Envy consists in grieving at another's good or
repining at another's happiness. The envious man
looks with hatred upon his superiors who excel him,
upon his equals who compete with him, upon his
inferiors who strive to equal him. Saul's envy of
David and the Pharisees' envy of Christ could only be
satisfied by death; for it is the character of this
cruel vice to stop at nothing until it has compassed
its end. Of its nature it is a mortal sin, because,
like hatred, it is directly opposed to charity.
However, in this, as in other sins, there are degrees
which do not constitute a mortal sin, as, for
example, when hatred or envy is not grave, or when
the will does not fully consent.
Envy is a most
powerful, a most injurious vice. It is spread all
over the world, but predominates particularly in the
courts of kings and in the society of the rich and
powerful. Who, then, can be free from its attacks?
Who is so fortunate as to be neither the slave nor
the object of envy? From the beginning of the world
history abounds with examples of this fatal vice. It
was the cause of the first fratricide which stained
the earth, when Cain killed Abel. (Cf. Gen. 4). It
existed between the brothers Romulus and Remus, the
founders of Rome, and the latter fell a victim to the
envy of the former. Behold its effects in the
brothers of Joseph, who sold him as a slave. (Cf.
Gen. 37); in Aaron and Mary, the brother and sister
of Moses. (Cf. Num. 12). Even the disciples of Our
Lord, before the coming of the Holy Ghost, were not
wholly free from it.
Ah! When we see such
examples, what must we expect to find among
worldlings, who are far from possessing such
sanctity, and who are seldom bound to one another by
any ties? Nothing can give us an idea of the power of
this vice or the ravages it effects. Good men are its
natural prey, for it attacks with its poisoned dart
all virtue and all talent. Hence Solomon says that
all the labors and industries of men are exposed to
the envy of their neighbors. (Cf. Eccles. 4:4).
Therefore, you must diligently arm yourself against
the attacks of such an enemy, and unceasingly ask God
to deliver you from it. Let your efforts against it
be firm and constant. If it persevere in its attacks,
continue to oppose an obstinate resistance, and make
little account of the unworthy sentiments it
suggests. If your neighbor enjoys a prosperity which
is denied you, thank God for it, persuaded that you
have not merited it or that it would not be salutary
for you. Remember, moreover, that envying the
prosperity of others does not alleviate your own
misery, but rather increases it.
your aversion to this vice, make use of the following
reflections: Consider, first, what a resemblance the
envious man bears to the devils, who look with rage
upon our good works and the heavenly reward we are to
receive for them. They have no hope of the happiness
of which they would deprive us, for they know that
they have irretrievably lost it; but they are
unwilling that beings created out of dust should
enjoy honors of which they have been dispossessed.
For this reason St: Augustine says, "May God preserve
from this vice not only the hearts of all Christians,
but of all men, for it is the special vice of devils,
and one which causes them the most hopeless
suffering." The crime of Satan is not theft or
impurity, but enviously seeking, after his fall, to
make man imitate his rebellion. This is truly the
feeling which actuates the envious.
prosperity of others is no prejudice to them; they
could not profit by what they strive to take from
their neighbor; but they would have all equally
miserable with themselves. If, then, the possessions
which you envy in another could not be yours were he
dispossessed of them, why should they be a cause of
grief to you? When you envy the virtue of another you
are your own greatest enemy; for if you continue in a
state of grace, united to your neighbor through
charity, you have a share in all his good works, and
the more he merits the richer you become. So far,
therefore, from envying his virtue, you should find
it a source of consolation. Alas! Because your
neighbor is advancing, will you fall back? Ah! If you
would love in him the virtues which you do not find
in yourself, you would share in them through charity;
the profit of his labors would also become yours.
Consider, moreover, how envy corrodes the heart,
weakens the understanding, destroys all peace of
soul, and condemns us to a melancholy and intolerable
existence. Like the worm which eats the wood in which
it is engendered, it preys upon the heart in which it
was given birth. Its ravages extend even to the
countenance, whose paleness testifies to the passion
which rages within. This vice is itself the severest
judge against its victim, for the envious man is
subjected to its severest tortures. Hence certain
authors have termed it a just vice, not meaning that
it is good, for it is a most heinous sin, but meaning
that it is its own greatest punishment.
again, how opposed is the sin of envy to charity,
which is God, and to the common good, which everyone
should promote to the best of his ability; for when
we envy another's good, when we hate those to whom
God unceasingly manifests His love, when we persecute
those whom He created and redeemed, do we not, at
least in desire, strive to undo the work of God?
But a more efficacious remedy against this vice is to
love humility and abhor pride, which is the father of
envy. A proud man, who cannot brook a superior or an
equal, naturally envies all who appear to excel him,
persuading himself that he descends in proportion as
another rises. Hence the Apostle says, "Let us not be
desirous of vain glory, provoking one another,
envying one another." (Gal. 5:26). In other words,
let us destroy the root of envy, which is vainglory.
Let us wean our hearts from worldly honors and
possessions, and seek only spiritual riches, for such
treasures are not diminished when enjoyed by numbers,
but, on the contrary, are increased. It is otherwise
with the goods of the earth, which must decrease in
proportion to the numbers who share them. For this
reason envy finds easy access to the soul which
covets the riches of this life, where one necessarily
loses what another gains.
Do not be satisfied with
feeling no grief at the prosperity of your neighbor,
but endeavor to benefit him all you can, and the good
you cannot give him ask God to grant him. Hate no
man. Love your friends in God, and your enemies for
God. He so loved you while you were still His enemy
that He shed the last drop of His Blood to save you
from the tyranny of your sins.
Your neighbor may
be wicked, but that is no reason for hating him. In
such a case imitate the example of a wise physician,
who loves his patient, but hates his disease. We must
abhor sin, which is the work of man, but we must
always love our neighbor, who is the work of God.
Never say in your heart: "What is my neighbor to me?
I owe him nothing. We are bound by no ties of blood
or interest. He has never done me a favor, but has
probably injured me." Reflect rather on the benefits
which God unceasingly bestows upon you, and remember
that all He asks in return is that you be charitable
and generous, not to Him, for He has no need of you
or your possessions, but to your neighbor, whom He
has recommended to your love.