10 Ways Envy Can Hurt, and 11 Ways Not to Let it

The destructive force of envy can destroy a soul.

(photo: Rartat [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons)

Envy hardly feels like a choice. It is an unwelcome, dark feeling that appears, all at once, as if it was there all along, when something wonderful happens. But not to you. It brings sadness that becomes envy if allowed to grow into anger and even hatred at the person who has the wonderful thing. Maybe you are not as attractive, or popular, or rich, or as successful.

Everyone is at risk, because there is always something that we would like that someone else has more of. Even holiness. St. Benedict was the object of attempted poisoning twice in his life by fellow monks. After St. Bernadette of Lourdes became a cloistered sister, the mother superior treated her very harshly—downright cruelly— because the Blessed Mother had appeared to Bernadette, someone she judged as so “ordinary.” Lots of the saints were targets of envy from others. All goodie-two-shoes are. See? A nasty name we are all familiar with for the crime of being too good.

The destructive force of envy can destroy a soul. As Christians, we know full well that envy interferes with loving our neighbor, but even a non-religious person should want to stop it because who wants a big, dark feeling living in their gut?

Below is a list of 10 problems and another of 11 solutions to envy that was inspired by a chapter on envy in Father Ed Broom’s book From Humdrum to Holy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Living Like a Saint.


10 Reasons to Fight Envy

  1. Insecurity. By comparing, we foster the feeling of not measuring up.
  2. We miss out. While being envious, we fail to notice what God is doing for us.
  3. Gossip and slander. Envy leads to speaking against those we are envious of. After all, if we’ve indulged in envy of others, why wouldn’t we act in ways to lower them?
  4. Bad reputation. Envious people are insecure and speak against others. What is your opinion of them?
  5. Unhappy and unhealthy. Envy leads to insomnia, anxiety, and stress by obsessing over what others have that we want.
  6. Sabotage. An envious person wants to see the downfall of others who have what they want, like with Cain and Abel and David and Saul. In the end, the envious ones fall. Even if the envious person does not actively sabotage, he will delight in the downfall of the other.
  7. Family fights and lost friendships. Envy kills relationships causing a person to feel they are getting the short end of the stick. In families, especially around inheritance issues, it leads to arguments and broken relationships.
  8. Murder. It sounds drastic, but there are several TV series about murder cases, many of them committed out of envy. And even if a person does not actually kill another, desiring their downfall and even death is still sinning in their heart.
  9. Selfishness. The more someone gives in to envy, the more entitled and selfish they come, feeling cheated by life.
  10. Spiritual Death. To pursue greater union with God requires loosening our grip on the world and not looking around at what everyone is doing or what they have.

11 Ways to Fight Envy

  1. Push aside the feeling and pray.
  2. Busy yourself. Find something you enjoy and get busy with it.
  3. Examine your life. What are your wounds that lead to envy and insecurity? What are your goals and how do they match up with what kind of life Jesus taught us to live?
  4. Force yourself to pray for the person who tempts you to envy as a sort of inoculation against it. It is an act in union with God of sincerely trying to overcome envy.
  5. Gratitude. Consider the ways you have been blessed and thank God for them.
  6. Aim High. Identify your role models and the qualities you want to emulate. Envy won’t be one of the qualities.
  7. Go to confession. Ask God for mercy for times you have been envious and help to stop.
  8. Make a list of the times that not getting something you wanted led to better things.
  9. Be charitable. Seek out those less fortunate than yourself and help them.
  10. Read the New Testament. Pay attention to the words of Jesus and seek to follow him.
  11. Talk to a counselor, spiritual director, or trusted friend who can help you into a better mindset.