What is Holy Envy?

Occasionally, we learn concepts that completely change our outlook on things and how we interact with others. That is exactly what the idea of holy envy has done for me. Bishop Krister Stendahl, a former presiding Lutheran bishop of Sweden, is accredited with the term “holy envy”. He proposed certain ground rules for interfaith discussion. One of them is, “Leave room for holy envy.” It is a beautiful idea that when learning about another faith we can find something impressive or admirable in their traditions. Just because these discoveries occur should not make one feel disloyal to their own faith.

My goal is to build and express interfaith understanding, and to especially focus on the positive aspects of various world religions. This is a study much broader than only Christianity, but of the worlds largest faiths and how they are practiced. Only highlights of these religions are examined rather than an overview of their basic beliefs. As I study each faith I hope to discover something in other religions that I admire and I can express “holy envy” about to the end of expanding my understanding and find aspects that could bless anybody.

Bishop Krister Stendahl

In contrast to my hope and goal of appreciation is an attitude of close-mindedness and ignorance. I’ve been guilty of this more than my pride allows me to admit. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also commonly known as the Mormon church, this attitude is a function of strong dedication to my own faith. I don’t actively look to shut out any good that can come from a source not associated with my own faith. I believe most people have a closed attitude towards learning about and appreciating other faiths because of their dedication to their own; however, truth and goodness can be found abundantly and should be at the very least admired. The prelude to offense is misunderstanding, and offense is too often the result of interfaith dialogue. I want to offer my Latter-Day Saint perspective on my learning about world faiths and the holy envy I have for some of their traditions.

I hope that some of my thoughts help you to identify aspects of holy envy you have for others, not only in their religious views, but in anyway they live their life that you can admire without debilitating your own lifestyle. Please feel free to comment on some of your experiences with any religion or cultures that you have had. I would love to have others contribute to the content here and I welcome any feedback!


6 thoughts on “What is Holy Envy?

  1. I am certainly going to follow this blog. I love the idea of holy envy and recognizing and appreciating goodness in places that many people shut out.
    I’ve had a fascination with the Catholic Church for a long time, and have had some “holy envy” for their Christmas and Easter service traditions. I’ve attended midnight mass on Christmas Eve a few times, and have really enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate the Savior’s birth in that way. I have also attended Easter Vigil, and really appreciated that service as well. At the Easter Vigil service I attended, everyone was given a small candle in a holder as we walked in at the beginning of the service, and part way through the service all lights were turned off, and a flame started at the back and was passed through everyone in the congregation, until the sanctuary was full of the flickering lights of candles. The priest talked about the light of Christ, and how we can pass it along. It was a neat experience that has stuck with me.
    Good luck with this project!


  2. First of all, I think this is pretty cool. It’s especially crucial right now during times of religious warring with ISIS that we learn to understand other religions. When I was a teenager my family hosted a foreign exchange student who was Muslim. It was very interesting to learn that her religion was actually very similar to my own Christian religion, even more than some other Christian religions. I think there is always some belief we can find in common and we ought to build on that.


  3. I agree 100% with everything said. Sometimes I know I can a little stubborn or shut off to others’ beliefs, but I’ve seen how having an open mind can lead to greater happiness in my own life and it’s made me some good friends along the way. Yeah I have my own beliefs but I definitely respect others and their own convictions.


  4. I liked your post about Judaism, I find that it is one religion that I do not know much about. I appreciated your description of their traditions and I didn’t know that they are that respectful of the name of God.


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