The Greatest Evil
Evil refers to intense immorality. Religion and scholars have attempted to define evil from various contexts as well as determine its roots. There has been a lot of scholarly work on attempting to describe evil. There are varied definitions of evil across different cultural and religious contexts. According to Teck Boon Lim (n.d.), evil exists both within and without the individual. The mental composition of a person determines their involvement in antisocial behavior. The environmental factors also play a great role in influencing the person’s moral behavior. Evil is therefore an inherent attribute in the individual founded upon his/her main beliefs and those of the society. The problem of determining whether there is a great evil has disturbed philosophers and scholars alike.
Attempts to identify the greatest evil have led to the identification of money, war, greed and other social ills as the greatest evils. It has however been difficult to achieve consensus on one particular evil that surpasses the rest in scope and magnitude of effect. Among the evils that have been identified as among the greatest is envy. Envy is a feeling of antipathy towards another individual especially if he/she has some superior attributes that one wishes to possess (Epstein, 2003). Envy features among the seven cardinal sins identified by the Christianity. Envy is said to originate from the individual’s heart. Envy develops the foundation of other deadly sins. Envy in itself is a feeling that does not qualify as sin or evil in itself since it exists in an abstract form. It is thus the foundation of many other evils. Envy is thus the greatest evil because it originates from the heart and is the root cause of many other evils. According to Jeremy Celse (2010), the nature of envy itself damages the workings of modern society. Envy is the greatest evil the world has ever seen it has many adverse effects on society, individuals and the perpetration of evil.
Envy develops gradually in man, tends to influence in a steady manner the way they think and act, and ultimately becomes their way of life. Envy is an attribute that dwells in virtually all human beings. Sorge as quoted in Lim (n.d) says that envy in the modern world exists everywhere. The prevalence of evil can be compared to no other evil. All other evils that exist in the subconscious are less dangerous than the evil of envy. Envy eats at man from the inside and gives him much suffering and pain than can be imagined (Lim, n.d.). Envy develops within the individual as they try to have more than they have. Envy possesses a man gradually and affects his behavior in a significant way hence causing great damage to the individual’s morals. This insidious nature of envy is what makes it one of the most dangerous evil characteristics a man can ever have. Though envy is abstract, its gradual change within the human being forms the basis for other concrete evils. As it develops, the human being also develops several other attributes that are distinctively more dangerous and have a greater effect on the social behavior. For instance, an envious individual may begin by resenting a colleague who owns a car because he feels that the colleague does not deserve to own the car. As the feeling gradually develops in the individual starts forming evil intentions against this man. This graduation perhaps is the most significant aspect of envy that places it at the pedestal of all other evils.
Envy: The Root of Evil
Envy creates in a man the desire to harm other individuals. According to Joseph Epstein (2003), envy drives a man to wish evil for their neighbor and he rejoices when harm befalls the neighbor. Envy thus creates a desire by man to see others in misfortune. It is entirely based on seeing evil happening to others. Envy therefore entirely leads to other evils and contravenes God’s law on love. Lim says that envy can lead to an emotion that makes one person delight in another’s failure and misfortune. For men to live in harmony, individuals must appreciate the possessions and abilities their fellow men have and strive always to assist them in everything they involve themselves. Lim (n.d.) mentions Schadenfreude as one of the evil conditions that develops because of envy. Schadenfreude is a condition where an individual tries rejoices in another person’s failure. People who indulge in Schadenfreude are said to be experiencing envy in an advanced level. Such people find satisfaction in watching other people and plotting their downfall. Envy is thus an evil against the development and improvement of others. Through envy, other evils such as hate, cruel intentions and greed arise. It is thus the root of many other evils.
The Effects of Envy
Envy has adverse effects in the daily personal relationships between human beings. It affects the mutual association between neighbors and creates retrogressive attitudes to human development (D’Arms, 2009). Human relationships are based on trust and understanding. Friendship relies on mutual trust and the ability to understand the differences between two people in a relationship. Human beings cannot survive without assistance from other individuals. There are many inherent differences between humans that no single human being shows exclusive similarity to the other. This diversity ought to be celebrated rather than be a reason to harm one another. Envy derives its motivation from human diversity such that the inherent attributes and abilities humans are endowed with form the basis for envois feelings. Instead of celebrating other people’s successes, envy makes success a reason for anger and resentment. The envious individual has no reason to be happy rather he always waits in anticipation for others to fail and if it happens that they succeed he grieves. When envy finds its way into a relationship, it destroys mutuality and sets the stage for enmity, hate, stealing, murder and other evils. Envy therefore threatens human relationships and personal development.
Envy also greatly affects the individual. The envious individual is involved in a battle to outplay and outshine other people. Since envy is enshrined in the mind, it affects not only the psychological development of the individual but also his physical development (Celse, 2010). It is the basis of individual choice in the modern world with individuals making choices based on what they have observed in others. Envy therefore creates a society where individual actions are pegged on their analyses of what others have or do not have. The individual’s choices are thus imprisoned by his envious aspirations. He/she sees everything in terms of another individual whom he wants to outplay or outshine. Envy therefore creates a kind of materialistic society where individuals are guided by material aspirations. The corruption that exists in the mind of the envious individual is guided by his/her desire to achieve more. Envy is therefore also a prelude for selfishness. Individuals want to have everything for themselves and have a bad feeling when others have more than they do. Concisely, the envious individual has to contend with selfish desires and a lot of sadness. He/she is perennially unhappy since he wants everything to go his way something that is rather impossible in reality.
Envy is an evil that surpasses all other evils due to its effect on individual behavior, society, its motivation for evil and its insidious nature. Envy has a significant effect on individual behavior and interaction. The envious individual destroys the freedom, trust and friendship that exist in mutual relationships. He develops a selfish desire for what he does not possess and therefore finds it difficult to remain at peace with others. Envy makes individuals unhappy with the performance of others. Secondly, envy has a great effect on society and morality in general. Because of envy, society has developed into a materialistic and self-interest driven entity that focuses only on individual happiness and success. There is an inherent motivation for evil that exists in envious individuals. Such individuals do not see the world in terms of its diversity. Due to envy, they see others as unfairly endowed with abilities and resources. Envy therefore leads to victims plotting for the downfall or destruction of others. It also leads to an evil condition known as Schadenfreude. This is an emotional condition where individuals rejoice in the failings of others. This condition drives people to think ill of other people. Envy also leads to other evils such as hate, mistrust, stealing and even murder. All these attributes make envy the greatest evil. No other evil however cruel has the ability to conjure so much evil in an individual, in society and in human relationships. Simply put, envy is the root of all evil.
Celse, Jeremy. Sketching Envy: From Philosophy to Psychology. Lameta, 2010. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.
D’Arms, Justin, “Envy”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2009 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), 2009. Web. 24 Apr. 2013. Available
Epstein, Joseph. Envy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. Web. 24 Apr. 2013
Lim, Teck B. The Insidious Nature of Envy. Regent University, n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.