I rolled up to a red light behind a car with a license plate that read: NVMYTC.
With only seconds remaining before the light turned green, I set about decoding the cryptic message on the license plate. Was it an acronym? No Valley Minnesota Your Total Carnage? That couldn’t be it, could it? Curses! Just a few seconds left!
Oh, but look! It’s a Scion brand car, specifically a “tC.” It’s belongs to the driver, who could fairly claim that this was “my tC.”
That brief minute of pretending to be the star of an espionage film in which the fate of the world rested on deciphering a personalized license plate having now been exhausted of all of its dramatic tension, I was left to ruminate over any possible theological implications of the tag. See how productive I am when I’m driving? Most people just crank on the AC and dial up Bieber on the radio, but not me! My air conditioning is broken, and my radio would quickly break, too, if I played Bieber on it, because I would hit it. Instead, I thought about that license plate.
Envy my tC? “Hey world: I want you to envy my new car.” It occurred to me how funny (to me) it would be if, at the next light, I smashed into the back of her car and, as we exchanged insurance numbers, I explained: “Look, you asked me to envy your car. So, I did. That’s why I hit it.”
See, that’s what envy can lead a person to do. The word means “discontent over the success of another person.”* It makes you want that success for yourself, because it should be mine,
and why should you get it? You’re no better than me! In fact, you probably cheated to get it!! (pause here for fist-shaking and nonsensical gurgling)
I was in no way envious of the girl’s Scion tC, but I have been envious before. It’s the most embarrassing of the 7 Deadly Sins, I think. Pride and Lust can both be invested with a certain amount of (false) dignity; Sloth gets away with appearing harmless; we forget about it. Wrath fools men into thinking it’s no more than a mode of expression, useful for highlighting an important point—broken furniture and shattered relationships are just unfortunate side effects. Greed is good, like Gordon Gekko said. You need it to get ahead, right? And Gluttony? What’s wrong with that? Are you saying the Triple Sized Chili-and-Bacon Ox Burger With Cheese Fries and a Stunningly Large Coke is gluttonous? What, are you stupid?
But Envy? Gross. Nobody will admit to real envy. C. S. Lewis wrote that it was Pride that was the sin “which everyone in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else, and of which hardly any…imagine that they are guilty themselves.”^ I don’t doubt it, yet I would say that in the 21st century United States it is Envy which more closely matches that description.
So, how’s that for an open-ended blog post? Any thoughts, anyone? Which Deadly Sin takes the cake?
*paraphrased from Fr. Hardon’s Catholic Dictionary
Christianity, III, 8.