Let’s play the “What if…” game.
What if you just lost your job while your co-worker received a promotion and a big raise? Would you be happy for him?
What if your child dropped out of school while a friend’s child was just awarded a 4-year scholarship to a prestigious university? Does the news make you feel sick with envy?
What if you just learned your spouse was having an adulterous affair and a friend calls to share that her husband just surprised her by planning a second honeymoon to Hawaii. Would you share her happiness?
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
In the Christian world, this is where the rubber meets the road. Going to Mass and praying is easy compared to mustering up the love for those that tempt us to envy. It’s as if someone has punched us in the stomach. They did not do it intentionally, but they did it just the same.
When someone’s success makes our failure feel bigger, the temptation is to feel envy and to even desire his or her failure. Misery truly does love company. No one understands our suffering like a fellow sufferer and no one can deepen our pain like someone that has great success in the place we feel loss.
For example, someone with an abusive, unloving spouse could best find comfort in a fellow betrayed spouse. On the contrary, if the abused spouse has to sit next to a person with a publicly adoring husband or wife, a new seating arrangement might be necessary before nausea sets in. Then, if down the road, the adoring husband or wife was found out to be having an affair, the abused spouse would be tempted to feel some level of satisfaction. This is where the sin of envy lies.
Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we cannot love those whose success is greater than ours, then we are not loving them as ourselves. And if we rejoice in their failure, again, that is not love but sin.
Please! you might be thinking. Am I supposed to be a saint? Yeah, actually you are. But how on earth can we muster such love? From earth, we don’t, but from heaven, we can. It will take prayer and an iron will, because it ain’t easy. Yet, if we succeed, we truly follow Christ and, in the end, the reward is ours.
“Give and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure–pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 6:38).
What does this have to do with envy? It’s about giving love even when it’s hard so that we may receive love in return. We may be helpless to change the circumstances that cause us pain, but God never wants us to wallow in it. Still, it is what it is. Loss and failure cause us sadness. But if we rejoice or desire failure for others, then we have sinned. Instead, we should force ourselves to pray twice; once for the person that experienced the success and once for ourselves for help not to be envious. By praying for the person with the success, we are taking a step to protect ourselves against envy. You may think, that person is already experiencing success, do they even need our prayers? Yes, everyone needs prayers. By saying prayers for a person tempting us to envy, we are giving a truly Christian love that might at that point, take every ounce of energy to muster up. By loving others under such difficult circumstances, it will be returned. Love always comes back to us; if not from the world, from God. For the measure with which you measure will be measured back to you (cf Mark 4:24).
In part II, we will examine the difference between envy and jealousy and talk about getting some prayer and perspective on this issue.
Art: Pecados Capitales Foto: Envidia [Envy]: Eyes don’t lie Modelo: Agnell Guerra Iluminación: Ernesto Gómez FotografÃa: Gabriel Delgado, 5 January 2010, CC; Envy and anger between children, 16 September 2013, JérÃ´me – MÃ´sieur J., CC; both Wikimedia Commons.