The Capital Sin of envy that we all carry within is us due to the effects of Original Sin. It can literally destroy us as well as countless others if it is not recognized, resisted, rejected and conquered through the grace of God and our own determination. What are some positive steps we can take to conquer the sin of envy?
1. An Honest Admission
If we do not honestly admit and come to terms with the reality of envy in our hearts then we will never be able to conquer it. Blindness to defects does not conquer them but exacerbates them!
There is a Spanish expression that sums it up: No hay peor ciego que aquel que no quiere ver; no hay peor sordo que aquel que no quiere oir. (Translation: “There is no worse blind person than he who does not want to see; there is no worse deaf person than he who does not want to hear.”) How many alcoholics never admit their addiction and problem until they die young of alcoholism?
Willfully giving in to envy is a sin. Therefore bringing this sin to the sacrament of Confession results in healing. That’s because the specific sacramental grace of Confession is the healing of our soul of the moral infirmity of sin.
3. The Ignatian “Agere Contra”
This is an Ignatian expression that means: do not give into it, but do the opposite! Instead of hurting the person you envy, do him good either by prayer or by action.
4. Pray for Whoever You Envy
Once our bad tendencies — especially that of envy — is brought to prayer, then God can do miracles; He can move the highest mountains of our pride, anger and our envy. “Let go and let God!”
By ourselves we are the essence of weakness and misery. However, God is Omnipotent. “All things are possible with God!”
5. Compliment and Praise
When envy takes root in the heart the tendency, with respect to speech, is to criticize, gossip, denigrate, and debase the person. Conquer envy by praising or complimenting him/her on her good qualities! Do this in either God’s presence or in the presence of others!
6. Give Thanks to God
Thank God from the bottom of your heart for the wonderful talents that He has given to all people in this world, but especially the person you envy most. How dumb, anyway, it is to envy!
What we are envying is simply a talent that God has given that has been recognized and cultivated. Why envy God’s gifts?
7. Cultivate a Team Spirit
On a baseball team, if one player hits a game-winning home-run, it is not the individual player who won the game. The whole team won.
When we pray the Our Father we acknowledge that God is the Father of all of humanity and of each and every one of us in particular. That means that we are all brothers and sisters of the same Heavenly Father. Therefore, your victory is my victory; your defeat is my defeat!
Remember the words of the Apostle St. Paul in this regard: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep!” St. Therese of Lisieux said that when evil is done the whole world descends. However, when good is done the whole world is elevated closer to heaven.
Why not rejoice in others’ spiritual victories? Earth has been elevated closer to heaven!
8. Self-Knowledge of Our Talents
A very telling parable is found in the 25th chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew. Three men are given talents. Two of them double the talents with hard work. The last, due to fear and laziness, digs a hole and buries the talent under the ground.
Upon returning, the Master does a rendition of counts. The first two hard-working and faithful servants are praised and awarded for their dedication. However, the lazy servant who hid his talent underneath the ground was chastised.
All of us have talents! Art, music, sports, study, communication, painting, writing, cooking, prayer, spirituality — all of these are God-given talents. They can be cultivated and prosper and be of use in cultivating the “Civilization of Love” or they can lay fallow, rust, deteriorate and decay. Incumbent upon all indeed it is that we discover our specific talents and then cultivate them to the maximum. By doing this we will not be focusing upon the talents and success of our “rival” and allow envy to possess and conquer us!
In the famous story of The Juggler of Notre Dame, a young man enters into the convent. Being unable to study well or arrive at sublime mystical gifts, he feels he has nothing to offer God or his community. The only thing he can do is juggle! So, before the image of Our Lady, he does his juggling stunts in a silent and hidden way. Our Lady, seeing this performance, smiles profusely. This was the gift he could offer to God and to His Blessed Mother.
What type of juggling act can you do for God to avoid focusing on others’ talents and succumbing to envy?
9. Thanksgiving List
In the life of the young Jesuit, St. John Berchmans, S.J, an incident is recorded, pertinent to our topic of conquering and crushing the ugly head of the devil of envy.
John lived in a community with both brothers as well as priests. Imbued with an authentic spirit of charity, Berchmans was keenly aware of the talents and gifts that God had bestowed upon every one of the members. Therefore, John Berchmans wrote a list of all of the members in the Jesuit Community. Then next to each and every one of the members he wrote a virtue or positive attribute and then composed a litany of thanksgiving to God for that virtue.
Why not list your family members and next to each one write a positive attribute and thank God for that gift? A great way to conquer envy!
10. Mary’s Magnificat
Turn to Mary and pray to her when tempted to fall into envy. Say a quick Hail Mary when tempted to be jealous! Be thankful and praise God with Mary’s hymn of praise: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior..”