greed like Envy can be a joy killer. Greed is “the inordinate desire to possess wealth, goods, or objects of abstract value with the intention to keep it for one’s self, far beyond the dictates of basic survival and comfort.” A true friend understands,  loves, encourages and shares what they have gained so that you can better enhance yourself and clearly reach for your dreams. This is very important. When you give your time, your constructive thoughts and when you make connections by introducing new people, you create potential for growth. You must water the seed of community for it to bear fruit. So make a list of things you can give today. It can be as simple as a thank you note, a compliment, or your attention.

Lovely new thank you card

We can also turn our feelings of envy and greed into joy for others and ourselves, happiness even when we ourselves are steeped in tragedy or in wealth.  In the Buddhist tradition this feeling is called mudita, a joy that come from pure love without any interest or reward. This  joy is available to all of us at all times regardless of our circumstance. Perhaps the more joy we cultivate in others’ success and our own, the easier it becomes to find joy regardless of our external achievements…. Or is vice versa?

Interestingly, the latin term for envy is invidia which translates as “nonsight.” “What they are blind to is what they have, God-given and humanly nurtured, in themselves,” writes author Nelson W. Aldrich. Kant similarly describes envy as 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.” Greed as well as envy are two of the seven deadly sins. The Sufi poet Rumi advises us to “Throw greed, jealousy, hatred out of your heart. Evil thoughts and temper – let them go. Deny this and you lose, so cut your losses. Own this and your profits quickly grow. So how do we open our eyes to our intrinsic worth and happiness in the moments we’re burning with greed and green with envy? By seeing ourselves as a community that is as strong as it tenderest link and opening ourselves up to the brighter possibilities.

How do you maintain friendships despite your daily competition with friends?

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