Growing in Solicitude

Solicitude, or brotherly love and admiration, is associated with the beatitude, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). This beatitude is about finding blessedness through suffering. Suffering, like solicitude, strengthens our love for our neighbor, even when he has or accomplished things that can make us envious.

Solicitude combats the sin of envy. While envy resents the good fortune of another person, solicitude cares for the welfare of another. Brotherly love rejoices in another person’s success.

What is solicitude?

Solicitude is care or concern for the well being of others. It also involves admiring someone for his skills and accomplishments.

Living with solicitude

Anthony Esolen writes, “Our name for this vice [envy] derives from the Latin invidia, which literally means the habit of seeing things twisted (the inner meaning of our word wrong) or inside-out…My brother considers well before he speaks; I call him sly.  My sister weeps when she sees an animal suffering; I call her a sentimentalist.  My friend crosses himself and says grace before he eats his lunch in the cafeteria; I call him a religious zealot.  Envy does worse than attribute vices to people who are not vicious.  It grieves at the sight of their very virtues, and turns those virtues the wrong side out.” In this way, envy is dangerous for our spiritual lives and keeps us feeling pretty lousy. Solicitude, however, frees us from these feelings and vice.

Three ideas to help you practice solicitude

  1. Genuinely congratulate and encourage others to accomplish good things, even if you would like to be recognized for those same things (ex. authorship, promotions, etc.).
  2. Refrain from thinking poorly about those who have more (or more recognizable) skills than you in certain areas.
  3. Be conscious of the welfare of others. For example, help another person achieve a goal of his this week, month, or year. 

What do the experts say?

“What is the mark of love for your neighbor? Not to seek what is for your own benefit, but what is for the benefit of the one loved, both in body and in soul.” –St. Basil

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”—John 13:34

“Love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor.” –Romans 12:10

“Love to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self.” –Blessed Mother Teresa