Home Opinion Jealousy, the vice of vices, prevents love

Jealousy, the vice of vices, prevents love

Eugene Hemrick
Father Eugene Hemrick writes for Catholic News Service (CNS file photo/Bob Roller)


Jealousy destroys families, companies, governments, religious progress and, worst of all, those infected by it.

On the ruinous effects of jealousy, Anglo-Irish author Elizabeth Bowen wrote, “Jealousy is no more than feeling alone against smiling enemies.”

Jealousy often results in feeling left out. As people are seemingly making progress and moving upward, there is the sense they are enemies causing the feeling of being devalued and overlooked.

The derivation of the word “jealousy” is to look askance, i.e., to look sideways in suspicion of others and to be paranoid about them diminishing our importance.

St. Augustine tells us, “He that is jealous is not in love.” Love implies kindness, which translates to being well-disposed toward others, the world, oneself and especially God. The antithesis of kindness is ill-disposition and feelings of animosity.

On ill-disposition, philosopher and founder of Pennsylvania William Penn would add, “The jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves.” The torment of which Penn speaks is not being the person they truly desire to be. They are at war with themselves.

The prayer Benedictus ends with God giving light to those who live in the shadow of death and God’s desire for their inner peace. Jealousy is considered the vice of vices because it destroys inner peace and casts a dark shadow that snuffs out life.

How might jealousy be kept at bay?

One way is to revisit Christ appearing to his apostles after the resurrection. Peter had abandoned Christ when he most needed him. Despite Christ’s love of Peter, he denies being Christ’s friend.

Instead of banishing Peter from his sight, Christ simply says to Peter, “Do you love me?” This simple reaching out not only shows Christ’s forgiveness but leads to Christ promoting Peter when he implores him, “Feed my lambs … feed my sheep.” In this commissioning, love is restored through a simple promotion.

When we promote one another as Christ did with Peter, it is encouragement at its best. The word “encouragement” contains the Latin word “heart,” signifying that promoting the well-being of another gives heart to another, and equally important, it enlarges one’s own heart.

Looking beyond self and rejoicing in the well-being of another is the perfect antidote against jealousy.