Existential Envy

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Existential envy which is directed against the other person’s very nature, is the strongest source of resentment. It is as if it whispers continually: “I can forgive everything, but not that you are— that you are what you are—that I am not what you are—indeed that I am not you.” This form of envy strips the opponent of his very existence, for this existence as such is felt to be a “pressure,” a “reproach,” and an unbearable humiliation. In the lives of great men there are always critical periods of instability, in which they alternately envy and try to love those whose merits they cannot but esteem. Only gradually, one of these attitudes will predominate. Here lies the meaning of Goethe’s reflection that “against another’s great merits, there is no remedy but love.

― Max Scheler

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