February 27, 2017

Wisdom for Your Week: A Conversation with Marc Gafni and John Mackey on Jealousy and Envy

John Mackey is Chairman and CEO of Whole Foods Market, as well as the Co-Chair of the Center for World Spirituality Board of Trustees.

In the sixth video of the seven-part dialogue series, Marc Gafni (author of Your Unique Self) and John Mackey (co-author with Raj Sisodia of Conscious Capitalism) define and discuss jealousy, malice, resentment, and envy in the framework of business, Unique Self, and Conscious Capitalism.  In this discussion, they reach the conclusion that every negative emotion has its own hidden virtue and that there’s no negative emotion without a higher form. Join them as they unfold this understanding while pointing to the way that envy can be made conscious, can be understood with compassion, and can be transmuted into a higher form. As Marc says in the dialogue, when we are living from Unique Self, envy falls away and entrepreneurial creativity blossoms. Don’t miss this or any of their other discussions from this series, which are available on our website and at the Whole Foods blog.





From the discussion:

John Mackey: Envy seeks to tear the other one down. It doesn’t seek to lift one up. Envy is happy if the other one is destroyed or lowered to the level of the envious person. So, there’s no gain there. If we talk about voluntary exchange for mutual benefit, there is no mutual benefit with envy. Envy is only satisfied with the loss from someone else—someone else that you think has something that causes you to be envious. Now, a more constructive emotion to envy which you can transmute… Once you become conscious of your negative emotion, you can begin to choose differently. Everybody feels envy at times. I think it’s a very natural emotion.

Marc Gafni: Right. That’s really important. There’s no one who doesn’t, at times, feel envy.

John Mackey: But, you can become conscious of it. You can begin to choose differently. You can begin to choose different interpretations. For example, a very constructive way that envy can be transmuted is into ambition. Because envy seeks to tear down, but ambition says, “That’s good. I’m going to do better.” So, ambition uses the success of another as a spur for one’s own progress, one’s own advancement, one’s own evolution. So, it’s fundamentally a much more constructive emotion than envy is. Although, of course, ambition… has its own shadow. It can grow out of control and become hubris.

Marc Gafni: Right. But, I love that you introduced it though, because ambition is so often demonized. When they say he’s ambitious, that’s often used as a pejorative. But, actually, ambition is a beautiful way to transmute envy.  When we think about what we do with envy—so, you say you become conscious of it—and, I want to introduce just another piece to consciousness and laughter…. We were driving in your car this morning… Now, I’ve got to tell you, it’s a great car. It’s a great car.

John Mackey: Don’t talk about my car.  I don’t want people to be envious of it. [smiles.]

Marc Gafni: I understand, but here’s the funny thing. I wasn’t envious of it. However, sometimes, I’ll go into a bookstore, and I’ll see that someone wrote a book about something I’ve been thinking about, you know, for fifteen years. And, I’ll just be mad for… a few hours. “I can’t believe they wrote my book.” They didn’t call me. They don’t quote me. They wrote my book. Like, what are they doing? I first noticed this about 25 years ago. And, I was kind of, like, a little ashamed by it. I just learned to laugh at it. Once you can make it conscious and then laugh… actually, envy happens to everyone… If we’re able to actually make it conscious, laugh at it, and then transmute it… Because as long as we hide it, then it actually acts insidiously.

John Mackey: It’s a type of poison.

Marc Gafni: Poison’s the right word. It really is poisonous. So, I don’t usually like to exhort; although, I have a background as a Rabbi. But, if I would call people to one thing, it’s own your envy, laugh at it, and transmute it into creativity. You will change your relationship. There’s a power struggle between couples. It’s unacknowledged, and envy’s always at play. There’s a power struggle in teams and companies. There’s a power struggle between nations. Islamic fundamentalism today is a beautiful force, but it’s envious. And, the envy’s unacknowledged.

John Mackey: I think this can lead possibly into another topic, which is one of the best ways I know to grow as a human being and to evolve is to become conscious of our negative emotions: our envy, our resentment, our anger, our hatred, our fears. Become conscious of them. And, then at the same time we become conscious of it, to deliberately, consciously  make choices to aspire to virtues that are more enobling, such as courage, integrity, love, gratitude.

Marc Gafni: Let’s go through this. So, every negative emotion has its own hidden virtue…

Listen to the full dialogue for more.

And, be sure to check out the websites for their books, Your Unique Self and Conscious Capitalism.

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