CD 299: Envy of another's success

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I think that I work conscientiously at my job, but I find that I become jealous of those who manage to achieve better results. Is this a sin or a motivation?

Envy occurs when we are saddened or angered by another’s good, experience pain at hearing them praised, and when we tend to undermine their good repute. (Strictly speaking, jealousy is a related but distinct fault in which we have an excessive love of our own good and the fear of being deprived of it by others.) Envy is opposed to charity because we should rejoice in the good of others. As a capital sin, envy leads to other evils such as wishing someone ill, speaking calumny or detraction against them, sowing discord, a disordered quest for success and reward, and disturbing the peace of our soul.

Envy can be either a sin or a temptation. Sometimes feelings of envy arise without our wishing them, and in such a case, as with other passions, it is an opportunity for growth in the spiritual life. A negative remedy is to try to put such thoughts from our minds or distract ourselves until we are able to think charitably of the other person. Positively we can recall that even at a natural level, we are members one of another in society and the good of one works to the good of all. (This is true in a special way in the Church where we are members of the Body of Christ.) We can also be motivated to emulate another person: not by seeking to match their success, but by imitating what is virtuous in their behaviour. The motive of this is not to surpass others competitively but to give greater glory to God.

As with any potentially sinful feeling, the spiritual battle to overcome envy is an opportunity to grow in virtue and, by giving our efforts a supernatural motive, to grow in grace. The further benefits of this struggle are that we return to peace of soul and give others an example of what it is to live as a Christian amid the everyday trials of life.

Catholic Dilemmas column published originally in the Catholic Herald
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