Envy shows up within the fourth chapter of the Bible, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that the first two chapters deal with the creation of the heavens and the earth. Within one generation of human existence Envy blossoms between two brothers and ends in the terrible harvest of sin. Cain murders his brother Abel in an envious rage over God’s supposed favoring of Abel’s sacrifice.
Envy is defined as the resentful covetousness of someone else’s traits or possessions. Because of Envy’s ability to rapidly mutate into other sins, it is even listed as one of the Ten Commandments. It is also one of the commandments that is extrapolated on: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17). It’s as if God is saying, “You don’t get to Envy anything, and I mean ANYTHING.”
Envy is a self-focused sin. In struggling with Envy, I will spend all my time obsessing over what I lack or think I deserve but don’t have. In the strong grip of this vice, it will prove nearly impossible for me to foster a relationships with others. My entire world is bound up in an obsession of self-entitlement; I will have very little time for interaction with other human beings.
Kindness is an outward-focused virtue. Unlike Envy, Kindness challenges me to spend time considering how I can bless others. How can I help shoulder someone’s hardships or sorrows? How can I bring joy into someone’s life?
The paradoxical result of Kindness is that the person who practices this outward-focused lifestyle often reaps the benefit of many blessings personally because of simple cause and effect. As we are kind to others, they are kind to us. In fact, both Kindness and Envy tend to expand by multiplication–like the water rings created by a pebble in a pond, both of these behaviors ripple outward in greater circles.