Covetousness is usually defined as “having an urgent desire for possessions.” I would expand that definition to include intangibles such as abilities, power, prestige, talents, and time. People can covet others’ good fortunes as well. Furthermore, various synonyms of covetousness expand the concept beyond possessions to include envy, gluttony, greed, and jealousy.
I take exception to the saying that “money is the root of all evil.” Money is not the problem. It is people’s relationships with money that causes conflicts. The actual saying is “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Our desire to accumulate wealth at the expense of other things is the origin of our problems with money.
Money, itself, is neutral. The problem lies in how we relate to it. The book, “The Millionaire Next Door” discusses chronic over-spenders (“Under Accumulators of Wealth”). Instead of respecting money, these people spend it to gain power, prestige or emotional security. Because of their disrespect for wealth, these people always need money and always desire more things. In “Color Wisdom Workbook”, Tori Hartman writes, “Like a road warrior, money journeys everywhere but it stays where it is welcomed.” If you accept abundance and practice generosity, then you welcome money into your life.
Working towards a goal, we usually channel our desire for money for good. Saving for a rainy day ensures our future, while paying for a modest home ensures our present. When we channel our passions for noble aims, we give more to and receive more from the universe. Money becomes an exchange of energy.
Covetousness involves the lack of respect for the self. Our need for something can outweigh our desire to maintain our integrity. Our supposed needs push us beyond our authentic selves to destroy us. We lie to ourselves and others. We scheme how to get something, and then how to get even more things. As we manipulate ourselves and others, we destroy our relationship with the universe. We then become a victim to the greed that overwhelms us.
A PBS children’s program “Martha Speaks” (2008 - , Design Studios) explores other aspects of covetousness in two stories. Urgent desires and how to cope with them is the topic of “Martha’s Dirty Habit” (30/1-30). Martha, the dog, cannot stop digging holes in the yard during the springtime. The featured words of this episode for children are “crave, desire, drive, habit, need, urge, and weakness”. After much problem solving, the family decides to put Martha’s digging to good use. They plant trees in the holes she digs. The lesson conveyed to children is channeling your urges for productive uses.
The other story “Helen’s All Thumbs” (30/1-30) focuses on Martha’s owner, Helen. Because of her obsession in playing a computer game, Helen abandons her friends. (The concepts introduced are “addict, break, hooked, preoccupied, quit, and rid”.) Moreover, Helen spends so much time playing the game that she neglects Martha and Skits, her two dogs. Her obsession isolates her from her friends and responsibilities. Eventually Helen has to give up the game, since she cannot moderate her playing.
These two stories focus on the emotional aspects of urges and obsessions. Our desires and cravings come from places where we little understand ourselves. Why do we want what we want? Are we hard-wired for these urges? What can we do with this knowledge of ourselves?
We can examine ourselves, and see why we lie to ourselves. Jealousy of others’ good luck can cause us to sabotage their efforts. Our laziness and greed can prompt us to write to lottery winners or rich celebrities demanding their money. Rather than trying to succeed by our own efforts, we become dishonest instead. We need to cut through these lies to reclaim our integrity.
I see covetousness as ambition on steroids. It goes beyond passion and enters the territory of emotional destructiveness. Pay attention to the feeling of wanting more, and discover what is driving it. Honor that primary feeling – feeling lonely, sad, etc, and do not try to cover it. The hard part is to give up our need for wanting things to wish away our uncomfortable feelings. Facing the original feeling honors our integrity.
Hartman, Tori, “Color Wisdom Workbook”, PDF from author, http://www.torihartman.com/shop/pc/home.html,
---, “Martha Speaks”, PBS Parents, http://www.pbs.org/parents/martha/index.html,
---, “The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus”, Merriam-Webster: Springfield (MA), 1989.