Sunday, November 7, 2010

the sin no one talks about

No one really admits to struggling with this, do they? Well, line up behind me, folks. It’s such a low class sin to confess to. I'll joke about my gluttony, admit to my slothfulness, and boldly proclaim myself as a serial procrastinator but admitting to the sin of envy, it's just so, well, seedy.

But, seedy or not, it's also just so deadly, and maybe the worst of all the Seven deadly sins* spoken of, not just because it’s so destructive, but because it will not let you and I live productively. It doesn’t let us be satisfied with what we have or be grateful for our own talents and personality. It hinders us from finding meaning in our life because we think the meaning must be someplace else.

Liking this a lot. From Envy (Joseph Epstein):

Whatever else it is, envy is above all a great waste of mental energy. While it cannot be proved whether or not envy is part of human nature, what can be proven, I believe, is that, unleashed, envy tends to diminish all in whom it takes possession. Wherever envy comes into play, judgment is coarsened and cheapened. However the mind works, envy, we know, is one of its excesses, and as such it must be identified and fought against by the only means at our disposal: self-honesty, self-analysis, and balanced judgment.

If theological thinking is unavailable to you, if the very notion of "sin," original or unoriginal, as damning simply makes no sense to you, I would invite you instead to consider envy less as sin than as poor mental hygiene. It blocks out clarity, both about oneself and the people one envies, and it ends by giving one a poor opinion of oneself. No one can see clearly anything he or she envies. Envy clouds though, clobbers generosity, precludes any hope of sincerity, and ends in shriveling the heart -- reasons enough to fight free of it with all one's mental strength.

Envy (by Joseph Epstein) is the first in the Oxford University Press/New York Public Library Seven Deadly Sins series.

While I do think and believe envy a sin (the scriptures are full of examples and so direct that we begin to see our own struggle with it, eh?), I like how Epstein describes it as poor mental hygiene. A kind of mental illness and when we look at what it destroys, a kind of spiritual illness, too.

Envy, for me, is usually dejected. Envy becomes sad or depressed over my own lack of achievements or position or looks or…whatever. You fill in the blank. When someone else succeeds sometimes I don’t rejoice but rather think I’ve never been blessed, my life is a failure. Such thinking, it’s crap, I tell you. Crap as in distorted thinking to the max.

When I’m constantly depressed and distressed about my circumstances (someone else has a new China cabinet, someone else raised a problem free child! someone else can still wear a size 8, someone else has the energy and skills to paint murals on their walls) I am envious rather than grateful. And this folks is the root of the problem here for me.

Oh, November, blessed month of celebrating gratitude, you couldn’t have come at a better time. The antidote for all this envy and comparison making, it’s all helped along by feeling gratitude. Duh.

My problem with envy is maybe I don’t really get or understand gratitude. Care to guess the bent my blog sermons will take this month?

Some more thoughts on the green eyed thing:

*Traditionally known as: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.


lacy lee said...

This is such a good call, aunt. Why is it that when someone else does well, I feel like it's nothing more than a reflection of how poorly (or not as well) I'm doing. When really, it has nothing to do with me. Then I get down on myself for being self-centered. Blah.

I didn't know Nov. was an official month of gratitude! And now I can be thankful for having been informed :)

Love you!

Anonymous said...

Is it bad that I only envy myself?