Slaying envy PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 22 January 2016 13:30



One of the most insidious spiritual anomalies that we can have in life is envy. It’s that uneasy feeling that others are better than us in some respects. We can even be envious of others who we know are doing evil and yet appear to be having a better time than us. Or it can come as a result of some personal frustrations, defeats and losses while others appear to only have successes and victories.

Many biblical passages refer to it. “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” (James 3,16) “You desire and do not have, so you murder.

You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.” (James 4,2) Still more: “For you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?” (1 Cor 3,3) “Jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge.” (Proverbs 6,34)

Envy is usually accompanied by sadness and sometimes by hatred, anger, bad thoughts and impulses of revenge, fault-finding and bitter zeal. It comes as a result of comparing oneself with others without God in the middle. The standards used are highly subjective and restrictive.

What makes it worse is that it is something internal, usually suffered in private, quite hidden, and therefore hard to be corrected by oneself or by others. To cover it up some more, especially when one suspects that others are already detecting it, one usually uses all kinds of pretension and the ways of hypocrisy.

A nasty sense of insecurity bogs him. There’s usually a see-sawing attitude of liking and disliking, or the liking is somehow accompanied by a trace of dislike, a pinch of discomfort. One is not totally at peace when envy assails him.

Yes, envy is a very unfortunate thing to happen to anyone because it is a pure waste of time and energy. And because of it, many good opportunities that one can have are often missed. Of course, the worst effect is that one’s soul gets corrupted and can get completely wrapped up in his own miserable self-made world. He suffers alone.

We have to slay envy everytime it makes us its port of call. We have to let it know immediately that it is unwelcome. And the way to do it is to go to Christ immediately, praying, sacrificing, and reminding ourselves of Christ’s example and teaching.

We need to remember that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, however we are placed and situated in life. Not everyone can be bright, talented, successful, etc. Some have to do the menial job, take care of the little things, be at the background.

We should not feel inferior to anyone because we are all children of God, equally loved by him although shown in different ways. Everyone has the same dignity and vocation, though lived and pursued in different ways.

We have to love everyone as Christ has loved all of us, without exception. He even told us to love our enemies. But given our human weakness, we need to be more pro-active in living out what St. Paul once advised: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” (Phil 2,3)

It’s important that we understand this piece of Pauline advice well and let’s be comforted by these words of his:

“God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise,” he says. “God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” (1 Cor 1,27)

Even if one occupies a hidden place in society and plays some kind of a cameo role only, as long as what he does is done with genuine love for God and others, he will always manage to contribute in the edification of others, obviously in some mysterious ways that perhaps only God can see.

Two saints come to mind as a good example of how to slay envy and instead work together for the good of all. St. Basil the Great (330-379) and St. Gregory Nazianzen (330-389) were two close friends whose competing talents could easily lead to envy. But St. Gregory described their relationship this way:

“Between us there was no envy. On the contrary, we made capital out of our rivalry. Our rivalry consisted, not in seeking the first place for oneself but in yielding it to the other, for we each looked on the other’s accomplishment as his own.”