The Deadly Sin of Envy

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More Envy
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Green with Envy
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Housing Envy
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Envy is one of those emotions capable of consuming us. We can let it blind us to a point that we see the world as through a tunnel. Like the blinds on a race horse, we charge ahead focusing our energy, on feelings of self-pity.

Envy is really the emotion arising from the things that others have that we do not have. Things envied can be material, such as property. We might envy those having a seemingly good relationship with others, whether it's friends or intimates. One might envy another person's physical beauty or strength. At work people envy each other's success, children will envy the attention their siblings' receive.

Simply put, envy is the desire for others' traits, status, abilities, or situation. When we realize we're feeling envious, if we ever realize it, a feeling of shame might overcome us. Shame arises from knowing that envy is petty and self-indulgent.

Thomas Aquinas said of Envy: "Envy according to the aspect of its object is contrary to charity, whence the soul derives its spiritual life... Charity rejoices in our neighbor's good, while envy grieves over it.". Tradition has it that those guilty of Envy will spend their time in Hell sitting in freezing water. Envy is the second of the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, anger, dejection, avarice, gluttony and lust). The opposing virtue to envy is charity or brotherly love.

There are many little "harmless envies" that we feel. I went hang-gliding in San Diego harbor with my son and the job of taking people out on a boat and getting paid well for it looked really appealing at the time. It was a fleeting feeling, kind of a fantasy. People envy sports stars, movie stars and musicians. What it really boils down to is that there are only so many things you can do with a single lifetime and limited talent !!!

It's only human to be envious from time to time. It starts to become destructive when an envious person doesn't even realize what they're feeling. I can remember being told that you should never be envious, you should always think about the many blessings bestowed. I was told, "I envied the man with shoes, because I had none, until I saw a man without feet."

And a few Quotes:

  • "Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies" - Gore Vidal
  • "The envious die not once, but as oft as the envied win applause" - Baltasar Gracian
  • "Love looks through a telescope; envy, through a microscope" - Josh Billings
  • "Envy is thin because it bites but never eats" - Spanish Proverb
  • "I've spent most of my life walking under that hovering cloud, jealousy, whose acid raindrops blurred my vision and burned holes in my heart" - Astrid Alauda
  • "Calamities are of two kinds: misfortune to ourselves, and good fortune to others" - Ambrose Bierce
  • "Every other sin hath some pleasure annexed to it, or will admit of an excuse: envy alone wants both" - Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy