Sinning Like a Christian // 04

The final two paragraphs in the previous post force me to acknowledge two points about envy Willimon makes in Sinning Like a Christian.

(1) He proposes that at least 80% of our criticisms are rooted in envy. Okay, so here’s a second confession (in addition to the general confession of envy): I like to criticize. I like to point out why, for instance, Joshua DuBois might not be as awesome as he seems. I’m actually pretty good at it (though not as good as many of my blogger friends!). I do come by it both naturally and nurturally. Now it is often true that criticism can be rooted more in pride than envy, which is probably truer for me – I’m not sure I want to keep posting about the seven deadly sins, by the way! – but perhaps pride and envy aren’t as far apart as I think. Anyhow, here’s how Willimon continues, “The fox in Aesop’s fable devalues the grapes in order to console himself for not being able to reach them. Those of us who are not particularly wealthy really need to believe that rich people are miserable. Sour grapes. The kid who does not do particularly well in school condemns those ‘nerds’ who do. The moral failure really needs to believe that the saint is a self-righteous, Bible-beating prig.” Or again, “My wife does not need to think long and hard to figure out why I condemn Tom Cruise as a very bad actor” (60). Well said, William. Well said. Moral of the story: Be careful with your criticism. And be aware that you might want to be the people you criticize.

(2) He points out how envy is a sin against God. Envy is offensive because it’s based on dissatisfaction with the life God has given me. “To regard our lives as diminished, in comparison with our neighbor’s life, is to despise the God who gave us our lives as they are. It is to say that God made a mistake in making us as we are, in giving us the gifts that we have been given, and by implication, in making our neighbor and giving our neighbor the gifts that have been given.” Again, “Our Envy is evidence that we are not created as we wish we had been; therefore, by implication, our Envy is evidence of the creative mistakes of the Creator” (64). Or in reference to DuBois, I resent where he is because I may not be happy with where I am.

How do we overcome envy? Simple, really: don’t compare ourselves with others. Glad I could clear that up for everyone, and I’m happy to announce that most of us will never again envy another human being as long as we live. Honestly, though, I don’t want to poke too much fun at this very true truth about shunning competitive posturing. But let me add one more: cultivate compassion. Compassion is our ability to “suffer with” or “feel deeply with” others – to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.

So here’s a question for all those prone to commenting (which is so many of you! ☺): How do you intentionally cultivate compassion?