PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

 

Envy


Envy is an awful thing. If we think it’s such a trivial transgression, it’s not. Just remember how Lucifer and a host of angels fell, how their envy of God and man did them in.

Envy hasn’t been referred to as one of the cardinal sins for nothing. It drives men and women to a fitful passion, ambition, if not depression. Oftentimes, this evil is very subtle, deluding the person nothing is wrong, when every waking and dreaming moment is spent under its spell.

“Envy is good,” someone said, “because it prods people to do better.” The implication is, once the evil is tamed, it becomes an inspiration.

I don’t think so. Envy is envy, inspiration is inspiration. The first is pure resentment; the latter, a well-meaning, good-natured regard for other people’s blessings. One is intrinsically evil, the other inherently good.

Envy has wrought more destruction in this world than we realize. Many of us have been subject to envious people one way or another, or that we have been terribly envious of someone ourselves at one time or another. Thus we all have a first-hand notion of how the green witch called envy exercises its wicked craft in others and in ourselves.


We know how envious people often express their anger and resentment: by bad-mouthing people in a way that startles, i.e., how could someone gloss over somebody’s good fortune and notice only his/her defects? Take note of the dynamics and mechanics of sibling rivalry and realize how ugly the hag can be, how capable it is of inciting family feuds down the generations and tearing entire clans apart.

Keeping up with one’s neighbors is another symptom of the same old disease. So is the habit of comparing oneself with others on a personal level, as though we are always in some kind of a competition, as though life is a contest and the world is a large Olympic stadium or basketball court. While setting professional, sports and industry benchmarks and standards is praiseworthy, the same cannot be said of viewing oneself against another’s achievements or abilities, nor gloating over another’s defeat or weakness.

This is not to judge certain people who view bloody revenge as their version of meting out justice but I suspect that the psychospiritual issue of envy just might be involved in their struggle. Anyone in their shoes can perfectly understand: It’s kind of hard to take it that some people have it so good and easy with life while they, who may be far more intelligent have it so absurdly hard. Of course I’m not saying there’s no injustice and oppression in the world and that the struggle for equality is baseless and shallow.

Personally, my experience of people envying me - not that I am such an enviable person - are such that all I have now is a flaming hatred for feelings of that sort, both in me and in others. Time and again, I had to mentally rebuke the ugly witch in its face, especially when it is trained at my general direction. I’ve seen how envy turns sour an otherwise beautiful friendship, how it makes an enemy and traitor of a former friend who suddenly looks at you as an arch-rival. My esteem for certain people immediately plunges to zero and beneath, whenever I hear them make snide remarks behind the back of their supposed friend.

And, oh, the old witch tends to spawn two little crones named depression and self-pity, too. There are times when we just couldn’t take it that many people are having the time of their lives while we sink deeper in the pits. The emotion may be valid, as in all other complex human emotions, but one cannot discount envy’s finger operating behind the scenes. Like when we join our classmates in a high school reunion and we find ourselves sticking out like a sore thumb, we cannot discount the inevitability of the witch’s omnipresence behind the scenes. Self-pity is the witch’s favorite doll, and depression its favorite spell.

To fight off envy, I think it’s good to verbalize our envy. This way, we gain greater awareness of the monster lurking behind our dark moments and we become wary of it enough to prevent it from worming its way into our lives furtively. Envy turns really offensive and sinful, they say, when we allow it to reside in our hearts and let our body and soul be animated by its distinguished guest.

Many friendships and relationships have been severed by this horrific witch. Many violent revolutions around the world may have occurred that did virtually nothing to advance human civilization except to turn ghastly memorials housing millions of battered skulls as tourist attraction. All because of the green witch.

Envy is an awful thing. And we thought it’s something we should simply gloss over.

6.17.2001


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