When you check social media do you come away feeling refreshed and inspired by the people you follow, or unhappy and bitter? Do you find yourself feeling resentful of other people’s good fortune? If so, then it’s likely that you struggle with envy. Envy is one of the seven deadly sins, and it can significantly damage your mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Fr. Robert McTeigue, a regular Relevant Radio® contributor, stopped by Morning Air® recently to discuss envy, and the key to overcoming the green-eyed monster.
Fr. McTeigue first explained how envy is different than jealousy, saying, “People use the words interchangeably. And that’s unfortunate. If you take a closer look at the roots, jealousy is that I don’t want you to have what I have, so stop looking at my stuff. Envy is that I resent that you have what you have and I want it. And at its worst it is that if I can’t have what you have then I don’t want anyone to have it. So I’ll destroy it and I’ll destroy you. It goes from resentment to a very terrible spite.”
Overcoming envy can be difficult because it often begins so young. Fr. McTeigue pointed out that there are a lot of forces that actually promote envy in order to sell more goods or motivate consumerism, saying, “We’re raised to be materialists. If the only thing in front of us is a pizza, then every slice I take is one less for you. But if we value things like truth, beauty, and goodness they are multiplied when they’re shared, not divided. Envy works best in a materialist framework, which is what we have nowadays.”
The good news is that even though inclinations to envy start young, whether you are young or old you can work to overcome envy by practicing gratitude instead.
“You can’t start too soon,” Fr. McTeigue said. “If you start with a habit of gratitude at an early age you protect your child against so many sins and so many maladies and dysfunction. So just counting your blessings every day. And praying at the end of the day and asking, ‘What are you grateful for?’ That’s a great habit to develop in kids.”
It’s easy to think that we don’t have an attitude of entitlement, but if we examine our spiritual life and relationship with the Lord, we can often see how easily we expect God to give us what we want – and how resentful we can grow if we don’t get it. When it comes to envy and entitlements, whether material or spiritual, the key to overcoming them is always gratitude.
“Entitlement says, ‘Give me free stuff, just because.’ And we have to say no, it doesn’t work that way,” Fr. McTeigue said. “Gratitude is recognizing that I didn’t have to exist. God called me out of nothing and sustains me, protects me from reverting to nothing, because I can’t resist the nothingness under my own power. And not only does He call me out of nothing, which is an infinite gift, He calls me to union with Himself. Therefore, count it all joy. Amazing grace! I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and my first obligation is to express my gratitude in worship.”
If you struggle with envy, you can make a fresh start today toward a life of joy and gratitude. But you can’t do it alone. Fr. McTeigue suggested to begin first with the grace found in the sacraments.
“If you’ve got a problem, one of the first steps you have to do is go to Confession,” Fr. McTeigue encouraged. “Going to Confession is part of the solution for every human problem. You have to own it. That I’m not counting my blessings, that I have a bad attitude about somebody else’s good. Someone might be materially blessed, but we don’t know what crosses they’re carrying. We don’t know what grief or wounds they’re staggering under.”
“And I need to get my own house in order first. If I’m convinced that I am a loved sinner, then what is going on in other people’s lives, in terms of haves and haves not, is not very interesting. So count your blessings and then go to Confession.”
Listen to the full conversation below