Envy or Admiration?

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According to vocabulary.com, “Wanting what someone else has and resenting them for having it is envy.”

On the other hand, it says: “Admiration is the feeling of liking and appreciating… Often, there is a sense of gratitude or thanks when someone feels admiration.”

In other words, envy is self-centered and selfish, while admiration is other-centered and generous.

Buddha said: “Desire is the root of suffering.” Joseph Epstein agrees: “Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.” A no-brainer, right?

But wait, according to some psychological studies, envy outperforms admiration. Apparently, benign envy “motivates people to improve themselves,” though only when self-improvement is attainable. When self-improvement is hard, “upward social comparison led to more admiration and no motivation to do better.”

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I guess one can differentiate benign envy from the malicious kind. And we can reserve our admiration for those who can truly inspire us.

Admiration without envy can be quite liberating.

“To be rich in admiration and free from envy, to rejoice greatly in the good of others, to love with such generosity of heart that your love is still a dear possession in absence or unkindness — these are the gifts of fortune which money cannot buy.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson

It’s hard to beat admiration.

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