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William Benson wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Is it coveting to want to be first in line for a concert when one is last in line?


  { Is it coveting to want to be the first in line for a concert when one is last in line? }

Mike replied:

Hi William,

Yes, it is.

Let me give you some examples:

In your case, one could either say:

  • I really wish I was in the front of this line, or
  • I wish I was in the front of this line but I feel good for the person who is the first in line.


  • I wish I was getting the hourly wage my friend was getting at a competitor's workplace, or
  • I feel good that my friend is getting a very good hourly wage where he is working even though it is more then what I am getting.

A related word is envy. An EWTN priest made the distinction between coveting and envying this way:

The difference between the two is that covetousness is the distortion of the emotion of desire, while envy is a distortion of the emotion of sadness.

Covetousness or greed is excessive desire, while envy is sadness about the goodness of others.

(Fr. Stephen F. Torraco)

The Catechism may help too:

I. The Disorder of Covetous Desires

That's my two cents. My colleague may have more to add.


John replied:

William —

I would actually say that while the situation you describe could, under some circumstances, be coveting . . . in most cases it is not.

The desire to be in a better situation or to have something is not, by itself, coveting. It's when that desire is distorted and obsessive that it becomes coveting.

The normal desire to better oneself and to better one's situation is a positive motivator to do better, to improve, and to achieve. Likewise being stuck at the end of the line and desiring to be in the front of the line, should motivate you to show up earlier next time.

It really depends on how much you dwell on it and the thoughts you actively and willingly entertain as a result of your desire.

If you start to willingly resent the person in the front of the line . . . or that sort of thing . . . now you are crossing the line into coveting.


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