A StubbornThings Symposium 11/27/15
Introduction • If you ask liberals the cause of poverty, disease, crime, or war, they’ll answer, “Society,” ignoring the fact that society is made up of troubled individuals. If, however, you ask conservatives, especially a Christian conservative, the cause of the world’s worst problems, they’ll go right to the point – sin. That answer ruffles the liberals because they are dedicated to the proposition that there’s nothing really wrong with man that a government program can’t fix, and because they like sin, so much so that flaunting it has become the norm. Conservatives, however, are not daunted and we know, whether we’re talking Moses’ Decalogue or the medieval Seven Deadly Sins, that disobedience is the knot in the yarn.
We also know in our heart-of-hearts that the sin of envy is the mold spore of most misery and mayhem, and the underlying motivation for most negative, recalcitrant thoughts and behavior. So, here at StubbornThings, we’re going to explore this horrific sin, uncover all its hidden nastiness, examine its effect on society, and generally demonstrate that both the politics of envy, and the personal habit of covetousness, is nothing but evil. We all wish that this deathcap mushroom wasn’t lurking in the dark places of our hearts, but it is and this is our way of shining a cleansing light in the hope of shriveling it to nothing. Enjoy.
— Deana Chadwell
Seven Deadly Sins: Envy
As with all these, there is a place (albeit a very small one) for at least a touch of envy. This is the concept known as “keeping up with the Joneses”, which is what drives the economy. There is nothing wrong with seeing someone else’s possessions, concluding that you would indeed find them good to own, and then seeking to acquire such possessions by legitimate means.
Of course, there are caveats. H. Beam Piper, in Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen, had Status as one of modern society’s bad gods, and this can be seen as representing the desire to own things just to show off — a combination, generally, of envy and excessive pride. Even worse is the desire either to own someone else’s property (perhaps because that’s the only way you can afford it), or to destroy it so that they don’t have something you don’t.
This doesn’t just apply to possessions, either. One can envy someone else not only for having, say, a better (or just showier) car, or or having a better (or just showier) wife — or even simply being happier or richer or whatever. Much anti-Semitism is a resentment of Jewish success (which to me is simply an alien sentiment).
Whatever one may say of the role a very mild envy plays in driving up consumption (and thus the economy) for better or worse (there’s a reason conspicuous consumption is not considered praiseworthy), any time it gets beyond that level it can become extremely dangerous. Lust, avarice, and gluttony (and for that matter pride) are all desires for more of something that is basically good to have, and don’t necessarily involve harm to others. But envy of what others have all too easily leads to what Columbo referred to in one episode as “the oldest motive in the book” (adulterous desire in that case). Many a murder springs from envy, and a good bit of vandalism does as well.
— Timothy Lane writes from Louisville, Kentucky and publishes the FOSFAX fanzine. He envies NBC Mystery Movie characters.
We’re now up to the sin of envy…which is really no longer a sin. They just call it “social justice.” If somebody has more than you do (never mind if someone worked his tail off for it), it’s considered unjust and in need of equalizing. The green-eyed covetous envy propelling this confiscation never has the spotlight shined on it. It just scurries around in the dark corners, unexamined — or laundered with such nice-sounding words as “equality.”
Well…we do shine the spotlight here, of course. I know from personal experience the bitterness of envy. There is always somebody more talented than you are (Glenn the Greater, for example) And, really, that’s never been my problem. I look at the successful and gain inspiration. I don’t envy them. This is perhaps because I also know that the more “stuff” you have, the more headaches you have as well. It may not be a picnic being poor, but don’t suppose “the rich” don’t suffer their share.
No, the kind of envy that has always gotten me is measuring myself by that milieu of muck we call “the culture at large.” A friend of mine says that the first mistake is to pick up the measuring rod in the first place. But we all do it. It’s unavoidable. And measuring ourselves by others isn’t all bad. If others are living a productive, happy life, then I really ought to try to measure up to them.
And in the day and age when this meant your heroes were of John Wayne caliber, no harm was done. But look at who and what our culture idolizes now. I won’t go into detail. You know. Everything from twerking teens to the celebration of Bruce Jenner’s mental maladies, we have set up the bizarre, the bad, and the just plain crazy as role models.
So putting down that measuring stick is now more important than ever. And that is not to say you’ll get any two-bit new-age fortune cookie wisdom from me that says that you therefore need to go out and find your “authentic self.” I don’t believe there is any such thing, per se. (Or, as Dennis Prager notes, your “authentic self” is the one who doesn’t shower. What could be more authentic then your natural oder?) We are all to a large extent a product of our culture. That is to say, who we are is very much a product of what other people are doing.
Still, what do you do if what other people are doing is crazy, stupid, vulgar, destructive, or all of the above? Then one must indeed go in search of something authentic while hopefully steering clear of the Deepak Chopra-ish fortune-cookie-fication of life.
Sin is sin and is unavoidable to some extent. But in this case we can use envy — noticing the presence of it — as a guide or a wake-up call. And if you think that the culture as it is is just spiff-o, then go back to Facebook and share cat stories or whatever. But if you have been consistently finding empty calories in aping the superficial, the popular, and the inane, then the envy that often propels us to do what everyone else is doing can be a light leading us out of the mindless milieu of muck.
— Brad Nelson is editor and publisher of StubbornThings.org. He is a sinner but assures you that he “did not have sexual relations with that woman…not a single time.”
THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS AS SET FORTH IN PROVERBS 6:16-19
#5. Feet That Be Swift In Running to Evil, KJV; Feet Quick to Run To Evil, TANAKH; Feet That Are Swift In Running to Mischief, Peshitta.
We live in a day of very swift and running feet. Mischief can be used to stir people up and leave them more vulnerable to actual evil. Never do the leaders let a crisis go to waste. And we also see that a crisis can easily be manufactured, if publicized quickly.
A cop has to shoot to preserve his own life? He’d better make certain his actions are righteous or he’ll be hanged, drawn and quartered. If he hesitates he’s probably dead. If he’s white he has no chance at all if the “victim” is black, the only ones with lives that matter. If he’s shot in the back pumping gas then he had other intentions and just shouldn’t have been there.
How many times has the ruinous regime in Washington, D.C. been “quick on the draw” about shootings, especially mass shootings? Not just quick, but wrong? Is that mischief, or is it evil? What other kinds of mischief are our supposed betters up to?
Scheming abounds as evil triumphs for awhile.
The Rules of the Deadly Sins
The Rule of the First Deadly Sin: By their haughty look ye shall know them.
The Rule of the Second Deadly Sin: The Lying Tongues blanket the whole
land in Deceit.
The Rule of the Third Deadly Sin: In all ages the blood of the innocent is
shed by those who want to sow discord among the people.
The Rule of the Fourth Deadly Sin: The Hearts and Minds of the Leaders
turn first to dreaming of, then planning and promoting evil.
The Rule of the Fifth Deadly Sin: The Feet of Makers of Mischief and Evil
run swiftly when opportunity arises.
— Anniel is a frequent contributor to StubbornThings.
I’d like to make two points about this business of envy: that it is the original sin – literally (unless we start with arrogance) , and that it’s a progressive disease (pun free of charge).
Let’s look first at Lucifer, Son of the Morning, God’s favorite angel (think 4-winged, 4-faced, glorious creature) standing in the throne room of God. What does he want? What could he want? God’s favorite angel desires “to be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14). He envied the omnipotence, the omniscience, the sovereignty of God. That’s where all trouble starts. Now, think back on the Garden and that conversation Eve had with the serpent (i.e. Lucifer) and what does he promise Eve? He dangles in front of her a variation on his own temptation – that if she ate the fruit she would be as smart as God. That bite she took of the “apple” was the culmination of her sin of envy – she wanted what only God can have. Whether Satan put that idea in her head, or she was already stewing about it, we’ll never know.
When Cain and Abel set their sacrifices in front of God and God didn’t like Cain’s offering (it ignored the principle of sacrifice for salvation). Cain, instantly angry with both Abel and God, kills Abel. Here envy went from zero to sixty in a split second. Boom and the first murder happens, and all over the coveting of a gold star on a good-boy chart.
Now think about where most sins come from. If we steal, it is because we first coveted. If we kill, it is because envy drove us. If we commit adultery, it is because we lusted after someone else’s partner. If I bear false witness it is because I don’t want the subject of my lie to have the reputation he or she is enjoying. Same-sex marriage has reared its ugly head because gay people envied what straight people have.
This gets us to my second point – the stages of envy. This fungus in our souls has been there for so long that we barely notice it’s there, but we need to be reminded and to be on guard; it’s sneaky.
You see, first it just appears as admiration, appreciation of something that belongs to someone else – our neighbor’s house, his wife, his, car, his dog. If it stops there and doesn’t creep over into comparisons with what we have, we’ll be fine. I always call to mind G.K. Chesterton’s remark, “Comparisons are odious.” Most of the time this is true, and true because it so often leads to envy.
The next step is wanting to have a house-car-wife-dog like the neighbor’s, dreaming our way into a facsimile of our neighbor’s existence. Note that in doing so, we are slowly erasing the neighbor and placing ourselves in his place. It’s slight and subtle, but there.
But we feel OK about it because we just want something like the neighbor’s stuff. Soon, however, we will progress to the third stage of envy and want the very things themselves. It will no longer be enough to admire the man’s wife, to wish you had a wife as pretty-smart-talented as she is; soon you will be wanting the woman herself. The neighbor is fading further into the back of your brain.
Alas, though, she can’t be lured away from her husband; he’s not willing to sell you his house or car, and his dog (who knows full well what you really are) bites you every time you stop by. At this point a wise man would back off, take a cold shower and find something else to think about.
But, who’s wise? Very few of us. Most of us get mad, and some of us actually act out that rage. If we can’t have her, no one else should either. Now the wife is in danger; her house and car and dog aren’t long for this world either. Murder is made out of envy, and envy is made out of admiration that turned sour and self-centered.
Envy fuels most divorces, a large part of our politics, and most teenaged angst. (For over 20 years I guided high school kids through Shakespeare’s Othello, a play that spins in dizzying circles around jealousy. At one point Emelia, the villain Iago’s wife says, speaking of husbands in general, “Oh, they are never jealous for the cause./ They are jealous for they are jealous.” My students always got that – they navigated the envious halls of a high school and they knew plenty of people who would work themselves into jealous rages over nothing, just because they wanted to indulge in a good, miserable, ranting covet.
Yet, God gives us all that we need and all which we have the capacity to enjoy; anything more and we lose control and spin right back to wanting more, wanting what we can’t be trusted with, wanting that which already belongs to someone else and wanting it for no reason, thinking it should be ours just because we think it should be ours. No excuses or explanation possible. No my-mom-was mean melodrama, no I-was-drunk exemptions.
Now, swing back to where we started; Eve had no reason to be envious of God, either. He had given her everything; why would she want more? Because she could. Free will.
OK, OK, but why did Adam eat the apple? That’s another matter altogether.
— Deana Chadwell blogs at ASingleWindow.com and is a writing and speech professor at Pacific Bible College in Southern Oregon.
Well, here I am again, so far behind that I envy all of those who found time to write their piece And, no, I have not read any of them yet, so I am not tempted to use their ideas or steal what I am sure are far more well-written pieces. See, there I go again envying everyone else’s skills.
Is envy always bad? Absolutely not! I envy the talent of the other writers on this site, and it serves as motivation for me to keep trying and to work on improving my own skills. That is a good aspect of envy. Healthy comparisons to others or envy of their talents can motivate us to work harder, and to improve our own skills. We have plenty of bad examples of envy though.
This Leftists in our society seem to live on this one, both sides of the spectrum. They have developed one part of their philosophy based on following the rule of this particular deadly sin (or at least a perverted following of it). Here is how the Left does try to follow this idea in one sense. For our children, they can say, competition is bad, competition breeds envy, no-one is better than another, do not envy those guys because they beat you and they say they are better than you, (even though they are), you are all winners, yeah mediocrity!
For our society to follow this form of non-envy is to destroy one of the main things that made this a nation great: competition. The drive to be your best self is inherent in envy of others that beat you in the game of life. Losers never get any better if they never feel the sting of losing. And winners will not stay winners if they are never challenged. The desire to make one’s life better or the lives of our children better begins because we see what is possible in or for others. Envy, if you will, is one of the fundamentals to America’s success; as long as it is not perverted by the Leftist.
But wait, all is not lost for our Leftist countrymen; there is hope for the Left on the other side of the envy spectrum. There will always be the rich, and this is where real individual envy becomes deadly. As soon as their envy becomes covetousness, their goose is cooked. He does not deserve what he has! Why should he have … (that big house, such a beautiful wife, that big bank account, those nice cars, those great kids… fill in the blank). That kind will consume him. His envy will cause him to become bitter and to devise all manner of ways to take what he thinks he is entitled to.
Envy is not just a sin of the Left (but it is a tool they wield so well and they do tend to pervert it more than we do). We on the right do our own fair share of talking envy to an extreme. Win at all cost for example, crush your competition, hits all sides, the left and the right; greed is not the only thing that drives the uber rich. It may be what got them to a certain level, but their envy of the guys above them on the fortune 500 list, and their need to surpass them, becomes their reason for living. Not that all the guys on that list are all on the right, they are not, but some are.
As long as there is evil in the world, men will be twisted by it. Taking something that can be good, motivational, and enabling, and then turning it into a deadly sin. So like all of these deadly sins, in moderation, it may not be bad, but taken to the extreme, it will take you down a road that will be the end of you.