Away with spiritual envy!

It’s so easy to be influenced by the attitudes of the culture. We fight against a utilitarian attitude when we fight assisted suicide and euthanasia. We know that being is more important than doing. Yet, in our own lives, we often feel unworthy when we see all our weaknesses.

ModificationOfHopeInAPrisonOfDespairSpiritual envy and despair are twin sisters. One says, “It’s not fair! I don’t have the graces that God gave someone else! Why can’t I be a saint too?” The other says, “I can’t get anything right in my spiritual life. I might as well stop trying.”

The truth is, God foresaw your weaknesses and shortcomings from the time He planned to create you. He worked them into the symphony of redemption. You are indispensible for God’s plan for the world and the Church!

Only you can love God with your whole heart, mind, and soul. Only you can give Him the gift of yourself. That is what He asks of you.

Looking at someone else’s gifts will make you restless and unhappy. If God thought you needed those gifts, He would have given them to you. Instead, focus on what He has given you. If it seems that all you have is weakness, give Him that. Surrender your fears, your disappointments, your rejection, your illnesses, your sadness, your psychological problems, your poverty, your short-sightedness, your mistakes. No one else can do that in your place.

Sometimes I hear people say how unfair it is that they were not given the grace to be a saint. My reply? Maybe you were, and you just didn’t use it. The grace God gives you doesn’t have to look like someone else’s. Maybe you failed to recognize the gift. Besides, saints are not born holy. They become holy by responding faithfully to the grace God gives them. Then He gives them more, and they respond faithfully again, the grace growing and growing inside them until the end of their lives.

Maybe the first thing you need to do is to accept that you aren’t someone else. You are your own glorious self, made in God’s image. Can you begin accepting what He has given you, however paltry it might seem? Can you bow before God’s will, saying, “You know best, O Lord?”

St. Thérèse of Lisieux taught us that saints are not made through great deeds. They are made through surrender. And surrender is something everyone can practice. As Teresa of Avila was fond of saying, you can “make a virtue of ModifiedDetailKarlskircheFrescoHumilitasHumilitynecessity.” Resisting God’s plan, thinking sanctity would have been so much easier, if only… Such things take you in the wrong direction.

Humility means accepting who you are. It is the foundation of the spiritual life. Holiness is not about doing great things for God, as though you were a super hero. It’s about surrender to Him, so that He can use you the way He desires, whether it be to do great or small things. You can become holy lying in a hospital bed, when the world thinks you are accomplishing nothing.


Art for this post on spiritual envy: Modification of Hope in a Prison of Despair, Evelyn De Morgan, 1887, PD; Modified detail of Allegory of Humility, Johann Michael Rottmayr, 1714, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported; both Wikimedia Commons.

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