You don’t hear much about envy anymore, do you? We hear a lot about greed being bad, but in Liberal-la-la-land envy is no longer a rank vice but a right and a virtue. However, historically speaking, envy has always been seen as a gross, pathetic, sin. Envy, matter of fact, is second on the Seven Deadly Sins list as it lags behind pride a wee bit in being the nastiest and most common vice.
Ancient in its poison, envy forms a big chunk of the foul compost heap that stimulates the growth of human stupidity. Envy is an extremely toxic sin that doesn’t get the verbal hailstorm that other sins receive in our current entitlement culture with its totemic view of vice. Someone who has been saddled by the envy monkey will probably not make the evening news like a politician who has been caught in bed with a live man or a dead woman or who keeps his freezer stuffed with cash.
No, envy is not that sexy and doesn’t have the buzz that zings around a greedy Goldman Sachs exec. Because this sin doesn’t get MSNBC’s attention like the more juicy transgressions, we tend to see it as less naughty. But be not deceived, my brethren: This sin is disastrous once it sticks its talons into a person, party, religion, or nation.
Another distinguishing feature of the funk of envy is that it is no fun. All vices sport a momentary spice. All of them, that is, except for envy. Envy is the one sin the sinner will never like or admit. You’ll never see someone who is envious chilling out, laughing his butt off, or relaxing with his friends while this demon rules the roost. The more envy grows, the more it drives its impenitent coddler nuts.
So, what is envy? Well … let’s start with what it is not. It’s not admiring what someone else has and wanting some good stuff also. This desire will make you get off your ass in the morning and get busy. It is good to crave; a man’s appetite will make him work. Where envy differs from admiration/emulation is that envy is “sorrow at another’s good” (said Thomas Aquinas). Someone who is centered can watch another person, party, or nation prosper and not grow frickin’ nuts because of it.
The whacked, petty, envious dolt, however, sees someone else excel and is slapped in the face with the reality that he sucks. So, instead of sucking it up and working harder and smarter, the unwise envious freak allows his pride to fuel his wounded little spirit. This sets the dejected perp down a path of disparagement of the prosperous that eventually morphs into the desire to destroy the person, party or nation that has just trumped this sad little person or pusillanimous political party.
Os Guinness, best-selling author and renowned lecturer, states that the sin of envy has several common characteristics:
1. Envy is the vice of proximity. We are always prone to envy people close to us in temperament, gifts or position.
2. Envy is highly subjective. It is in the eye of the beholder. It is not the objective difference between people that feeds envy, but the subjective perception. As a Russian proverb says, “envy looks at a juniper bush and sees a pine forest.”
3. Envy doesn’t lessen with age. It gets worse as we run into more and more people of happiness and success, offering more fodder for envy.
4. Envy is often petty but always insatiable and all consuming. However small the occasion that gives rise to it, envy becomes central to the envier’s whole being. The envier “stews in his juice.” Envy begins with pride and then plunges the person into hatred.
5. Envy is always self-destructive. What the envier cannot enjoy, no one should enjoy, and thus the envier loses every enjoyment. The envier’s motto is “if not I, then no one.” As an eighth-century Jewish teacher put it, “the one who envies gains nothing for himself and deprives the one he envies of nothing. He only loses thereby.”
Y’know, there are many forces tearing at this land and many nations that would like to level our nation. That said, I believe this envious entitlement funk that’s speedily weaving its way into the fabric of our national life will destroy it faster than Rosie O’Donnell on a plate of nachos.