Jealousy and Envy

Author: St. Cyprian


Chapter 1

To be jealous of the good that you see and to be envious of those better than one's self seems in the eyes of some to be a slight and moderate wrong, most beloved brothers, and, when it is thought to be light and moderate, it is not feared; when it is not feared, it is contemned; when it is contemned, it is not easily avoided; and it becomes a dark and hidden source of destruction, which, when it is not perceived so that it can be avoided by the provident, secretly afflicts improvident minds. But furthermore, the Lord has ordered us to be prudent, and He bade us to be watchful with cautious solicitude, lest the adversary himself ever watchful and always lying in wait, when he has crept into the heart, blow up flames from sparks, make very great things from small ones, and, when he soothes the relaxed and the incautious with a milder air and a softer breeze, after stirring up storms and whirlwinds, contrive the ruin of faith and the shipwreck of salvation and life. So, most beloved brethren, we must be on our guard, and strive with all our strength, so that we may with watchful and full diligence repulse the enemy who rages and directs his shafts against every part of the body where we can be struck or wounded, as Peter the Apostle in his Epistle forewarns and teaches, saying: 'Be sober, be watchful! For your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goes about seeking something to devour.'

Chapter 2

He encircles us individually and, like an enemy besieging those enclosed explores the walls, tries whether any part of the members is less stable and less trustworthy, by whose approach penetration to the interior may be effected. He offers to the eyes seductive forms and easy pleasures, so that by sight he may destroy chastity. He tempts the ears with melodious music, that by the hearing of sweet sounds he may relax and enervate Christian vigor. He provokes the tongue by abuse; he instigates the hand by irritating injuries to the viciousness of murder. To make the defrauder, he presents unjust gains; to capture the soul with money, he brings in harmful gains; he promises earthly honors, to destroy heavenly ones; he displays the false, to take away the true; and when he cannot deceive secretly, he threatens boldly and openly, holding out the terror of a turbulent persecution, always restless to conquer the servants of God, and always hostile, crafty in peace, violent in persecution.

Chapter 3

Therefore, most beloved brethren, the mind stands ready and armed against all the deceitful plots or the open threats of the devil, always as prepared to repulse, as the enemy is always prepared to attack. And since his missiles which steal upon us secretly are more frequent and his casting of them more concealed and clandestine, and to the extent that this is not perceived, this attack is the more effectual and more frequent to our injury, let us also be alert to understand and repel these. Among these is the devil of jealousy and envy. If anyone should look deeply into this, he will discover that nothing should be avoided more by a Christian, nothing provided for more cautiously than that one be not caught by envy and malice, that one, being entangled in the blind snares of a deceitful enemy, when brother by envy turns to hatred of brother, not himself unwittingly perish by his own sword. That we may be able to gather this more fully and perceive it more clearly, let us recur to its source and origin. Let us see from what jealousy begins, both when and how. For more easily will so pernicious an evil be avoided, if both the origin and magnitude of the same is known.

Chapter 4

For this reason the devil at the very beginnings of the world was both the first to perish and to ruin (others). He supported by his angelic majesty, acceptable and dear to God, after he had seen man made to the image of God, with malevolent envy plunged into jealousy, not casting down another by the instinct of jealousy before he himself was cast down by jealousy, a captive before capturing, ruined before ruining; when at the instigation of envy he deprived man of the grace of immortality which had been given him, he himself lost that which he had been before. Of such a nature is the evil, most beloved brethren, by which an angel fell, by which that high and glorious sublimity could have been circumvented, and overturned, by which he who deceived was deceived. Therefore, envy rages on earth, when he who is about to perish from jealousy obeys the master of perdition, when he who becomes jealous imitates the devil, just as it is written: 'But by the envy of the devil, death came into world.' So they who are on his side imitate him.

Chapter 5

Hence finally begin the first hatreds of the new brotherhood; hence the abominable parricides, when the unjust Cain is jealous of the just Abel, when the evil persecutes the good out of jealousy and envy. So strong was the fury of emulation for the consummation of the crime, that neither love of brother nor the enormity of the crime nor fear of God nor the punishment of the sin was considered. He was unjustly oppressed who had been the first to show justice; he endured hatred who did not know how to hate; he was slain impiously who while dying did not fight back. Jealousy was the cause of Esau having been hostile to his brother Jacob, for because Jacob had received the blessing of his father, Esau burned with the firebrands of envy into a persecuting hatred. As for Joseph's having been sold by his brothers, the cause for the selling came from jealousy. After he set forth simply, as brother to brothers, the prosperity which had been shown him in visions, their malevolent minds erupted into envy. What other than the stimulus of jealousy provoked Saul the king also to hate David, to desire to kill that innocent, merciful man, patient with a gentle mildness, by often repeated persecutions? Because, when Goliath had been killed and so great an enemy had been slain by divine assistance and condescension, the admiring people burst forth into approbation unto praise of David, Saul through envy conceived the furies of hatred and persecution. Not to make my account long by naming individuals, let us consider the destruction of a people that perished once and for all. Did not the Jews perish on this account, since they preferred to envy rather than to believe in Christ? Disparaging the great things that He did, they were deceived by a blinding jealousy and they were unable to open the eyes of their hearts so as to recognize His divine works.

Chapter 6

Now considering these matters, most beloved brethren, let us vigilantly and courageously fortify our hearts, which have been dedicated to God, against so great an evil destructiveness. Let the death of others be of advantage for our salvation; let the punishment of the imprudent confer health upon the cautious. There is, however, no ground for anyone thinking that such an evil as that is contained under one form or is confined to brief limits and within a narrow territory. The manifold and fruitful destruction of jealousy is widely spread. It is the root of all evils, the source of disasters, the nursery of sins, the substance of transgressions. From it hatred arises; animosity precedes from it. Jealousy inflames avarice, when one cannot be content with its own on seeing another richer. Jealousy incites ambition when one sees another more exalted in honors. When jealousy blinds our senses and reduces the secrets of the mind to its sway, fear of God is scorned, the teaching of Christ is neglected, the day of judgment is not provided for. Pride inflates; cruelty embitters; faithlessness prevaricates; impatience agitates; discord infuriates; anger grows hot; nor can he who has become a subject of an alien power restrain or rule himself. Hence the bond of the Lord's peace is broken; hence fraternal charity is violated; hence truth is adulterated, unity is broken, there is a plunging into heresies and schisms, when priests are disparaged, when bishops are envied, when one complains that he himself rather has not been ordained or disdains to tolerate another who has been placed over him. Hence the proud man is recalcitrant and rebellious out of jealousy, perverse out of envy, out of animosity and jealousy an enemy not of the man but of the honor.

Chapter 7

Of such a sort, indeed, is the gnawing worm of the soul. What a plague of one's thoughts, how great a rust of the heart to be jealous either of the virtue or of the happiness of another, that is, to hate in him either his own merits or divine blessings, to turn the good things of another to one's own evil, to be tormented by the prosperity of illustrious men, to make the glory of others one's own punishment, to apply, as it were, hangmen to one's own heart, to bring tortures to one's own thoughts and feelings to lacerate us with intestinal tortures, to beat the secret places of the heart with the claws of malevolence! No food can be delightful to such men, no drink pleasing. There is always sighing and groaning and suffering, and, since jealousy is never set forth by the envious, day and night the heart is besieged and torn with intermission. Other evils have a terminus, and whatever sin is committed is brought to an end by its consummation. In the adulterer the crime ceased when the act of lust has been perpetrated, in the killer the crime rests when the homicide has been committed; and the possession of the booty brings the rapacity of the thief to an end; and the completion of the deception places moderation on the deceiver. Jealousy has no terminus; it is a continually abiding evil and a sin without end, and as he who is envied proceeds with greater success, to this extent does the envious one burn to a greater heat with the fires of envy.

Chapter 8

Hence the threatening look, the savage appearance, pallor in the face, trembling of the lips, gnashing of teeth, mad words, unbridled insults, a hand prompt for the violence of murder, and even if the hand is for the time without a sword, yet it is armed with the hatred of an infuriated mind. And thus the Holy Spirit says in the psalms: 'Be not jealous of him who walks well in his way.' And again: 'The wicked man plots against the just man and gnashes his teeth against him. But God will laugh at him, for He sees that his day will come.' The blessed Apostle Paul designates and notes these when he says: 'The venom of asps is under their lips: and their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; contrition and calamity are in their ways, for they have not known the way of peace, nor is the fear of God before their eyes.

Chapter 9

The evil is much lighter and the danger less, when the limbs are wounded by a sword. The cure is easy where the wound is manifest, and when a remedy comes to its assistance what is seen is quickly brought to health. The wounds of jealousy are concealed and hidden, nor do they admit the remedy of a healing cure, which have concealed themselves with blind pain within the lurking places of the conscience. Whoever of you are envious and malignant, you are seen as you are, crafty, pernicious, and hostile to those whom you hate. You are the enemy of no one's well-being more than of your own. Whoever he is whom you persecute with jealousy, will be able to escape and avoid you. You cannot escape yourself. Wherever you are, your adversary is with you; the enemy is always in your heart; destruction is shut up within; you are tied and bound with an inescapable chain of links; you are captive with jealousy as your master; and no solaces come to your relief. It is a persevering evil to persecute a man who belongs to the grace of God; it is a calamity without a remedy to hate one who is happy.

Chapter 10

And therefore, most beloved brethren; the Lord, having regard for this danger, lest anyone out of jealousy of his brother fall into the snare of death, when the disciples asked him who among them was the greatest, said: 'He who will be the least among all you, this one shall be the greatest.' He cut off all jealousy by His reply; He eradicated and tore away every cause and basis for envy. It is not permitted him to be envious. There can be no contention among us for exaltation. From humility we grow to the highest accomplishments; we have learned how we may be pleasing. Finally also the Apostle Paul, when instructing and advising how we who, being illuminated by the light of Christ, have evaded the darkness of the conversation of night, may walk in the deeds and in the works of light, writes and says: 'The night is far advanced; but the day is at hand. Let us, therefore, lay aside the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light. Let us walk becomingly as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in debauchery and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy.' If the shades have receded from your heart, if the night is scattered from it, if gloom has been wiped away, if the splendor of the day has illuminated your senses, if you have begun to be a man of light, carry on the things that are of Christ, because Christ is the Light and the Day.

Chapter 11

Why do you rush into the darkness of jealousy? Why do you involve yourself in a cloud of envy? Why do you extinguish all the light of peace and love by the blindness of ill-will? Why do you return to the devil, whom you had renounced? Why have you become like Cain? For that he is bound by the crime of homicide, whoever has become envious of his brother and holds him in hatred, the Apostle John declares in his letter, saying: 'He who hates his brother is a murderer. And you know that no murderer has life abiding in him.' And again: 'He who says that he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness until now, and walks in the darkness and does not know whither he goes because the darkness has blinded his eyes.' He who hates his brother walks in the darkness and does not know where he goes, he says. For he unwittingly goes to Gehenna; ignorant and blind he plunges himself into punishment; withdrawing, that is, from the light of Christ who warns and says: 'I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'

But he follows Christ who abides by His precepts, who walks in the way of His teaching, who follows in His footsteps and ways, who imitates what Christ both taught and did, according as Peter also urges and advises, saying: 'Christ has suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you may follow in His steps.'

Chapter 12

We ought to remember by what name Christ calls His people, by what title He names His flock. He calls them sheep, that Christian innocence may be equated with sheep; He calls them lambs, so that their simplicity of mind may imitate the simple nature of lambs. Why does the wolf lie hidden under sheeps' clothing; why does he who falsely calls himself a Christian dishonor the flock of Christ? What else is the putting on of the name of Christ and not going over the way of Christ than a prevarication of the divine name, than the abandonment of the way of salvation? Since He himself teaches and says that he comes unto life who has kept the commandments, and he is wise who has heard and done His words, that He also is called the greatest teacher in the kingdom of heaven who has so taught and done, then that will profit the preacher which has been well and usefully preached, if that which is uttered from the mouth is fulfilled by the deeds that follow. But what did the Lord urge more upon His disciples, what among His salutary counsels and heavenly precepts should be guarded and kept more than that with the same love with which He himself loved the disciples, we should also love each other? How, moreover, does he keep either the peace or the love of the Lord, who, because of the intervention of jealousy, can neither be peaceful nor loving?

Chapter 13

So also the Apostle Paul, when he was bringing out merits of peace and love, and when he was strongly asserting that neither almsgivings nor also the passion itself of a confessor and martyr would avail him, unless he had kept the requirements whole and inviolate, added, and said: 'Charity is magnanimous, charity is kind, charity is not jealous,' that is, teaching and showing that he can maintain charity, whoever is magnanimous and kind and free from jealousy and envy. Likewise in another place, when he was advising that a man who has already become full of the Holy Spirit, and a son of God by heavenly birth, should follow nothing but spiritual and divine things, he lays it down and says: 'And I indeed, brethren, could not have spoken to you as to spiritual men, but as to carnal, as to little ones in Christ. I fed you with milk, not with solid food. For you were not yet ready for it. Nor are you now ready for it, for you are still carnal. For since there are jealousy and strife and dissensions among you, are you not carnal, and are you not walking according to man?'

Chapter 14

Dearest brethren, vices and carnal sins must be crushed, and the infestuous plague of the earthly body must be trampled upon with spiritual vigor, lest, when we again are turned back to the conversation of the old man, we become entangled in deadly snares, as the Apostle providently and beneficially forewarns. He says: 'Therefore, brethren, let us live not according to the flesh, for if you live according to the flesh, you shall begin to die; but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the flesh, you shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.' If we are the sons of God, if already we begin to be His temples, if, after receiving the Holy Spirit, we live holily and spiritually, if we have lifted our eyes from the earth toward heaven, if we have raised our heart full of God and Christ to supernal and divine things, let us do nothing which is not worthy of God and Christ, as the apostle arouses and urges us. 'If you have risen with Christ,' he says, 'seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Mind the things that are above, not the things that are of the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your life, shall appear, then you too shall appear with Him in glory.' Let us, therefore, who in baptism have both died and been buried according to the carnal sins of the old man, who have risen with Christ in the heavenly regeneration, both consider and do equally the things that are of Christ, as the same Apostle again teaches and advises, saying: 'The first man was of earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As was that one from earth, so are those who are from earth; and as is the heavenly, so are also the heavenly. Just as we have borne the likeness of him who is of the earth, so let us bear the likeness of him who is of heaven.' Moreover, we cannot bear the heavenly images, unless, in that condition in which we have now begun to be, we show the likeness of Christ.

Chapter 15

For this is to have changed what you had been, and to begin to be what you were not, so that the divine birth shine in you, so that the divine discipline may respond to God the Father, so that, in the honor and praise of living, God may shine in man, as He Himself exhorts and advises, and as He promises to those who glorify Him a reward in their turn. He says: 'Those who glorify me, I shall glorify, and him who despises me shall be despised." The Lord, forming and preparing us for this glorification, and the Son of God, instilling the likeness of God the Father, says in His Gospel: 'You have heard that it was said: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and shalt hate thy enemies." But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father who is in heaven, who makes his sun to rise on the good and the evil, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.' If it is a joy and a glory for men to have children like themselves, and it delights them to have begotten them when the remaining offspring with like lineaments corresponds to the father, how much greater is the joy in God the Father, when one is so born spiritually that in his acts and praises divine goodness is proclaimed. What a palm of justice it is, what a crown for you to be such that God does not say about you: 'I have brought up children, and exalted them, but they have despised me.' Let Christ rather praise you and invite you to the reward, saying: 'Come blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom which has been prepared for you from the origin of the world.'

Chapter 16

The mind, dearest brethren, must be strengthened by these meditations: it must be confirmed against all the darts of the devil by exercises of this kind. Let divine reading be in the hands; let thoughts of the Lord be in the senses; let prayer never cease at all; let saving labor persevere. Let us all be occupied by spiritual actions, so that, as often as the enemy approaches, as often as he tries to come near, he may find the heart closed and armed against him. For the crown of the Christian man is not the one which is received at the time of persecution. Peace also has its crown, by which we are crowned as the victor of many a varied combat, after the adversary has been laid low and subdued. To have overcome lust is the palm of continence. To have resisted wrath and injury is the crown of patience. Triumph over avarice is to spurn money. Praise of faith is to endure the adversities of the world by faith in the future. And he who is not proud in prosperity obtains the glory of humility. And he who is inclined to the mercifulness of befriending the poor gains the retribution of a heavenly treasure. And he knows not how to be jealous and, being of one mind and kind, loves his brethren, is honored with the reward of love and peace. We run daily in this contest of virtues; we arrive at these palms and crowns of justice without interruption of time.

Chapter 17

That you also may be able to arrive at these crowns, you who had been possessed by jealousy and zeal, abandon all that malice with which you were formerly held, and reform yourself to the way of eternal life with the footsteps of salvation. Tear out of your heart the thorns and the thistles, that the Lord's seed may enrich you with a fertile fruit, that the divine and spiritual crop may burst forth into the plenty of a rich harvest. Expel the venom of gall; cast out the virus of discords; let the mind which the jealousy of the serpent had infected be cleansed; let all the bitterness which had settled within be softened by the sweetness of Christ. From the sacrament of the cross you receive both food and drink; let the wood, which availed at Mara in a figure for sweetening the taste, avail you in truth for soothing the softened breast, and you will not labor for the remedy for increasing the health. Cure yourself at the source from which you had been wounded. Love those whom you hated before; esteem those whom you envied with unjust disparagements. Imitate the good, if you can follow them; if you cannot follow them, surely rejoice with them and congratulate your betters. Make yourself a sharer with them in a united love; make yourself an associate in a fellowship of charity and in a bond of brotherhood. Your debts will be forgiven you, when you yourself shall forgive; your sacrifices will be accepted, when you shall come to God as a peace-maker. Your thoughts and actions will be directed by God, when you ponder the things that are divine and just, as it is written: 'Let the heart of man ponder just things, so that his steps may be directed by God.'

Chapter 18

Moreover, you have many things to ponder. Ponder paradise, where Cain, who destroyed his brother through jealousy, does not return. Ponder the kingdom of heaven to which the Lord admits only those of one heart and mind. Ponder the fact that only those can be called the sons of God who are peace-makers, who, united by divine birth and law, correspond to the likeness of God the Father and Christ. Ponder that we are under God's eyes, that we are running the course of our conversation, and life with God Himself looking on and judging, that then finally we can arrive at the point of succeeding in seeing Him, if we delight Him as He now observes us by our actions, if we show ourselves worthy of His grace and indulgence, if we, who are to please Him forever in heaven, please Him first in this world.