[Outer Temple Court]George Herbert: "The Church-porch"

Day 23: Morning


Envie not greatnesse: for thou mak'st thereby

Thy self the worse, and so the distance greater.

Be not thine own worm: yet such jealousie,

As hurts not others, but may make thee better,

   Is a good spurre. Correct thy passions spite;

   Then may the beasts draw thee to happy light.

     Do not envy greatness: for by doing so you demean yourself and increase the distance between you. Do not be your own worm [destroying your own worth]: yet a kind of jealousy that does not hurt others may be good for you; it is a good spur. Correct your passion's spite; then may the beasts [of your lower nature] draw you to happy light.

     We envy greatness because we have not attained it; and we resent it more if we believe we can not achieve something for ourselves. When we look at greatness, wealth, power and ability, with envy, we separate ourselves from it. We prevent ourselves from what we are able to do, our own abilities, even our own identity. We lower ourselves into an abyss. Do not eat yourself up. As we make the chasm wider between us, we make the bridge more difficult to build. We refuse the possibility of what we may and can become. Envy does this. Yet it is possible that a certain kind of jealousy, one that does not hurt others, may improve us. It encourages us to become more like the one we envy. It may make us greater in our own right if we correct our desire's malice. Then the bestial envy may draw us up to a better, fulfilled person.

     Use a sin against itself, to motivate virtue. Take a sin, like envy, with all its ill will, possessiveness and the spiteful malice it generates. Delete the hurt to others, the back biting, rancor and grudging hatred, and what remains. The impetus to emulate greatness; to become what we coveted. The object of the sin changes into the model for the virtue.

© 1997 J. R. Arner

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