A Better Joy Than Envy

TAGS: envy, building relationships, A Better Joy Than Envy, Mark Dugdale, iron game, bodybuilding

elitefts™ Sunday Edition

An odd statement, I know. How does joy even fit relationally with envy? Why would any joy exist in envy? All good questions. Envying others isn’t a particularly deep well of joyfulness. However, what if you're the one being envied?

I’m guessing for those honest enough to admit it, there’s quite a bit of joyful satisfaction in being the envy of others. Let’s face it—countless teenage boys at some point envied the dude with bigger biceps or the guy who slept with more girls, pounded more beer, and drove the faster car. Much of this carries over with men decades older in more “distinguished” guises—fame, wealth, power, influence, and success.

Looking at the historical record of man, one of great renown comes to mind. I’m talking about a man who accomplished more than you or I will ever come close to accomplishing. He experienced more wealth, success, and power; accumulated more stuff; was more entertained; experienced more comfort; and oh yes, had way more sex than you or I. Even Hugh Heffner looks pathetic in comparison. In fact, his list of accomplishments is so vast by worldly standards that pretty much anything any other man achieves in human history will simply be a repeat of what he already did on a grossly elementary school level. So what if I said we could sit down with this man who lived such an epic and envied life and learn from his experiences? Personally, I would jump at the opportunity…so I did.

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I’ve been meditating a lot recently on King Solomon…particularly his words recorded in the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon threw parties for upwards of twenty-five thousand people that lasted seven days and drained entire vineyards of wine. He amassed more wealth and possessions than any man to ever live. He married 700 wives and had 300 concubines. He planted forests, built entire cities, and basically had more wealth, sex, fame, and power than anyone ever. Believe me, if Solomon gained access to an elitefts™ monolift, I assure you that he would break the world squat record because he tried his hand and succeeded at pretty much everything else on this earth.Here's the particular verse that I want to focus on for this article:

In Ecclesiastes 4:4, Solomon says, “Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.”

The first sentence is Solomon’s lifelong observation of how man in general operates, which I contend holds equally true today. Solomon says that the motivation behind your toil and the implementation of all your talents is to one single end—gain the envy of others. Think about that for a second. Be it your arm measurement, car, lifting total, house, zip code in which you reside, clothes, tattoo, food choice, training location, lifting belt, energy drink, or anything else, they are chosen to create the envy of others. We want to be known, seen, and recognized. Do you think Solomon is wrong?

Take five minutes to scroll through Facebook and check out people’s status updates. From selfies to look at my new car to the bathroom ab shot, it’s all about generating the envy of others. Listen, I’m not trying to put you down. There are some ab shots on my Instagram account. My point is that everybody puts out his shit for everyone to see. To some extent, Facebook is make-believe land.

Seriously, when is the last time you saw this status update from a guy: “I’ve been a self-absorbed jerk to my wife for a really long time. As such, she no longer enjoys intimacy with me and I’ve resorted to watching porn after she goes to bed at night. My marriage is pretty much in shambles because she no longer respects me. The primary person responsible for the mess is…well, me. She will likely leave if I don’t change my ways and rightfully so. Just wanted to keep you, my friends, ‘updated’.” Nope, this isn’t going to happen. We want envy, not scorn.

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Marketing firms know this and that’s why their advertisements are so effective. Buy this, accomplish this, look like this and you will find happiness…the happiness that comes from being the envy of others. Solomon basked in the light of other men’s envy. That’s why the second sentence in Ecclesiastes bursts with so much wisdom.

Solomon goes on to say that all this straining and effort is vanity, the chasing after wind…a wasted life. He would know. He says that gaining the envy of others isn’t a place of lasting joy. He would know. Coincidentally, a recent article I read confirmed this.

In a Business Insider article, business professionals were analyzed to determine who were the happiest and why. The analysis pointed to one particular factor separating the happy from the unhappy. The conclusion revealed that the least happy people’s primary pursuit was financial success. And the happy people? They were the ones who spent more effort on increasing their relational capacity. Practically speaking, those who sought to grow relationships made these kinds of decisions…

Rather than buying a ski boat to sit most of the year in their garage, the happy people rented one when they wanted to spend a day on the lake and used the extra money to take a group of friends on a few weekend getaways. For the record, modern-day analysts and Business Insider just agreed with King Solomon.

I hit cloud nine when I won the USA Bodybuilding Championship in 2004…maybe because for a brief period of time I was the envy of countless bodybuilders? Regardless, I’m blessed ten years later to still compete in the IFBB. Yet in those ten years, I’ve never won another contest. I’m still fiercely competitive, but I’m at peace with that contest record. Why? Because there are more important things in life than an enviable contest record. I would rather know that I worked hard, ran the race well, and fought the good fight, regardless of points in the win column or trophies on a shelf. I’m more interested in living life deeply with people I love.

The thing about pursuing the envy of others is it’s an elusive goal. Gaining it is hard and maintaining it is even harder. You can’t be the biggest or the strongest forever. I’m not saying that you shouldn't pursue goals, but temper them so that they don’t encroach upon your relationships. A lost relationship isn’t a good trade for a few minutes, months, or years of another man’s envy. Envy isn’t a deep well of joy. The dude who experienced the greatest degree of envy said so. The question that Solomon sets before us is this—will you and I have ears to hear?

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