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Envy and Jealousy: Cain and Abel

The Story of Cain and Abel

The story goes that when Adam and Eve left the garden of Eden, they had two sons: Cain and Abel. As they grew up, Cain farmed the fields and Abel took care of the sheep. To show gratitude to God, Adam advised Cain and Abel to sacrifice something. Abel planned to sacrifice his best lamb while Cain believed that he shouldn’t sacrifice anything valuable so he offered dried up fruits that he did not want. When offered, God accepted Abel’s sacrifice but not Cain’s. This resulted in Cain developing anger, bitterness and resentment towards Abel due to envy. To deal with these emotions, God spoke to Abel and advised him that he should not let his emotions control his behaviours (helpful versus unhelpful thoughts). Unfortunately, Cain’s envy and jealousy eventually leads to him killing Abel. Horrified by the crime he had committed, Cain then runs away and roams the earth until his death. A life not lived.

The Message in the Story

Now don’t worry. We're not here to promote or preach Christianity. However, this story demonstrates two things. One is that envy and jealousy are concepts that has been around since the dawn of time. As stated by Hart and Legerstee, envy is wanting something that you don’t have and jealousy is having something and fear of losing it, like the love of other people. Secondly, the lessons in this archetype are highly valuable, irrespective of timing. The sacrifice represents delay gratification. If we give up something in the present, like our best lamb, one will be rewarded in the future. However, the lesson that we will focus on now is envy and jealousy. Thus, the main issue that Cain has is not that he experiences envy and jealousy because they, like any other emotion will happen whether we want them to or not, nor is it the mistake that Cain makes for not offering more to sacrifice, as we all make mistakes. The main issue Cain has is that he is obsessed with comparing himself against Abel.

Compare Yourself to who you were Yesterday

The first step to beating envy is being aware of who you are comparing yourself to. As mentioned in the self-esteem post, it is illogical to compare yourself to other people because there are too many variables that differentiate you from other people. Comparison is important because we need to improve but not when it comes at the cost of negative emotions. One of Jordan Peterson’s 12 rules for life is ‘Comparing yourself to who you were yesterday’. Slow incremental improvements can take us to a place far further than envy. Therefore, it’s not only an alternative solution to progression. It’s a better one. This is the motivation we need to progress without the surplus of feeling negative.


Another key ingredient is gratitude. If you are grateful for what you have, you won’t always want more. In the material world we live in, we are told that if we can make loads of money, then we can buy whatever we want and then we’l be happy. Nonetheless, the research has continuously shown that money does not predict happiness. Of course, poverty does but after a certain point, materials do not give our life meaning. And even with all the money in the world, you can’t have everything, whether it be a relationship or a certain athletic ability. Therefore, we need to consciously demonstrate gratitude.


And this phenomenon operates in the opposite direction also.The opposite to gratitude is entitlement. I deserve this and that. Entitlement adds fuel to the fire and allows envy and jealousy to flourish. Take jealousy for example. Entitlement is the assumption that your mother can only love you, that your girlfriend can only be friends with you, and that you are the only one who deserves an award. Alternatively, gratitude makes you grateful that you have your mother, your girlfriend, your career. It is very much a choice and one we should take. So don’t compare yourself to others. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday. And don’t be envious or entitled. Be grateful.

Yours Sincerely, The Motus Movement.


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