The figure of the devil is all the rage today, even though many say that no, let’s not give it any more thought, that this being only exists in our imagination… I will not now enter into the interesting debate about his existence and his nature. It is enough for me to begin this reflection. Those who write about devils agree in recognising that these beings – as befits the demonic profession – are perfectly familiar with human vices.
One of these vices is pride, the mother of envy. As the Germans say: “Pride strikes with two darts: anger and envy”. It is easy to recognise pride in our angry reactions to those who aspire to and achieve what we long for. We angrily ask ourselves how such a person is luckier without being better equipped than we are to achieve it. We usually begin by envying banal things (small triumphs, trips, clothes, money, sympathy, physical attractiveness…); things that are, in the end, petty. But when envy has taken its toll on our arrogant soul, it no longer leaves us room for control, not even for common sense. Our narcissistic heart fills with rage and pushes us to consider the other as an undesirable adversary just because of envy. Pope Francis comments that envy is “the yellow vice like jaundice, the liver disease that produces a yellowish colour”. Yellow is the colour of death. Corpses tend to be yellow. Hence we use the expression “to die of envy”.
By comparing ourselves we turn it into “adversary”. In Latin “adversus” is one who is against us, or at least we consider him as such. By virtue of the feeling it arouses, we turn it into an enemy, rival, antagonist, competitor, … And a dark shadow of antipathy and repulsion envelops us with sadness and disgust. Sometimes, alas, it even leads us to hate to death. In the opening pages of the Bible, the story of Cain and Abel tells of envy. Cain will end up killing Abel just because he compares the results of his offerings to God with those of his brother.
To a certain extent it is true that envy is one of the driving forces of human history, because it drives the human species towards self-improvement. But we must not be naïve in the face of the seductive lure of being competitive, which, without rules, turns us into savages. It is necessary to free ourselves from the “adversary syndrome” in order not to die of envy. This liberation requires a patient and methodical training that has as its programme what St. Paul said: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with the power of good” (Rom 12:20-21).
Juan Carlos cmf
(PHOTO: Peter Forster)