A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. (NIV)
Caution: Envy rots bones! It should come with a warning label, like the bottle of an industrial-strength cleaning product you know better than to buy. Antisthenes, a Greek philosopher, said that envy consumes you “as iron is eaten away by rust.” Clearly, the caustic properties of envy are not good for your physical health.
Tell that to Antonio Salieri, a character played by F. Murray Abraham in the 1984 movie, Amadeus. Salieri, once a respected court composer, reflects on his contemporary Amadeus Mozart’s superior genius from the psychiatric hospital where he is staying following an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Bandaged from his self-inflicted wounds, he is utterly depleted and still fixated by his envy of Mozart.
While Amadeus is a biographical fiction about famous people, its themes are common to us regular folks. We resent the recognition someone receives. Or we compare the ease with which they carry out the things we labor hard to do. We notice, keep score. Left unchecked, envy stews, gets bitter, and robs us of rest. When it gets out of control, we get sick.
Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made, the psalmist says. And they are capable of holding a remarkable mix of power and sweetness which, adds Mary Oliver, includes “vanity and virtue.” Envy is among the powerful things we may naively entertain, then take to heart. It doesn’t belong on a shelf in our homes and should never be embodied.
When have I felt envious over the recognition of another person’s talent or achievement? What are signs that such feelings have become toxic?
God of every good and perfect gift, thank you for the talents I have and for the opportunities and abilities I have to use them. Help me to also appreciate the gifts you’ve given others. Amen.