Solidarity with others and envy

By Engr. Carlos Cornejo

Here’s another virtue that we can appreciate better if we talk first about its opposing vice.  The virtue we are referring to can have many names.  It can be called solidarity with others or being united with them in their cause or in their joys as much as we are united with them in their sorrows.  It can also be named as admiring others for their good qualities or good deeds and thus we don’t only admire them but also aspire to follow their good example.   On the other hand, the opposing vice can only have one name.  It is the capital sin of envy.

St. Thomas Aquinas defines envy as “sorrow at another’s good”.  Envy is seeing something good in others either spiritual in nature (virtues, holiness, etc.), physical (good looks, talent, etc.) or material (money, items, etc.) that we think we should have too.  And since we don’t have it, we feel that sorrow.  Envy is the only vice that gives no pleasure at all to the person experiencing it.  Not even temporary pleasure.  All the other sins such as pride, greed, lust give pleasure in one form or another (that is why its enticing) but envy only offers pure sorrow.  Envy is a malicious sin because it is the sin of the devil.  The ancient Book of Wisdom says, “By the envy of the devil, death came into the world” (Wisdom 2:24).  Pride and envy are Satan’s own special sins.

Second reason why envy is malicious: it could lead to a worse sin of hatred.  And hatred is the lowest form of sin because we are supposed to love others as the highest commandment of God along with love for God.   We are supposed to be in solidarity with others, able to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” as St. Paul would advise us in Romans 12:15. Envy on the other hand weeps at those who rejoice and rejoices at those who weep.

We should not be envious of others because God has given us all a good proportion of talents and abilities.  Some are good in math. Others are good in science.  Others have a talent in singing, others in dancing.  But there is no one who is good in everything.  This is how God treats us “equally”, by creating us differently.  If we don’t understand or accept this, then we will always have a reason to be envious.  It is not humanly equal but divinely equal.  For with God there is no equity or uniformity in talents and features otherwise we will be robots.  Variety is the spice of life.

So, when we see goodness in others, we should admire them, be happy for them and even emulate them. There is always something good in us and in others that we could learn from regardless of color, race, religion, gender or profession.  Besides there is no one who is pure evil.  That title belongs only to the devil.  The ultimate antidote to envy is seeking our joy in the Lord.  With Him we don’t lack anything (spiritual) even if we don’t have much (material or physical) in the eyes of the world.   “Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation.” (Psalm 35:9)