Human life is shot through with envy. Envy whispers in our ear about a neighbor who has slightly more than we do –a nicer car, more recognition, a prettier wife, more accomplished children. Envy wants to silence praise for others and grows angry when praise continues (Nietzsche).
Enslaved to envy, we rejoice at those who weep, and weep at those who rejoice. We become “insatiable in our outbursts against the happy” (Nietzsche). When we don’t achieve our goals, we think, “If I cannot have something, no one is to have anything, no one is to be anything. Let the world perish!” (Nietzsche).
Envy boils up as hatred. Envy isolates. Envy breeds self-pity and victimization, for envy convinces us that if the world were fair we’d be on top.
The starting point for overcoming envy is to accept a simple truth: God does not envy. This seems obvious to us, but it wasn’t obvious to the ancients. Ancient people were afraid to become too prosperous or too happy, because that would arouse the envy of the gods. Before long, they knew, the gods would pounce.
Our God doesn’t envy. The Father unreservedly honors the Son who without envy acclaims the Father, and both glorify us in their Spirit. Human society is liberated from envy when filled and united by that Spirit, so that we rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. A society free of envy is a society of shameless, fearless, and mutual happiness.
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Sunday, May 6, 2012 at 5:38 am
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