Envy is sorrow when faced with the talents, gifts, material goods and blessings of others. Envy isn't looking at others and noticing their gifts and virtues. Emulating someone is not envy. Looking up to someone is not envy. Wanting what they have AND feeling sad or wishing they did not have it is envy. Looking upon someone as a hero or model is good and can help us by motivating us to improve ourselves. Saints come to mind here and having a saint as a role model can help one progress in virtue. There's humility in looking up to someone else. Humility looks up, envy looks down. This makes perfect sense since one is from heaven while the other is from hell. The humble person may try to emulate his or her hero, an envious person has no heroes because envy distorts truth and seeks to strip the heroic qualities away from others. Humility applauds, envy belittles.
Peter Kreeft, in his book Back to Virtue, has this to say about envy: Envy removes joy because envy is the opposite of gratitude, and gratitude is the seedbed of joy. This particular sentence stuck with me because it shows us one of the ways to combat envy ...gratitude. Cultivating a grateful heart is one of the first steps toward living a life of joy and peace. One of the ways we can do this is by meditating on God's deep and individual love for each and every one of us. In God's eyes we are each unique and utterly irreplaceable. Every single person on this planet has a mission and purpose that is unique to that person. No other person can do this particular "job for God" because they are not equipped for it. I can't fulfill your mission and you can't fulfill mine. We live in a culture that has lost it's respect for the sanctity of human life and the end product of this "ingratitude" is a society that sees people as easily replaced. Simply being immersed in such an atmosphere can result in feeling unlovable and disposable. God, on the other hand, sees everyone as "special". He loves us so much that He refuses to live without us and has gone so far as to have a place in heaven waiting for each one of us. He even tells us this is so! We are the ones who reject Him... He NEVER rejects us. Pure love is incapable of rejecting anyone. When we begin to really understand and trust in the immensity and purity of this love a grateful heart becomes very easy to cultivate.
While writing these posts on the seven deadly sins I have noticed a common thread that weaves through them :
Another blogger commented on this too. The seven deadly sins seem to be fear-based for most of us. Fear of not being lovable, fear of not measuring up, fear of our own sinfulness, fear that, because there IS a hell, then maybe we could just possibly end up there. Perfect love casts out fear and this is the reason that I believe meditating on God's love is the surest path of healing for us. When we grow in the knowledge of God's tremendous love for us gratitude comes easily and a grateful heart is a loving heart.
Along with practicing the virtue of charity, envy can be opposed by meditating on Scripture passages that speak of God's great love for his people as a whole and for the individual person. I'll list a few Scripture verses that are helpful at the end of this post. Another thing that I think may be helpful to those battling against envy is understanding that other people make us holier. It's very difficult to grow in holiness alone. One of the ways we grow in virtue is through our interactions with others. Also, when we help others grow in holiness...we grow in holiness. God likes it when we ask Him to make saints out of others. I ask him to do this all the time because God loves to answer this particular prayer. One of the drawbacks of living in such a competitive world is that it can pit us against one another if we allow it to. This is not God's way but man's way. God wants us to help one another grow in holiness. Praying for those we envy is very helpful in overcoming this capital sin.
Here are some helpful Scripture passages on love and gratitude:
~ John 3:16
~ Eph 2: 4-5
~ Rom. 8: 37-39
~ Jer. 29:11
~ Psalm 86
~ 1 Jn 4: 9-11
~ Gal. 2:20
~ Psalm 136
~ Col. 2: 6-7
~ Heb. 12:28-29