Envy is a Vice: Mind Your Own Business

Envy is a Vice: Mind Your Own Business March 12, 2023

I promise this is about envy and not about football.

The NFL Players Association recently released their Player Team Report Cards. This is a survey of players, asking them to rate their team in eight different areas, including the weight room, the training staff, nutrition, and treatment of families. While most players come into the league through the draft (and thus have no say in where they play), after their initial contracts expire players can become free agents and sign with any team that wants them. This survey gives players some information on what life will be like if they sign with Washington (the lowest rated team) vs. Minnesota (the highest rated team). And it puts some not-so-subtle pressure on the low scoring teams to improve their facilities.

The Arizona Cardinals finished next to last. In addition to low scores on treatment of families, weight room, training room, and locker room, their players gave them an F- on nutrition. The Cardinals are the only team in a league of 32 that charges players for meals to go and meals during the offseason.

The NBC-affiliated website Pro Football Talk had a brief article on this last week. The comments were interesting, to say the least.

Several of them pointed out that the Bidwell family (who owns the Cardinals) is notorious for being cheap. Considering the importance of nutrition to elite athletes, and considering that pro football players are young men who aren’t known for making the healthiest decisions, you’d think teams would do everything they could to get their players to eat food they know will help them maximize their performance (apparently 31 teams get this – Michael Bidwell is too cheap to bother).

But many of the other comments were derisive of the players for complaining about being nickel and dimed by the Cardinals. Here are a few examples:

Players should pay for their own meals. They’re already too pampered.

No free meals… cry me a river.

Does your company pay for your lunch when you are there?

Some commenters pointed out the incongruity of ordinary people taking the side of billionaires in a dispute with millionaires, but it’s worse than that. Most NFL players aren’t millionaires. The median salary is $860,000. Which is still a lot of money, but the average NFL career is only 3.3 years.

What’s important here is that many fans take the side of owners over players out of envy.

“They’re getting something I don’t and I’m mad about it.”

This is envy.

And envy is a vice.

photo by John Beckett

Vice is the opposite of virtue

Say “vice” and many people think of things like gambling, prostitution, and drinking: things that are pleasurable but that have a strong potential for abuse and harm. Whether the harm is in the activities themselves or in their immoderation is another topic for another time. More generically, a vice is an unethical and harmful behavior. It’s the opposite of virtue.

I could have said envy is a sin but “sin” is a loaded word and I don’t want to have to unpack it from a Pagan perspective. I think it’s enough to say that virtues are behaviors and character traits that help build a good life and a good world, and that vices are behaviors and character traits that bring suffering.

Envy is clearly a vice. Being angry that someone else has something you don’t does nothing to make your life better. It just makes you miserable.

Straight pride and white history month

I imagine most regular readers of this blog understand the inherent racism in the complaint “why is there no white history month?” and the inherent homophobia in “why are there no straight pride parades?” But beyond the racism and homophobia, there’s also a strong element of envy in these rants: “somebody is getting something I don’t have and I’m mad about it.”

We need Black History Month because the contributions of Black people to the common culture have been ignored (mostly on purpose) – the history I was taught in school is white history. We need Pride parades because LGBTQ people were told they were shameful for decades (something the far right is trying to do again).

The envious ignore this. All they see is someone getting something they don’t get, and they’re mad about it. Their envy adds to their misery.

Mind your own business

The first cure for envy is to mind your own damn business. If it doesn’t impact you, then it doesn’t matter to you. And if it doesn’t matter to you, then getting upset about it is only hurting yourself.

Whether from envy or a desire to force others to live according to their religion and culture, too many people have forgotten how to mind their own business. Don’t like gay marriage? Marry someone of the opposite sex. Don’t like drag shows? Don’t go to one.

Don’t understand “the whole trans thing?” You don’t have to. You just have to treat trans people with dignity and respect. You know, like you do everyone else.

How other people live their lives is none of your business.

photo by John Beckett

Some things are unfair – work to make them fair

Envy is a vice, but some things in life are unfair to the point of injustice. Some things just aren’t right.

Are you being oppressed? Speak up. Are you being exploited? Look for ways to get out of the situation, and ask for help in ending the exploitive practices.

You not being able to afford food is an injustice. Someone else getting free meals is not. And the fact that they get free meals has no impact on the price of the meals you can’t afford.

Put your energy where it will actually accomplish something.

Progress has to start somewhere

Why shouldn’t employers provide free meals? If you’re required to be somewhere during meal times, why shouldn’t you expect that you’ll be fed? That’s a complicated question (and I like going out to lunch, to get out of the office for an hour) but it’s one that has merit. It has to start somewhere.

One team in the NFL figured out it was a good thing for them to feed their players – all but one of the other teams caught on (and after this report, I would guess Arizona will stop being the last holdout). We’ve seen this in the tech industry. Will it spread? I don’t know, and I’m not very concerned about it – this issue isn’t important to me.

But there are other issues and other situations that are important.

And progress has to start somewhere.

Envy is a vice of weak people

I don’t know a nice way to say this: envy is a sign of a weak and unintelligent person.

If you think your life is in any way made less because someone else has more, you’re not thinking things all the way through.

If you see someone getting something good and you can’t at least be happy for them, what’s wrong with your empathy?

If you see someone getting something that you really want or need, start figuring out how to get it on your own. If they got it, so can you. If there are structural inequities in the system that keep you from getting it, or that make it unnecessarily difficult for you to get it, then call them out and start working to remove them.

Get mad at the system and those who perpetuate it, not those who manage to work it better than you. Billionaire Michael Bidwell is the villain in this story, not the NFL players or their union.

Mainly, though, learn to practice the fine old art of minding your own business.

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