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To defeat envy and avarice, cultivate an attitude of gratitude

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Envy, the green-eyed monster, has its cures like any other sin. Photo: Unsplash

This week I’d like to take you on a whirlwind tour of envy and avarice and how they’re ruining your life. I’m joining these two deadly sins together because they love to work in tandem.

Sometimes we like to minimise envy as “jealousy.” But there’s more to it than that.

Like gluttony, our entire culture is soaking in envy and avarice. You just need to take the blinkers off to see it.

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Envy and avarice drive most social media, fashion, beauty, home renovation, interior design, and entertainment decisions.

In fact, in a wealthy country like Australia, envy and avarice drive pretty much every consumer decision we make.

And they chip steadily away at our happiness, our finances, our marriages, our families, and our faith in God. Chip, chip, chip.

Think of how you spend your money, and on what. How much of it is about trying to achieve a certain standard of living that’s well above that of simply being fed and housed— a look, or a feeling, or a sense of belonging?

How much time and money do you spend on your physical appearance? Who are you trying to keep up with, or outdo?

Envy is the saddest sin. The other mortal sins always put a smile on our faces while we’re committing them, because they’re enjoyable.

But not envy. Envy has a sour face, eaten up with its own pettiness just because other people are happy.

Envy and avarice create a strong sense of entitlement, which turns people into freeloaders, thieves, adulterers, and professional victims. You will meet them in all walks of life.

For example, if you obsess about lifestyles of the rich and famous, it’s very easy to become the employee who embezzles thousands and blows it all on luxury travel and handbags.

Boredom, fear, and loneliness also put out the welcome mat for these evil twins. This leads to compulsive buying to fill the scary silences.

Italian writer Italo Calvino wrote a novel called Invisible Cities. One of his fictional cities, Leonia, is always glittering and new because its inhabitants are constantly buying new things and throwing everything else away.

But it’s surrounded by a mountain range of rubbish heaps. One day, Leonia will be wiped out by an avalanche of its own waste.

Envy and avarice also underlie some forms of depression. The paralysing sadness that settles on a depressed person can come from comparing their life—wealth, job, marital status, or lifestyle—with what they imagine other people have.

Other people’s lives may actually be hot messes, but the depressed person can’t or won’t see that. Envy may be green-eyed, but it’s also wall-eyed.

So how do we overcome these evil twins? Again, you must be really honest with yourself about how you’ve been sucked in by them.

If you’re not sure about this, ask God to show you. He will do this, and He usually does it in a merciful way, so you won’t be crushed by your own awfulness.

There are also specific virtues that can help you overcome envy and avarice. The first is generosity, especially when giving to charity.

Charity, whether giving goods or money, is the sworn enemy of envy and avarice because it helps you to learn detachment from your money and your stuff. If giving something away stings you a bit (or a lot), you’re doing it right.

The second way to flatten envy and avarice is to count your blessings. The “attitude of gratitude” is a proven form of cognitive reframing that helps to relieve depression.

If you can thank God for just one thing every day, you will soon be able to thank Him for three or four, and then a dozen. Wonderful things will keep appearing before you like magic.

Gratitude helps to erode that sense of entitlement that you’ve been carrying around with you. You’ll be amazed at how light and happy you feel once you can say, “God owes me nothing. No one owes me anything.”

The third way is to pray ‘Jesus, I trust in You’, and really mean it. He has already promised you that He will keep you fed, housed, and clothed (Matthew 6:25-34).

Once you do this, everything in your life becomes a gift. Your daily struggle under the burden of envy and avarice will vanish.

This Lent, try to find out how much you’ve been tagging along with these evil twins—and then turn around and come back. Take it all to confession, and you won’t regret it.

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