Faith

Erasing Our Envy

We can be happy for others and move ahead, too

The perfect person does not exist. There will always be someone in the world who is better looking, smarter, more charismatic, wealthier, more athletic, funnier, more creative, and on and on it goes.

Envy is a major reason for so much social strife and personal angst in today’s culture. We can, and should, avoid much of this.

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Envy refers to sadness or bitterness at the sight of another’s goods, and the uncontrolled desire to acquire them for oneself, even unjustly.

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I sincerely hope these tips will offer a “way out” of this dark and narrow tunnel of jealousy.
 
1: Rejoice in the merits of others. This might be easier said than done, but reflect for a moment on how happy you are when people congratulate you or simply recognize your successes or accomplishments.

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This shows a level of magnanimity and personal security for which we should all be striving.

2: Check your thoughts and do not allow the envious ones to penetrate! Quoting St. Paul: “We bring every thought into captivity and obedience to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:6).

This is a general principle that should be applied to any negative thought. We need to create and activate our mental gate house! If we are so careful not to eat food or take drinks that are expired or harmful, and we certainly do not let any random stranger come into our house, why should we allow poisonous and hurtful thoughts permeate our soul?

Related: The Power of Forgiveness

Mental discipline needs to be developed, and positive thoughts should be continually fostered for a healthy psychology.

3: Accept your own rich reality with a great spirit of trust in God, and never doubt that he knows what is best for you!

Again, quoting St. Paul from his letter to the Romans, “But you — who do you think you, a human being, are, to answer back to God? Something that was made, can it say to its maker: why did you make me this shape? A potter surely has the right over his clay to make out of the same lump either a pot for special use or one for ordinary use.” (Romans 9:20-22).

Instead of trying to bring others down, try to raise yourself up, especially when it concerns virtue and solid Christian living.

My older siblings were extremely gifted academically, and it seemed that straight A’s were the norm for their grade school and high school report cards. The expectations were high when I arrived to their alma mater (Brother Rice School) and my solid B average was a huge surprise to the faculty, given our family history.

It helped me tremendously to hear my parents say, “Michael, you have been given so many other gifts from God … and we are proud of you for your strong effort!”

4: Learn from others. Instead of trying to bring them down, try to raise yourself up, especially when it concerns virtue and solid Christian living.

Do your friends challenge and inspire you to be a better spouse and a more virtuous person?

Be envious of the right things, such as someone who lives with authentic fidelity, charity and goodness. I have learned so much from my brother priests by their example of generous and humble service and this has challenged me to step up my game.

Our superior, the Rev. Steven Reilly, makes a large pot of oatmeal (with raisins) and a full pan of eggs every morning for breakfast, and he does all of the shopping for our community. I need to learn from him!

Related: Making Time for God

Do your friends challenge and inspire you to be a better spouse and a more virtuous person? Besides, a bigger house, a nicer car, a more prestigious position, better looks or a more vibrant personality, more fame, prestige or power, and more … will not always benefit your soul.

5: Disbelieve most of the negative that you hear about others. It is probably coming from an envious source with the goal of bringing this person down.

Gossip is generally generated by someone who feels insecure or jealous of another person’s positive situation.

Fr. Michael Sliney, LC, is a Catholic priest who is the New York chaplain of the Lumen Institute, an association of business and cultural leaders. 

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