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How to tell if you’re envious — and 5 ways to overcome it

AMIES JALOUSES
© Shutterstock
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Envy poisons the soul and damages relationships, so it’s a good idea to work on the habits that help kick it to curb.

Envy destroys because it does not tolerate another person having something that you don’t have. The envious always suffer because they desire evil for others instead of good. Envious people generally show various symptoms: sadness, speaking ill of others, contempt, megalomania, and living in a constant state of competition.

This is according to Fr. Emiliano Antenucci, author of a book on speaking well of others which Pope Francis gave this year to his collaborators and employees in the Holy See. Together with Fr. Aldo Buonaiuto, Antenucci has just published a new book on a related topic: Envy: Mortal Poison – Why Him and Not Me? (currently available only in Italian.)

The authors claim that envy, the “poison of the soul,” involves denying one’s own value. An envious person wants what someone else has because he or she doesn’t appreciate their own dignity and gifts. They resent others because of their own insecurities, lack of self-esteem and, ultimately, a lack of objectivity to see reality as it is: different people have different gifts, and rather than wanting others to lose theirs, we should do our best to develop ours and make them bear fruit.

Envy is shown in the Bible as the cause of many sins—such as Cain’s murder of Abel, and King Saul’s aggression against David—and can tear apart families and nations, and even lead to wars. Thus, co-author Fr. Buonaiuto, an anthropologist and exorcist, says that envy is the worst of the capital sins because of the grave consequences it has on an individual and social level. 

The first step to overcoming envy is to recognize it. This requires humility and objectivity, which can be difficult, but which will eventually lead us to greater happiness.

In short, “envy is the sadness for the happiness of others, and it is combated through gratitude and thanksgiving for life, and through praise and gratitude for the gifts of others,” said Fr. Emiliano Antenucci. More concretely, here are five actions we can take to overcome envy in our lives:

1
Pray

If we want to purify our eyes and heart, cleansing them of the poison of envy, we need to pray. Fr. Antenucci suggests the following prayer:

During this moment of prayer, Jesus,
I ask you the favor of freeing me from the ugly poison of envy,
brought into the world by Satan.
Lord, I ask you to come to the aid of my fragility and my weaknesses.
I surrender everything completely to you, Lord:
the moments when I have experienced the feeling of envy,
whether towards friends, family, or others.
I ask you, Holy Spirit,
that you come into my heart and into my life,
freeing me completely of envy.
Come, Holy Spirit of God, give me a pure and simple heart,
one that is pleased with who I am and what I have.
Come, Holy Spirit, open my eyes to the riches I possess.
Come, Holy Spirit of God,
cover me with your power to protect me
from the envious who want to harm me and my family.
I renounce all envy in the name of the Father,
of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

2
Give thanks

Fr. Emiliano advises us to pray and give thanks for the many gifts we receive our lives, but, he says, we need to learn to also give thanks for the gifts received by others or represented in them. Prayer of thanksgiving is an exercise in liberation from self-complacency and from focusing only on oneself. Moreover, gratitude means not relying only on our own strength.

3
Respect others

Respect is a feeling and attitude of reverence towards someone who is considered worthy of esteem and honor. Wise and holy people make us feel special and important, not because they want something from us, but because they reflect God’s unconditional love for us as His children. That’s the way we should treat everyone.

4
Value others

To assign value means to recognize and esteem the merit of a person, thing, or action. Esteeming another person means seeing them with the optimism with which God looks at us.

5
Commit

Make a commitment to rejoice in the gifts received by other people, and share in their happiness as if it were our own. Fr. Antenucci speaks of joining hands in prayer and “getting our hands dirty” in works of charity.

In short: With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can learn to be thankful for the gifts God has given us and those around us. Envy will disappear when we recognize that all people share in the dignity of God’s children; when we respect and value everyone, each with unique strengths and weaknesses. These attitudes will truly bear fruit to build unity and banish envy when they are translated into action through shared prayer and works of charity.

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