Envy: A Villainous Void
‘Envy is a special sort of sorrow over another’s goods.’ Aquinas
Envy is a quiet killer. Less obvious than the other seven, it lurks in insecure hearts and tempts us to abdicate what we have for another’s inheritance. Envy tempts us by skewing our vision. Through green eyes we perceive certain persons as having everything and we, not much at all. Another’s good makes us feel bad, over and over again.
Envy results from a soul that allows itself to be diminished. Undoubtedly, early influences of neglect and abuse may contribute to that diminishment. But for envy to take root, the soul must agree that (s)he is entitled to more. Another’s life becomes the life we were supposed to have. Rather than admire that life and seek to emulate it in some way, the envious soul allows itself to be diminished by it. Longing for another’s good reduces our own, and may well inspire embittered emotions toward the self and the object of one’s envy.
So envy revs up our sense of entitlement only to diminish us. The emotional fall-out is wicked. Envy wreaks havoc in churches, on the job, in families, and friendships. The entitled allow themselves to be diminished over and over, which makes them sick and causes them to infect others. James says it best: ‘Where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.’ (James 3: 16)
Envy emerged out of my sexual disintegration. Awkward and insecure like most teenagers, I not only admired sexy men and women but lusted after them. I wanted their power and pleasure and did not want to do the hard work of becoming a good gift for a real person. So porn and fornication became the vehicle for my entitlement and also the source of my diminishment. I could never measure up and could never get enough. I played by envy’s standards and lost every time.
We overcome envy by getting off the rat’s wheel of skewed human perception and comparison. We can choose; we can begin the process of accepting ourselves in light of our Creator and Redeemer. We make a serious commitment to who God is and who we are in light of Him. That means embracing our inheritance and allowing others to have theirs. It means repenting of our folly in allowing others’ perceived good to diminish us. We bring that offering of sin to God and ask God to take it until we bear it no more.
Gratitude to God for what we have and what He has entrusted to others is key. Just as forgiving others keeps bitterness from re-infecting the wound, so gratitude keeps envy at bay. Thank God daily for who He has made you to be and the good He has given you. Thank Him also for the specific good He has entrusted to persons who are the objects of your envy. Gratitude is your best weapon in the fight against envy.
Is God enough for You? Has He not always been good to you? Live gratefully before God and keep the ‘green-eyed monster’ underfoot.