What then is envy? Envy has been defined as “sorrow over another’s good insofar as it impedes one’s own excellence.” Aquinas says, “Envy is felt when someone is sorry that his neighbor possesses good things which he does not have.”  Envy is a sorrow that leads to hatred.

Cain murdering his brother Abel out of envy. Anonymous woodcut illustration uploaded by Gordon Johnson to Pixabay.

When we feel this sorrow at others’ blessings, we can end up refusing to contribute to our neighbor or even hating them. Envy gives birth to hatred because an envious person does not stop with jealousy toward another, and that jealousy can lead to harming the other or wishing them harm.

Acedia is sadness at the divine goodness or at life itself, while envy’s sadness is more anthropocentric: It is toward one’s neighbor’s goodness. Obviously, they feed each other. An ill-directed or unattended first chakra, one where sadness is not healed by some cosmic joy, will contaminate the seventh chakra as well which is where envy flourishes.

Envy is born of hurt and hatred and injustice. This is all the more reason why societies must pay attention early to injustice, for without justice visible and active the human heart will settle for resentment. Envy breeds resentment and resentment, as we have seen, can lead to war and hatred, scapegoating and projection.

Mary Trump, psychologist, author, and niece to Donald Trump, joins MSNBC‘s Lawrence O’Donnell to discuss the former White House occupant’s pathological need and resentment.

Resentment provokes—it provokes people and tribes and nations and groups to anger, bitterness, rancor, ill will, indignation, ire, rage, animosity, fury, wrath, vengeance, hostility, hatred, antagonism, revenge. We see this in Putin’s war against Ukraine today.  Like a cancer, resentment festers and grows, often under wraps, and hides until one day it explodes into the light of day. Many a killer has operated out of resentment, from the recent mass shootings in Buffalo and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, to perhaps the king of them all, Hitler.

Traditionally, it is said that the devil rides the waves of envy. Hildegard of Bingen represents this tradition when she teaches that “the devil does all his work out of envy and begrudges men obtaining the highest blessedness.”

The U.S. witnessed a dramatic spike in hate crimes in 2021 with eight of the nation’s ten largest cities seeing an overall increase of nearly 55 percent. Experts say some hate crimes are fueled by extreme rhetoric often spread online. NBC News

Envy is in some ways more powerful than hatred for it feeds hatred and gives birth to it and it is more subtle than hatred. Hatred tends to be more out in the open than envy; it is as if people are more ashamed of their envy than of their hatred and so they keep it in where it rankles and rots, decays and putrefies, all the time seeping bile into the imagination, which works it over and over until it gives birth to shadowy beings that incarnate it. Often they come into existence by way of projections. Traditionally these beings have been called demons. 

 To be continued

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 362f.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: White supremacists chant “You will not replace us/Jews will not replace us” at the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally, 2017. Photographer unknown, from Twitter via Reddit.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you see Envy playing a large role in today’s crises from climate change to war to patriarchal misogyny and authoritarianism and more?

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17 thoughts on “Envy as a Companion to Hatred”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today I want to share a view on envy that I feel strengthens Aquinas’ definition of envy. Aquinas, as you read said: “Envy is felt when someone is sorry that his neighbor possesses good things which he does not have.” This I call a passive form of envy–“I sure am sad that I don’t have what they do.” An active form of envy sounds more like: “I want what they have!”–and if you are motivated, you might set out to get it!
    So, when you put into this picture our Queries for Contemplation for today, and that is: “Do you see Envy playing a large role in today’s crises from climate change to war to patriarchal misogyny and authoritarianism and more?” The short answer is , “Yes, I do!” But when I look at the issues of climate change, war, patriarch and authoritarianism at from business and economic points of view; we little people–“anawim”–have very little idea of what goes on at the higher realms of world government. But I don’t think we need a degree in political science to figure out it is about what every person “up there” ENVIES about everybody else–their MONEY! They want more money and more power–and as my father told me, “Time is money,” they know that, “Money is power.”

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    Jeanette Metler

    I find it interesting within today’s DM how Mathew weaves together the threads of envy… one strand being shooting the light down in others… another strand being refusing to praise the light or goodness in others… another strand being sorrow over another’s good… another strand being competition… and yet another strand being consumerism. All these strands woven together then become a powerful force of sin, darkness and evil. The horrifying image that comes to mind is the lashing that Jesus experienced prior to the road to Calvary… most visually captured in the movie… The Passion of Christ.

    The question that begs attention is… what can we do to begin to unravel the threads and to not be negatively impacted by the thrashing of these? Continue to build up and kindle the light within self and others… continue to praise that inherent sacred light and the beauty and goodness of this in others, and the all and the everything of creation, acknowledging and responding to the essence and presence of God in our midst… rejoice and celebrate the good in one’s life and in the lives of others… choose to collaborate and cooperate together for the common good of the whole… be grateful and never take for granted what you have been blessed to receive, the small things that really matter daily. Weave these strands together as your medicine blanket, clothing yourself in the mantle given you… to protect and preserve what God has joined and weaved together… which can never be torn asunder.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, You pose the question today: “what can we do to begin to unravel the threads and to not be negatively impacted by the thrashing of these?” And I agree with your answer wholeheartedly: “choose to collaborate and cooperate together for the common good of the whole…”–as well as to continue to see the light and goodness of others and to live with a grateful heart for what we have been given !!!

  3. Avatar

    Like all manifestations of sin, envy is a sin of ignorance. It manifests in a soul unaware of its God identity, self worth, uniqueness and self-completeness in same. Unable to realize itself as co-extensive with its Maker with thankfulness as to the blessings it DOES have, it occupies itself, by resentful comparison, with what it DOESN’T have via prosperous others. David, Israel’s prophet, poet, statesman, warrior and king realized, with great conviction, his own polymorphous perverse (sinful) ways in lust, envy, and murder as constitutional in nature, an aspect of his natural self (human hood) that eclipsed his spiritual self (Christhood). “Behold,” said repentant David, “I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps 51:5). Rendered blind and temporarily ‘insane’ by yielding to his flawed human hood, and having later come to his higher self in repentance, in speaking to God he declared “so foolish was I, and ignorant; I was as a beast before thee” (Ps. 73:22). According to David, it appears that one’s flawed human hood (sin nature) as well as one’s hidden divine nature (original blessing) coexist alongside each other like two sides of a coin, and reveal the universal paradox and mystery of our being, to be wrestled with, reconciled and overcome by grace, regeneration, and regular practice in the spiritual disciplines. (Thank you for allowing me this space and freedom to comment.)

    1. Avatar
      Jeanette Metler

      Joe, really appreciate the last sentence of your comment… and the clarity of truth spoken within your words. Thanks for sharing, Jeanette

    2. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Joe, I appreciate your clarification of the relationship between our sinful nature and our divine nature (Original Blessing) expressed in the line: “it appears that one’s flawed human hood (sin nature) as well as one’s hidden divine nature (original blessing) coexist alongside each other like two sides of a coin…” It sure seems that way, in the living of our lives and in what St. Paul says in Romans 7.

  4. Avatar

    I missed class the day they passed out Envy. I’ve never suffered from it and therefore don’t understand it. I’ve been victimized by it and suffered some pretty serious consequences, which caused me to dislike the perps, but I still never understood it. I’ve *admired* other people’s talents, looks, poise, intelligence, etc., but I’ve never thought that I am less because I don’t have it. (I hear someone playing the piano beautifully and say, “If I could do that, I’d never stop!” I don’t say, “I hate them because they can play and since I can’t play I’m going to destroy their instrument!”)
    So it’s hard for me to assign it to the people destroying us, except that I have an intellectual understanding that those who live for money and power do so because of insatiable desire which is likely generated by looking at someone else’s money and power, resenting it, and doing whatever it takes to take it from them or get more of it yourself. And I dislike them intensely. (I also missed class the day they passed out the “love your enemy” awards.)

  5. Avatar
    Damian Maureira

    I still plan to read your book Matthew – “Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society” – for a deeper understanding of evil in our past and present human history. I hope more people do read it as part of their spiritual journeys. The spiritual wisdom and teachings of past and present spiritual mystical traditions and teachers (and modern quantum physics) emphasize the deep interconnectedness/interdependence of all life and creation. Since our Divine and human souls were created with free will, throughout human history, especially in the masculine psyche and toxic patriarchal societies/institutions, the values of individuality, egocentricity (ignorance of our separation from the Divine Presence within and among us), and power/control have been taught and emphasized with all its’ consequent destructive and suffering effects on humanity, especially women, and Mother Earth and all Her sacred creatures and abundance. Our human souls are still evolving in the awareness/consciousness of our Divine nature within and among us in our Loving Creator’s Eternal Presence, Loving Diverse Oneness, and Calling us to Be Compassionate co-Creators in God’s Loving ongoing Creation~Evolution with-in our spiritual multidimensions and multiverse Cosmos….

  6. Avatar

    Thank you Matt for your teaching about envy. It’s very instructive.
    In Buddhism they say that when one celebrates and delights in another’s good fortune, with no envy, they actually receive the same good karma as that person, as if it were indeed theirs.
    In one of the tribes in Africa, their word for evil is comparison.
    Much gratitude,

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Kristal, Thank you for sharing with us. When you mention that one of the tribes in Africa have “comparison” as their word for evil, that fits with envy, where one compares what someone else has compared to them!

  7. Avatar

    I love the way you link consumerism to envy–advertisers think up more and more clever and devious ways to play on this tendency to sell their goods. And, of course, politicians do the same. Our whole society and culture seem to be based on greed, which feeds envy–the haves and the have nots. Facebook and other “social” media encourage it by their system of “likes”. I don’t think our children are being taught the kind of critical thinking that can spot these techniques, that pander to the worst in us, either in secular or religious schooling. It is up to us to recognize envy and resentment in ourselves and then radiate love outward.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Sue, I totally agree with you that advertising feeds on envy and greed, and consumerism is the result at a benign and yet insidious level, but when nations are consuming weapons for war and power it becomes totally malignant and in my mind, evil !!!

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