The Look of Envy


Here again we are confronted head on by wisdom. And again, it is a simple truth. When our hearts are at peace, our whole being is nourished and freed from all of life’s anxieties. Oh, those anxieties may still be there, but a heart at peace in God’s love and grace, is never overwhelmed by them, rather, it finds meaning that transcends the momentary realities of pain and suffering.

The second half of the statement is true too. Envy, in all of its forms, whether it be envy of another’s success, fame, wealth, or popularity, can be like a cancer to the soul and to one’s physical well being. It sweeps over one’s consciousness and controls every element of one’s life. It turns one into a chronic complainer, a bitter individual. It creates an environment of anger within and without. Envy destroys the capacity for happiness. It darkens the mind, sickens the soul, and destroys the body.

Envy is not new, nor is it rare, but as one of the seven deadly sins it is extremely dangerous for our eternal souls. Envy is a deadly sin because, like all the other deadly sins, it is a completely self-centered emotion. As Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parson tells us in the Canterbury Tales: “Envy is the worst of sins as it sets itself against all other virtues and goodness, and is flatly against the Holy Ghost, source of Bounty. Backbiting and grumbling are the Devil’s Paternoster.” But we also know that if we turn our temptations of envy over to God, if we ask for his help in overcoming that life threatening emotion, he will come to our aid. We cannot heal ourselves of such a thing. We need the help of God’s grace. We need to remember, too, that God works through our friends, our counselors, our pastors, our spiritual directors, or our confessors. We must not hold in a feeling like envy for it will destroy us, body and soul. We need to get it out, to deal with it head on. These other people in our lives can be true instruments of God’s grace for us in a matter such as this.

Prayer and seeking guidance in the scriptures are also very important aids. If we feel ourselves giving in to envy, we must hurry to God’s presence. This awareness of our own temptation to envy is a good thing. That sting of conscience may be painful, but it is our soul’s survival mechanism. Listen to it. It is a sign of a healthy and proper fear of the Lord. And know, too, that: The Lord has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.” (Luke 1:50) In this “fear of the Lord,” you will finally find within you a heart that is at peace, and you will experience a renewal of your whole being, body and soul.

Lord, we pray that you give us hearts full of your peace so that we may no longer be overwhelmed with temptations to envy. Nothing is more important than being in relationship with you. You are the only source of our happiness. We wish only to know your love, now and for all eternity. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.
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