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Monday, July 22, 2013

The sad face of envy

by Mary N.

File:Guido Reni 053.jpg
Portrait of the Artist's Mother by Reni (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons).

As a moth gnaws a garment, so doth envy consume a man.
                                            St. John Chrysostom

St. Thomas Aquinas defines the capital sin of envy as "sorrow at another's good". No wonder very few people admit to envy... even the definition sounds terrible. It's hard to believe we actually may become sorrowful when good things happen to others, or if others have special gifts and talents, but most of us have been here at some point. As a child and young adult I remember envying others a lot. I would actually feel sad and wish that they did not have the gifts they had. Envy is one of the first things that God worked out of me and he did this by showing me his love. Once we understand the greatness of God's love for us envy tends to fall by the wayside because we understand the one true need in our life is God himself and that this gift is given to everyone without exception.

Many of the seven deadly sins are fear based and envy is one of these. The problem with envy is that it is completely lacking in charity. It not only sorrows because someone else has been blessed in some way, it wishes the person had not received the gift or blessing. It  may even wish ill on others. I started this post with the quote from St. John Chrysostom because of the truth it contains... envy consumes a person from within if it is not stopped in its tracks.

Envy is a sin against charity. Love seeks good for others, envy the opposite. One common sign that envy is at play is when you hear someone praise a person and then proceed to rip them apart. For instance:

"Don't you just love Mabel?! She is so talented! Still, it's just terrible that she doesn't know how to keep those children of hers in line. As smart as she is you would think that her mothering skills would be better. And did you see that AWFUL dress she wore to the wedding? It matched that plaid sofa she's got in her living room! Bless her heart! That woman has no taste...(yap, yap, yap)." The conversation goes on and by the end it is clear that Mabel is one slothful/ugly/mean/crazy/ungrateful, but don't forget talented, woman in the eyes of the speaker. Gossip often has its roots in envy.

Continue reading at Mary's blog   The Beautiful Gate.


  1. Mary, I love how you connect envy to love! This is so helpful for my spiritual life. Thanks!

  2. Gossip often has its roots in envy. Oh yes!!!


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