Admiration Heals, Envy Kills

It is worth pondering that admiration leads to a sense of epiphany, of comfort for the soul, which, at the same time, prompts an opening of the mind to what it “aims at”.  

Newsroom (02/02/2022 14:30, Gaudium PressThe universe can be compared to a work of art. As Genesis tells us, every single part of it was good, and the whole was great. It was so perfect that God reserved the last day of creation just to contemplate the work of his hands.

Created in the image of the divine artist, only man possessed this sort of “instinct” of admiration. In fact, Adam soon exulted when he learned that he would receive a mate: “It is flesh of my flesh!”.

There is no one in the Holy Scriptures who was so admired as Jesus. And so envied, of course. In the very first chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel, we notice the rapture that Christ caused when he attracted his first disciples (v. 17). His words provoked amazement, for he taught as one having authority (v. 22). When he exorcised a possessed person, “everyone was amazed” and “his fame spread everywhere” (v. 27-28). Finally, many sought him eagerly (v. 36) to be healed of all kinds of infirmities.

“To admire” has the same Latin root as “to behold,” “wonder,” and “miracle.” Indeed, admiration begins through the senses, generally through sight, “looking” at something, before the marvelous or even the miraculous. Now, we can experience admiration in several ways: in a shimmering sunset, in a colourful religious ceremony, in the excitement of a theatrical spectacle, in a heroic act, in the rhetoric of a sermon, or even in the singleness of a dewy flower.

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For Aristotle, admiration was the very beginning of philosophizing. For this, it was necessary to recognize one’s own ignorance in order to attain wisdom.

Admiration, however, is difficult to define, because it carries with it a multifaceted experience. First of all, it implies a certain humility, an exodus from oneself toward the transcendent. It also implicitly brings with it an opposition to pure materialism. In its imponderable nature, admiration leads to a sense of epiphany, of comfort for the soul, which, at the same time, provokes an opening of the mind to what it “sees”.

Simply put, admiration is the phenomenon preceded by the exclamation “Awe!”, or “Oh!”.

There are recent academic studies that suggest that among the positive emotions – such as compassion, joy, and fun – admiration is the one that provokes the greatest anti-inflammatory effects, because it is associated with the greatest decrease in pro-inflammatory cytokines in the body. In this sense, admiration would prevent the triggering of numerous diseases. Nowadays, even a “science of admiration” has been coined, as well as studies on its relevant role in pedagogy.

Well then, the divine method in the predominant use of admiration, whether in creation or in the model of the Incarnate Word, is now proven by science. In fact, admiration elevates, inspires, comforts, and also heals.

Envy, on the other hand, is extremely harmful, a true “rots the bones” (Pr. 14:30). In a certain sense, this vice is the opposite of admiration, in both etymological meanings: envy (from the Latin, in + video) is a kind of “not seeing” or even “not admiring”. It can also be understood as seeing too much, by coveting someone else’s, which is translated by the popular expression “evil eye”.

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Indeed, it was through the envy of the devil that death entered the world (Wis 2:24), that Cain killed Abel (Gen 4:3-8), that Joseph was sold by his own brothers (Gen 37:12-36), and that, finally, Jesus was given over to death (Mk 15:10; Mt 27:18).

In short, admiration heals and, as history proves and as the saying goes, envy kills.

By Father Felipe de Azevedo Ramos, EP.

Published in: O Tempo, year 25, n. 9179, 31/1/2022, p. 16.


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