Envy

“Envy eats nothing but its own heart.” This is what the Germans say! And they are right. Envy is the only deadly sin in which there is no pleasure. All the other sins have some kind of gratification, sterile as it may be, but envy has the unenviable feature that it only produces sadness!

Christopher News Notes carry this story which is rather instructive. When writer Nancy Kennedy wistfully told her husband about a book contract a colleague had signed, she found herself grumbling about her own situation. He reminded her that she had already authored three books and hundreds of articles. He pointed out that some people would give anything to be in her position and asked her what else she wanted. Her reply? “More.”

Reflecting on the moment, Kennedy called the feeling ugly: “It gets in God’s face and says, ‘All that you have graciously provided me is not enough’.”

Yes, that is the problem with envy. It makes us blind to the blessings which we already in our lives. We simply do not perceive what we have as we longingly stare at the greener grass on the other side of the fence. How right was John Wesley when he said “To wish to be the person you are not, is to waste the person you are!” Engrave this sentence in your heart!!!

In Dante’s Purgatory, the envious people’s eyes are closed by threads of iron wire drawn through the eyelids. While they lived, they could not bear to look upon the joy of others; in purgatory, they cannot look upon the light of the sun, and others cannot look into their eyes with either the love or welcome that may have greeted them.
The person who suffers most through envy is the person himself. An ancient Greek legend illustrates envy’s crushing weight very graphically. In one important race, a certain athlete ran well, but he still placed second. The crowd applauded the winner noisily, and after a time a statue was erected in his honor. But the one who placed second came to think of himself as a loser. Corrosive envy ate away at him physically and emotionally, filling his body with the bile of bitterness. He could think of nothing else but his defeat and his obsession to be number one. He decided he had to destroy the statue that was a daily reminder of his lost glory.

Late each night, when everyone was asleep, he used to go to the statue and chisel at the base hoping to so weaken the foundation that eventually it would topple over. One night however, he went too far. The heavy marble statue teetered on its weakened base and crashed on the disgruntled athlete. He died beneath the crushing weight of the marble likeness of the one he had grown to hate. But in reality he had been dying long before, inch by inch, chisel blow by chisel blow. He was the victim of his own envy and rage. (Lloyd J. Ogilive)

Envy is deadly, whether it is envy of possessions that says, “I wish I had your house or car or clothes” or envy of position that says, “I wish I had your job or honorary degrees” or envy of people that says, “I wish I had your good looks or education or talent.”

It always begins by asking, “Why shouldn’t I enjoy what others enjoy?” and ends by demanding, “Why should others enjoy what I can not?”

Aesop tells the story of a man of the man to whom Zeus granted any wish, provided his neighbor got twice as much. He asked for one chariot and his neighbor got two. He asked for a nice home and his neighbor got one twice as big. This man could not take it any more and so he asked Zeus ‘make me blind in one eye… so that my neighbor can be blind in two eyes!

Perhaps it is time to move from the sin of envy to the virtue of contentment. How? By doing two things. First of all, by being realistic in our desires. The wise man of the Proverbs (30, 8-9) always prayed, “God, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs! For if I grow rich, I may forget you. And if I am too poor, I may steal.”

Robinson Crusoe, alone on his island, said, “I do not possess anything I do not want, and I do not want anything I do not possess.” And Paul told Timothy, “Religion does make a person very rich, if he is satisfied with what he has” (1Timothy 6:6).

Second, by becoming flexible and pleased with what we have and in what we are. Paul said, “I have learned to be satisfied with what I have. I have learned this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little. I have the strength to face all conditions [How?] by the power that Christ gives me” (Philippians 4:11-13). You lack nothing!

Count on Jesus Christ to complete his work in you!

(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.