The Sinner's Guide
Ven. Louis of Granada
With Imprimi Potest and Imprimatur


Ch 33. Remedies against Envy

Envy consists in grieving at another's good or repining at another's happiness. The envious man looks with hatred upon his superiors who excel him, upon his equals who compete with him, upon his inferiors who strive to equal him. Saul's envy of David and the Pharisees' envy of Christ could only be satisfied by death; for it is the character of this cruel vice to stop at nothing until it has compassed its end. Of its nature it is a mortal sin, because, like hatred, it is directly opposed to charity. However, in this, as in other sins, there are degrees which do not constitute a mortal sin, as, for example, when hatred or envy is not grave, or when the will does not fully consent.

Envy is a most powerful, a most injurious vice. It is spread all over the world, but predominates particularly in the courts of kings and in the society of the rich and powerful. Who, then, can be free from its attacks? Who is so fortunate as to be neither the slave nor the object of envy? From the beginning of the world history abounds with examples of this fatal vice. It was the cause of the first fratricide which stained the earth, when Cain killed Abel. (Cf. Gen. 4). It existed between the brothers Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, and the latter fell a victim to the envy of the former. Behold its effects in the brothers of Joseph, who sold him as a slave. (Cf. Gen. 37); in Aaron and Mary, the brother and sister of Moses. (Cf. Num. 12). Even the disciples of Our Lord, before the coming of the Holy Ghost, were not wholly free from it.

Ah! When we see such examples, what must we expect to find among worldlings, who are far from possessing such sanctity, and who are seldom bound to one another by any ties? Nothing can give us an idea of the power of this vice or the ravages it effects. Good men are its natural prey, for it attacks with its poisoned dart all virtue and all talent. Hence Solomon says that all the labors and industries of men are exposed to the envy of their neighbors. (Cf. Eccles. 4:4).

Therefore, you must diligently arm yourself against the attacks of such an enemy, and unceasingly ask God to deliver you from it. Let your efforts against it be firm and constant. If it persevere in its attacks, continue to oppose an obstinate resistance, and make little account of the unworthy sentiments it suggests. If your neighbor enjoys a prosperity which is denied you, thank God for it, persuaded that you have not merited it or that it would not be salutary for you. Remember, moreover, that envying the prosperity of others does not alleviate your own misery, but rather increases it.

To strengthen your aversion to this vice, make use of the following reflections: Consider, first, what a resemblance the envious man bears to the devils, who look with rage upon our good works and the heavenly reward we are to receive for them. They have no hope of the happiness of which they would deprive us, for they know that they have irretrievably lost it; but they are unwilling that beings created out of dust should enjoy honors of which they have been dispossessed. For this reason St: Augustine says, "May God preserve from this vice not only the hearts of all Christians, but of all men, for it is the special vice of devils, and one which causes them the most hopeless suffering." The crime of Satan is not theft or impurity, but enviously seeking, after his fall, to make man imitate his rebellion. This is truly the feeling which actuates the envious.

Oftentimes the prosperity of others is no prejudice to them; they could not profit by what they strive to take from their neighbor; but they would have all equally miserable with themselves. If, then, the possessions which you envy in another could not be yours were he dispossessed of them, why should they be a cause of grief to you? When you envy the virtue of another you are your own greatest enemy; for if you continue in a state of grace, united to your neighbor through charity, you have a share in all his good works, and the more he merits the richer you become. So far, therefore, from envying his virtue, you should find it a source of consolation. Alas! Because your neighbor is advancing, will you fall back? Ah! If you would love in him the virtues which you do not find in yourself, you would share in them through charity; the profit of his labors would also become yours.

Consider, moreover, how envy corrodes the heart, weakens the understanding, destroys all peace of soul, and condemns us to a melancholy and intolerable existence. Like the worm which eats the wood in which it is engendered, it preys upon the heart in which it was given birth. Its ravages extend even to the countenance, whose paleness testifies to the passion which rages within. This vice is itself the severest judge against its victim, for the envious man is subjected to its severest tortures. Hence certain authors have termed it a just vice, not meaning that it is good, for it is a most heinous sin, but meaning that it is its own greatest punishment.

Consider, again, how opposed is the sin of envy to charity, which is God, and to the common good, which everyone should promote to the best of his ability; for when we envy another's good, when we hate those to whom God unceasingly manifests His love, when we persecute those whom He created and redeemed, do we not, at least in desire, strive to undo the work of God?

But a more efficacious remedy against this vice is to love humility and abhor pride, which is the father of envy. A proud man, who cannot brook a superior or an equal, naturally envies all who appear to excel him, persuading himself that he descends in proportion as another rises. Hence the Apostle says, "Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another." (Gal. 5:26). In other words, let us destroy the root of envy, which is vainglory.

Let us wean our hearts from worldly honors and possessions, and seek only spiritual riches, for such treasures are not diminished when enjoyed by numbers, but, on the contrary, are increased. It is otherwise with the goods of the earth, which must decrease in proportion to the numbers who share them. For this reason envy finds easy access to the soul which covets the riches of this life, where one necessarily loses what another gains.

Do not be satisfied with feeling no grief at the prosperity of your neighbor, but endeavor to benefit him all you can, and the good you cannot give him ask God to grant him. Hate no man. Love your friends in God, and your enemies for God. He so loved you while you were still His enemy that He shed the last drop of His Blood to save you from the tyranny of your sins.

Your neighbor may be wicked, but that is no reason for hating him. In such a case imitate the example of a wise physician, who loves his patient, but hates his disease. We must abhor sin, which is the work of man, but we must always love our neighbor, who is the work of God. Never say in your heart: "What is my neighbor to me? I owe him nothing. We are bound by no ties of blood or interest. He has never done me a favor, but has probably injured me." Reflect rather on the benefits which God unceasingly bestows upon you, and remember that all He asks in return is that you be charitable and generous, not to Him, for He has no need of you or your possessions, but to your neighbor, whom He has recommended to your love.