Definitely a sin we need to be aware of and nip in the bud….
ENVY AND JEALOUSY
“But if you have bitter zeal, and, there be contentions in your hearts, glory not, and be not liars against the truth. For this is not wisdom, descending from above, but earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and contention is, there is inconstancy and every evil work.” — St. James iii. 14-16.
The cause of envy and jealousy is found in the root of all bad passions of the heart; it is there they have their starting-point, and there they develop themselves until they poison our lives, words, and actions. And what fearful ravages they occasion in individuals, in families, and in social life!
The soul is devoured by an internal cancer, which causes acute suffering, and vitiates all the lawful enjoyment which the goods of nature and grace can bestow on it. It becomes suspicious, distrustful, and unjust; it sees evil in everything, until even the body also is attacked by the disease; the countenance grows pale and livid, and the whole constitution is often materially injured.
The character changes, and the best dispositions grow melancholy, morose, and unapproachable. Domestic peace is disturbed, and affection, which ought to be the life of the heart and the greatest blessing that those who are united by the ties of blood can enjoy, becomes only an occasion of jealousy, misunderstanding, and rancor.
Empires even have been shaken, or, at least, greatly disturbed by the violent shocks these passions imprint on everything with which they come in contact. That is the abridgment of our last discourse.
Today I will speak on these three points:
(I) the grievousness of this sin;
(2) the means of correcting it; and
(3) what we must do when exposed to envy and jealousy.
The sin of envy, when consented to in a serious matter, is one of the greatest faults that can be committed. And here, my children, I must be allowed to deplore the illusions which are so common even amongst religious persons.
You will scruple at not being a member of some confraternity, at not having said your beads, at not having gone to Communion on a certain day, and yet you never scruple having been gravely wanting in charity through envy, jealousy, and wounded pride.
The Holy Ghost says, “With a jealous woman is a scourge of the tongue which communicateth with all.”
Yes, truly; for just look at that saint-like person who, as St. Francis of Sales would say, seems like an Angel in church; consider her when she returns to her own house, and see how she contrives to dart forth venom on everyone who excites her jealousy.
Woe to anyone who is an object of mistrust to her, who is even an involuntary obstacle to her love of power! How she strikes and wounds them with the scourge of her tongue ! How she secretly lets fly little poisoned darts, which seem to leave no trace in their flight, but which would seriously endanger the moral life of a neighbor, if that life were not independent of those petty intrigues.
Then, like the woman mentioned in Scripture, she wipes her lips and says, “I have done no evil.”
This is a more usual case than you think, and has given rise to the saying of there being so much gall in the minds of religious people. It is a lamentable fact, against which I am forced to protest in the name of the Church, in order that Christian teaching may remain intact amidst the aberrations of man’s intellect, and that the world find in them no reasonable grounds for attacking religion.
“Many people,” says St. Cyprian, “regard the vice of envy as a trifling fault; but that is a grave mistake, for it is a diabolical sin.” St. Augustine gives to the sin of envy an epithet which it is not easy to translate into French, but it signifies cruel, horrible, hideous, enormous; he calls it ” a monstrous vice.”
And he teaches elsewhere, that nothing can be more contrary to charity ; that it is a Satanic vice, because the spirit of evil is composed of these two first principles of envy and pride; and that as the elect form the body of Christ, so the envious form the body of which the devil is the head; and that it is the vice which God most condemns.
The holy Doctor concludes thus — “May the Lord preserve the hearts of men, and still more the hearts of Christian men, from this plague, this scourge, this diabolical vice.”
St. Bonaventure exclaims, with many other holy Doctors whose words he cites — “Envy, thou inextinguishable fire, thou Satanic imposture, which art ever pursuing good, seeking to destroy it with thy pestilential flames, thy guilt is of a deeper dye than fornication or adultery.”
“Other failings, though grave, may be easily cured,” says Cassian; “but envy is like the basilisk spoken of by the Prophet, whose venom destroys the life of faith and the spirit of Christianity.”
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest,” says the Apostle; and amongst these sinful works he enumerates envy, jealousies, and the vices they beget. “Of the which,” he continues, “I have foretold to you that they who do such things shall not possess the Kingdom of Heaven — contentions, emulations, dissensions, and envy.”
Why such stern words and denunciations, my children? A little reflection will soon make you comprehend the reason. Charity being the first of Christian virtues, it necessarily follows that the worst vices are those which are most repugnant to it.
Now envy, and in a certain degree, jealousy, are the passions most directly opposed to charity; opposed to it in their own nature and in their consequences.
Envy is annoyed at the good of others; it is this good envy is in pursuit of; and it would willingly see others deprived of it, even though it should not get the good coveted for itself.
It may be said that it is God Whom it attacks in its brethren, for it is the Divinity which shines forth in them, since all our qualities, both natural and supernatural, come from God.
It is, in one sense, the sin most contrary to charity; it is the sin of Satan. Envy has yet another characteristic, which constitutes it in a special manner a diabolical sin — it rejoices at the misfortunes of others, and rejoices at them even when itself derives no advantage from them.
Evil brings happiness to the envious mind; yea, even the evil of a brother; and is not that the special character of the demon’s malice? Someone comes to tell the heart of envy that complete failure has been the only result of the enterprises and labors of such or such a one; so much the better, is the answer that rises to the lips! If it does not speak the words aloud, you may still be sure they are uttered fervently in the heart.
The envious woman hears that the reputation of one she dislikes is attacked in society, and if not seriously wounded, is at least blemished. This news to her is like a fresh, balmy breeze passing over the soul, which seems to bring it new life.
But all this delight which springs from the misfortunes of others, and this sadness whose origin is the prosperity of our brethren, are they not the two sentiments which bring us nearest in resemblance to the nature of the demons?
Envy has the melancholy talent of so altering the appearance of everything, that what is good is made to seem bad. In this manner the Pharisees asserted that our Savior wrought miracles through the power of the devil.
“Envy,” says Peter of Blois, “can embitter honey; wearied of the virtue of others, she maliciously tries to corrupt what is good in them, because she can find no trace of it in herself.”
What profound insight into human nature! Moralists call envy a serpent, because envy can turn even honey to poison, and the special quality of serpents is to shed into healthy veins the venom they possess themselves. This, too, is a quality of envy.
Your neighbor performs some actions inspired by the purest and most generous motives, and his conscience bears him witness in the sight of God that he has acted under the influence of the most sincere disinterestedness.
But he had not counted on a little serpent which was secretly playing the spy, hidden in the shade; the wicked reptile shoots his dart, and deposits his malignant venom. With him devotion means self-interest; charity, selfishness; disinterestedness, cupidity; in one word, honey is turned into poison. And what is still worse, he maliciously tries to corrupt what is good, because he finds no vestige of it in himself.
All this is quite natural: how can you expect that the proud man will believe in love of retirement; or how can you expect that he who knows of nothing beyond the ties of flesh and blood, can understand holy and sublime affection?
How can the egotist comprehend the self-devotion inspired by pure charity? Plato says that there must be something luminous in the eye in order to see light; there must be an innate sense of poetry in order to appreciate fine verses; and in the same way, there must be goodness in the heart in order to have faith in it.
These are the effects of envy; can there be anything more Satanical? “Envy has still other tactics,” says St. Basil;” for every virtue, having a vice bordering on its limits, into which it may fall through excess, the envious man makes a malicious use of this principle, abusing it to serve his own ends.
A firm and courageous person he calls rash and audacious, and the man of reserved character he reproaches with insensibility. He who conforms to the rules of justice is styled cruel, and the prudent man, a rogue.
Envy fastens in a special manner on all merit; the most virtuous men, and the holiest things all serve as a special aggravation to it. “Spanish flies,” says Plutarch, “prefer to attack the finest ears of wheat, and the best blown roses; and, in like manner, envy attacks good men, and those most distinguished by fame and virtue.”
“We may say that every species of merit is an offense to envy, as every kind of light hurts weak eyes.”
Look over the lives of great men and of saints, and you will find, my children, that not one amongst them escaped the shafts of envy; and amidst the causes of all the persecutions, more or less great, which they underwent, one of the chief was still envy.
“A shadow always accompanies the man walking in the sunshine,” says a philosopher; “so he who distinguishes himself above his fellow-men must expect to have envy as his companion on his journey.”
Do you begin to perceive, my children, all the heinousness of this vice? And, to complete the picture, listen to the fearful consequences of this deplorable passion.
“Envy,” says Bossuet, “conceals itself under every possible pretext, and takes pleasure in secret and treacherous schemes. Hinted slanders, calumnies, betrayal, every kind of fraud and deceit, are its work and portion.”
I do not, of course, mean to assert that the consequences of envy, carried to so great an excess, are very common. But in little spheres, as in great ones, they are less rare than you think, and envy is one of the chief causes of misunderstandings, hatred, calumnies, and perverse attacks on private life.
And besides this, is it necessary that a thing, in order to be gravely reprehensible, should reach its utmost limits? There may be much guilt, yet not the depths of iniquity of the prince of darkness.
Before envy and jealousy become grave faults, it is, moreover, necessary that we should give consent to them; and I particularly wish to add this explanation, in order to calm unfounded scruples.
Some characters are disposed to envy, others are inclined to jealousy. An idea takes possession of the mind, like an access of fever; the blood boils in the veins, but you blush at the feeling, and feel humiliated by it; you resist the temptation, and therefore there is no sin, even although the attack should be prolonged.
I will return to this subject, and speak of the means of correcting one’s self of that fatal passion.
“Let us ask God every day and in every prayer we ever say to make us love Him. Let us offer every good act we do that He may give us this, the greatest of all graces, His blessed love. In our morning prayers and evening prayers, in our Rosary, at Mass, in our Communions, let it be our first, our most earnest petition, that we may love God. Let us never say any prayer in which this is not our outstanding wish and intention.” – Rev. Fr. Paul O’Sullivan. An Easy Way To Become A Saint, 1943
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