ENVY

“THERE IS NO GREATER TORMENT”


ENVY,

WHICH IS THE VICE OPPOSITE TO THE VIRTUE OF LOVE,

may be of two kinds. The first is when we are saddened by the fortune of others, whereas the second is when we exult at the misfortunes of others. But both these feelings may at times exist without any vice. For it is good to exult at other people’s defects in order that they may correct them, and to despise their good fortune in order to keep them from becoming arrogant. But before we can have full under-standing of such a feeling, we must well see and understand the nature of virtue itself. Aristotle says that virtue is a good quality of one’s mind whereby one lives righteously and avoids evil. And virtue is also an ordered, well built mind. It is not a natural or artificial physical beauty, but rather resides in the soul, in reason, in piety of life and customs, in love of God and in honor.


We may compare the vice of envy to the magpie who is a bird so envious that when she sees her young getting fat in the nest, she hits them in the ribs with her beak so as to infect their flesh and make them thin. Seneca says that envy draws evil from good and good from evil. And he also says that it is easier to avoid distress at poverty than envy of riches. And we read in the “Summa” of vices that just as the worm gnaws wood and vermin eats up clothes, so envy corrodes man. Solomon says: “When your enemy falls and is ruined, do not rejoice at his ruin, for it does not please God.” And also: “He who rejoices at other people s misfortunes will not go unpunished.” St. Gregory says that there is no greater torment in the world than envy and that where there is envy there cannot be love. The greatest vengeance one may invent against an envious man is to do him good. Seneca says: “Do not offend anyone and do not acquire enemies. But envy does both to a high degree.” Ovid says: “Envy always makes grass seem higher in other people’s meadows.” Plato says: “An envious man is never free of pain, just as the hypocrite is never free from fear.” St. Augustine says: “He who is envious can love no one, and so there can be no worse vice than envy.” Homer says: “One should fear the envy of relatives and friends more than the envy of enemies.” Ptolemy says: “The envious man is even content to suffer loss in order to damage someone else.”


About this vice of envy we read in the Old Testament. Cain saw that his brother Abel was prospering and that from day to day all his property was improving. This happened because he received these graces from God. Out of envy Cain slew his brother with a club. And Cain and Abel were the first two brothers that ever lived on earth and this was the first blood ever shed in the world.


                    Envy is blind, and she has no other quality

                    than that of detracting from virtue.—Livy


Emulation looks out for merits, that she

may exalt herself by victory;

Envy spies out blemishes, that she may

lower another by defeat.

          —CHARLES CALEB COLTON


                                         The most certain sign of being born with

                                         great qualities is to he born without envy.

                                                             —LA ROCHEFOUcAULD



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