Guide to Goodness

Winning the Spiritual Battle of Envy and Anger with Kindness and Forgiveness

Last Sunday, we looked at the role pride plays in keeping us from living the good life and how humility is the cure for this dis-ease.   Today we look at the next two deadly sins, envy and anger and their cure, kindness, and forgiveness.  Envy and anger have a symbiotic relationship, as they create conflict within us and with others.  Where one is present, usually the other is there if we peel back the layers of our emotions.

Emotions can be tricky, but it is helpful to remind ourselves that they can be a good thing if we have awareness and use them as a tool to question what is really going on.  When we are in conflict, we often get stuck in thoughts of how difficult a person or situation is making us feel.  This is counterproductive because if we focus on the other person, we are not getting closer to resolving the issue.  By looking at our part in the situation, we can create a shift and work through our reactions and emotions towards a positive outcome. 

In Bishop Barron’s recent Sunday Sermon called “Envy Will Destroy Us”, he outlines how prominent a role jealousy plays in our world and how along with jealousy it is a powerful dynamic in human relationships.  St. Thomas Aquinas defines envy as an irrational anger at the success of others.  It is when we look at and compare ourselves to others.  He goes on to say that a very close cousin to envy is ambition or putting people down to put yourself up so you never have to face the moment where someone else might be ahead of you.

Comparing myself to others was a dangerous game I played for many years.  Not only did it keep me accepting unacceptable behaviors, but it also kept me in the future, unable to enjoy the present moment.  Once I learned to feel and accept my emotions and confess my part in the situation, I started living in freedom rather than the trap of comparison.

What is envy?

Envy is the root of all hatred.  It is taking pleasure in the misfortune of others or despairing when someone prospers.  It can be jealousy towards another’s happiness and even a desire to possess the same advantage. Envy is a feeling of discontent or resentment aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or blessings. It is a capital sin and is the root cause of other sin and dysfunction.  Because conflict in the outside world begins with conflict and disorder inside us, it is important for us to have the courage to look at what as are sowing in our life. 

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.

1 Peter 2:1-2

What are some of the effects of envy?

  • Envy will cause a rift in your relationship with God and others.
  • It can start gossip and destroy reputations.
  • Envy can be cruelty where we don’t want someone to get ahead, or we step on people to get ahead.
  • It is ingratitude toward God.
  • Pride plays a role creating within us a false sense of superiority to others.
  • Envy injures the Mystical Body of Christ and hampers relationships with others.
  • When envy desires grave harm to another, it is a mortal sin – even if no action is taken!

How can I identify envy within me?

  • Hatred – intense dislike or ill-will.
  • Tale-bearing – malicious gossip or revealing secrets.
  • Detraction – reduce or take away the worth or value of a person or thing.
  • Joy at our neighbor’s misfortune.
  • Grief of others prosperity.

Swap Envy with Kindness  

Kindness or wishing the best for others helps us overcome the sin of envy.  Our love for someone should be without bias or spite.  God blesses each of us in different ways and it is through these gifts that He fulfills His purpose in the world.

  • Be thankful.  Thank God every day for what you have and what you don’t have. 
  • Look upon your life with positivity rather than counting the ways God “hasn’t” blessed you.
  • Wish the best for others, which fosters brotherly love.
  • Admire others, offering respect or warm approval.
  • Pray for the Holy (Theological) virtue of Hope to heal the spiritual sin of envy.

What is Anger?

Anger is acting in hostility or desiring revenge.  It is uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger and the desire to get even when we feel that we have been wronged.  Anger can be manifested as strong feelings of indignation, annoyance, displeasure or hostility. Anger is sinful when we cling to our resentment, when we are insulting, when we unfairly punish, or if we desire to harm another.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

What are some of the effects of anger?

  • Anger separates us from God, family, friends, and neighbors because it destroys peace.
  • It is an obstacle to grace – which we all need!
  • It is our pride and selfishness seeking comfort.
  • Anger is virtuous only when there is a just cause (recall Jesus overturning the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple).

How can I identify anger within me?

  • Indignation – annoyance provoked by what is perceived to be unfair.
  • Swelling of the mind – gradual building of a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.
  • Clamor – raising your voice.
  • Blasphemy – profane talk.
  • Name calling – abusive language or insults.
  • Quarrels – arguments and disagreements.

Swap Anger with Forgiveness and Meekness

Ultimately, forgiveness means allowing love to triumph over anger and vengeance.  It does not minimize the reality of sin but seeks to conquer it with love.  Human forgiveness reflects our experience and understanding of God’s forgiveness.

  • Forgive from the heart.  This is probably the most challenging thing asked of us – to not simply say the words or go through the motions, but to truly forgive and let go.
  • Use Christ as the model.  Control your anger and resentment and cultivate patience.
  • Be patient and kind.  Moderate your emotions, take deep breaths before reacting.  Even if provoked, respond gently and meekly.
  • Learn Meekness.  This is acting with patience, mercy and charity when resolving conflicts.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the world”.  When He was confronted by angry crowds who wanted to torture and kill him, He prayed for them.  How often do we become upset and consumed by trivial matters?
  • Practice self-control.  The practice of self-control leads to achieving inner peace.
  • Shift your mindset.  Refuse to dwell on the perceived injustice.
  • Pray.  Ask the Lord to grace you with more of the Holy (Theological) virtue of Charity/Love which heals the spiritual sin of anger.

The letter of James tells us that where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder in addition to being the fountainhead of other sins.  Where do wars and conflict come from?  They come from disorders inside of us.  When we are disintegrated inside spiritually and psychologically, we sow this on the outside.  We are at war within.  If we are centered in Christ, we produce harmony and integration, living a life of self-emptying love for God’s kingdom.  When we let go of envy and anger and replace it with kindness and forgiveness, we bring God’s love and light into the world.

May we be Smitten with Kindness and Meekness,

Cynthia

The SinWhat does it mean?What does God Say?Swap the Sin with VirtueWhat can I do?
Pride Loving and esteeming oneself above others and above God; the root of all other sin.“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).Humility or Selflessness. recognizing that skills, talents, and all good qualities are gifts from God.Be humble. You need God and others. Pray and serve.
Envy Resenting others for their possessions or gifts. Jealousy towards another’s happiness.“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:1-2).Kindness. Wishing the best for others; brotherly love.Be thankful. Thank God every day for what you have and don’t have.
Anger Acting in hostility or desiring revenge. Uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger. Wrath.“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).Meekness. Acting with patience, mercy and charity when resolving conflicts.Be patient. Moderate your emotions, take deep breaths before reacting.
SlothDenying God’s will for the sake of comfort; avoiding physical or spiritual work. Laziness, lack of effort. “The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway” (Proverbs 15:19).Diligence. Following God’s will, even if it means sacrificing comfort. Be diligent. Have a schedule, don’t let your life revolve around resting and comfort.
Greed Desiring material things to excess, placing too much importance on possessions. “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more” (Ephesians 4:19).Generosity. Giving of time, talents, and gifts freely; realizing that no material thing is more important than God.Be generous. Donate something you like but don’t need to the poor.
GluttonyConsuming to an unhealthy excess. To over-indulge, especially in food and alcohol.“For drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags” (Proverbs 23:21).Temperance. Taking all things in moderation and to the point of goodnessBe moderate. Exercise regularly, avoid excess in eating and drinking.
LustConsidering others as mere objects of sexual desire.  “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).Chastity. Properly ordering physical appetites to one’s vocation.Be pure. Guard your heart. Give yourself a project, exercise when you are bored. 

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