The Subtlety of Envy


“Envy is a great leveler. If it cannot level things up, it will level them down; and the words constantly in its mouth are ‘my rights’ and ‘my wrongs.’ At its best, envy is a climber and a snob; at its worst, it is a destroyer; rather than have anybody happier than itself, it will see us all miserable together.” – Dorothy Sayers


Envy is one of the most insidious of sins. It starts small, but its ramifications are huge. Envy circles around these three statements:


--- I resent that you have something I don’t have.

--- I want to have it rather than you.

--- If I can’t have it, nobody should.


But envy is subtle. You don’t wake up one day resenting everything and everyone. Instead, you might begin with honest admiration or a true and perfectly acceptable desire to have something you see. But then you dwell on the fact that you don’t have it. Perhaps don’t have it and can’t get it. Then resentment builds. And bitterness. Then you start thinking dark thoughts about the person who has it. After all, they don’t deserve it! In fact, you hope that they’ll lose it. You might even try to make them lose it.


In the end, you are wrapped up in a seething internal maelstrom, wanting everything, hating everyone, your soul shrinking down, your fists clenched on empty air.


Not a pretty picture. Yet Maxie Dunnam and Kimberly Dunnam Reisman comment in their excellent study The Workbook on the Seven Deadly Sins, “While envy is the sin no one confesses, it is the sin of which most of us are guilty.” Be honest: are you guilty of envy?


* In the past, when have you been envious of someone else? What were the circumstances? What did you do about the envy?

* Are you envious of someone now? If so, what are the circumstances? Why are you envying them?

* If you are envious of someone now, spend time in confession, asking the Lord to forgive you and cleanse your heart from sin.

* How can you guard your heart against envy?

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