A while back, I discussed the Seven Deadly Sins, specifically the sin of Sloth. I mentioned that as an American living in the 21st century, I am tempted by the other six Deadly Sins, too: Pride, Anger, Lust, Greed, Envy, and Gluttony.
For example, since the COVID-19 shutdown produced a concept known as “Quarantine Snacking,” I’ve been fighting a losing battle against the Deadly Sin of Gluttony. (Actually, I haven’t been fighting all that hard. My “battle” tactics have been a lot like the French army in 1940: lay down my weapon, and then wave a white flag with one hand while using the other hand to shove a donut into my mouth.)
Anyway, although I am tempted by all seven of the Deadly Sins, I’d have to say the sin that is the biggest struggle for me right now is Envy. And number one on my Envy list are government employees who retire in their mid- to late-50s with large lifetime pensions.
Envy is incredibly destructive. It’s the only one of the Deadly Sins that produces no pleasure at all. The other sins, terrible as they are, make the sinner feel good for a brief time, until, of course, all the inevitable negative aspects of the sin come crashing down onto him or her.
Envy makes you feel miserable immediately. There's no happiness, however fleeting, with Envy. It's pure bitterness from the very start.
Right now our society is consumed by Envy. For example, Envy is one of the most frequently used technique in advertising, even more so than sex. Just think how often people buy things they don’t really need, just because they’re made to feel envious of others who already own the items. If people stopped making economic decisions based on Envy, they’d have a whole lot more money in their bank accounts.
Our society is overflowing with Envy. And without a doubt, that’s a major reason why so many citizens are miserable these days. Envy drives away happiness.
And do you know what the worst thing about Envy is? When we are envious, we completely lose sight of all the blessings in our lives. Despite the economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, most folks in this country still have a standard of living higher than 99% of all the people who have ever lived (and that even includes those of us who do not have lifetime government pensions).
Imagine that someone from the year 1820 was suddenly transported to the year 2020, and then spent a few days following us around. After being flabbergasted by automobiles, iPads, microwave ovens, refrigerators, and electric lights, this colonial time-traveler most likely would exclaim to us, “You live like a king. Nay, better than a king! You have an abundance of food and clothing and shelter. You can travel easily and communicate with people in distant lands. And most of all, you have clean running water and flush toilets! How can you possibly be frustrated that you don’t have enough possessions? Why are you envious of others, when God hath blessed you so abundantly?!”
Hmm, good question, Jedidiah.
The antidote for Envy is gratitude. We need to count our blessings and focus on the wonderful things we have, rather than the things other people have. It’s the only way to get rid of the bitter unhappiness Envy produces. I’ll go first. I promise to be thankful for my job (which I enjoy, and which pays me enough to cover my bills), and stop whining about government employees and their generous lifetime pensions.
And I’ll try to stay away from the donuts for a while, too.