What comes to mind when you think of the word competition? Sports? Games? Drive? Ambition?

Is it mostly a positive term for you? If so, that’s fine. There is such a thing as healthy competition–it’s one of the joys of life.

However, wisdom tells us to beware–for not all competition is healthy or good. An overly competitive spirit can make us inordinately happy–taking pleasure in the pain of others. Or inordinately sad–losing our joy as we fail to rejoice with those who are rejoicing.

This backwards emotional reaction: becoming sad at someone’s happy news or happy at someone’s sad news is a symptom of the deadly sin of envy. It’s diabolical–and should be resisted whenever it rears its ugly head.

Parents, be careful not to promote it in your household. It may be a powerful motivator to get your children to “behave.” But it will backfire into bitterness.

Students, if you find yourself mocking people who seem smarter than you, or sneering at ideas you don’t understand, beware.

Lovers, if you feel threatened by your beloved’s success, or interests, or friendships–realize that your envy could cripple your joy, and poison your relationship.

Employers, if you want a team instead of bitter rivals, be careful how you incentivize your workplace.

“Envy is the great leveler. If it cannot level things up, it will level them down; and the words constantly in its mouth are ‘my rights’ and ‘my wrongs.’ At its best, envy is a climber and a snob; at its worst, it is a destroyer; rather than have anybody happier than itself, it will see us all miserable together.”

Dorothy L. Sayers, “The Other SIx Deadly Sins” in THe Whimsical Christian, 172.