Envy is toxic. There are things I love about the Christian Holy Bible, and that includes its poignant analysis of the folly of mankind, with its precepts on how to overcome.
Have you ever been friends with an envious person? Cut yourself loose from him. Have you been married to an envious person? You have just absorbed a fifth column: you are doomed.
A friend once claimed that jealousy is part of what drives capitalism: you see your neighbor with a brand new car, and your jealousy triggers you to go and “equal” if not outdo your neighbor, by getting a brand new car as well. The money circulation from envy, keeps fueling the economy, he said. Silly.
Anyway, I prefer the Bible’s take, and note that the uber-successful—really, I mean very rich folks—do not envy. In fact, they are contradistinctively, extremely generous. Late Nigerian billionaire, Chief MKO Abiola was legendary for his generosity. The late musician Sonny Okosun, once narrated a story, of an encounter he had with the winner of the annulled June 12, Presidential elections, MKO Abiola, in which he complimented him on a gold watch he was wearing. Chief MKO Abiola simply asked, “do you like it?” And he took it off right there and it was the musician’s from then on.
I could relate with that story: as a child one of MKO Abiola’s sons, was my older brother’s friend and he was regularly at my house. It was when metal studs were popular. And I recall looking at them with fascination as a child, and he simply took them off and gave them to me. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Even MKO Abiola’s once alter ego turned nemesis, General Babangida, is storied for his remarkable generosity. No doubt a reason it is a thorny issue bringing him to prosecution for his atrocities and taking Nigeria to the brink of failure.
The Holy Bible, which many of us Nigerians love so much directs us to be generous in giving, “[…] for God loves a cheerful giver…” 2 Corinthians 9: 7.
However, there is nothing cheerful about the jealous: they are bitter and toxic because of their green-eyed envy. Growing up, I had a sense that Nigerians generally were generous folks, as reflected in our famed hospitality. But I see a new generation. People unrecognizable, and unmistakably and unashamedly envious of the success of their brothers and sisters.
I hope we can purge the envy of Cain from our midst. Nothing good can come from envy. The book of James tells us that people do not receive, because they do not ask. And when they ask they do not receive, because the Provider of all good things sees their profligate and duplicitous motives: they wish to show off their largess and put others down. I have paraphrased the book of James, and won’t give the precise verse, because I would encourage you to read the whole book – a short one – which is about discipline and character.
“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere.…” James 3: 16, 17.