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As I continue to try and figure out how to be the best version of myself, I’ve started to wonder which things I need to add to my life and which ones I need to avoid. 

Life means choosing, and ultimately our choices define us.

Science suggests that certain foods, routines, and attitudes help us live the happiest lives we can, and spiritual sources also provide guidance. Like other religious scriptures, the Baha’i writings suggest that we look deeply at the way we choose to relate to others to establish a healthier way of living. 

Our spiritual health is connected to the way that we make others feel and the way that we perceive them. One of the specific qualities the Baha’i writings warn against is envy:

Know, verily, the heart wherein the least remnant of envy yet lingers, shall never attain My everlasting dominion, nor inhale the sweet savors of holiness breathing from My kingdom of sanctity. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 24.

If I imagine my internal well-being as a ladder with which I can climb higher and higher to see more beautiful heights, envy blocks my progress upward. It can prevent me from feeling grateful for the good in my life by keeping me wrapped up in how I perceive someone else’s life. Through a lack of gratitude, I may struggle to practice true generosity, wrapped up in what I don’t possess. 

The Baha’i teachings say:

O My servants, defile not your wings with the clay of waywardness and vain desires, and suffer them not to be stained with the dust of envy and hate, that ye may not be hindered from soaring in the heavens of My divine knowledge. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 327.

This passage implies that our tendency towards envy and hate comes from our lower nature. The spiritual parts of ourselves are not the parts that get upset when others have something that brings them joy – instead, these parts of our nature appreciate the positivity that each of us brings to the table. But to reach this state of appreciation, we need to actually recognize our interconnectedness:

We beseech God to purge the hearts of certain divines from rancour and enmity, that they may look upon matters with an eye unbeclouded by contempt. – Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 135. 

Often, envy comes from our inability to find peace with our own imperfections. We push ourselves too hard, criticize ourselves too much, and excessively focus on what we imagine to be our failings. We often miss how this insecurity relates to our sour attitude towards others, and by ignoring that relationship, we can miss out on the opportunity to resolve the root of our envy. 

In order to be free from jealousy, the Baha’i teachings say that we should clean our hearts of any enmity or rancor within us. Freeing our hearts from envy can allow us to experience true joy. While we might not ever be able to fully rid ourselves of jealousy, hopefully every step forward will remind us that we do have the power to overcome it. 

The process of overcoming envy in itself can become a source of joy:

When a man has found the joy of life in one place, he returns to that same spot to find more joy. When a man has found gold in a mine, he returns again to that mine to dig for more gold. This shows the internal force and natural instinct which God has given to man, and the power of vital energy which is born in him. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 33.

1 Comment

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  • Paul Mantle
    Dec 23, 2019
    There's also this injunction from Baha'u'llah about envy: "O my servant! Purge thy heart from malice and, innocent of envy, enter the divine court of holiness." (Persian Hidden Word #41)