I was having a discussion with my wife the other day, and the topic of the Seven Deadly Sins came up. Turns out I “lust” for her. Actually, we were discussing self improvement. We often sit down and discuss things that we can both improve in our lives, and the topic of the night turned to the Seven Deadly Sins. I was able to recall some of them, but just couldn’t remember them all. So, I did a quick Google search and turned up the list on Wikipedia. Only problem is, it had a number of different lists, that were all similar but different. Hitting a few more websites, I settled on the following list, which is the Catholic definition of the Seven Deadly Sins, which seems to be a fairly well accepted version, at least among folks on the Interweb. Definitions below are from Wikipedia and Dictionary.com.
Intense sexual desire or appetite. In the context of sin, it’s defined as an inordinate craving for sexual intercourse often to the point of assuming a self-indulgent, and sometimes violent character. An immoderate desire for the flesh of another (outside of matrimony).
Looks like I already misused the word in my opening paragraph (in this context anyway.) I think this one speaks for itself. I will add however that I think this also includes excessive porn, which is more easily accessible than it was in biblical times. Lust takes the focus and desire away from your spouse or significant other, and can very easily lead to difficulties in relationships.
Excessive eating and drinking. Over-indulgence and over-consumption of food, drink or intoxicants to the point of waste. A misplaced desire of food or withholding from the needy.
From what I’ve read, it appears that gluttony is not universally considered a sin, but sometimes a symbol of status. My thinking falls somewhere between the two. I think in today’s society, I consider gluttony to apply to those that over eat to a point where it affects the health. Perhaps also to excessive “dining out,” as this can often lead to financial strains for most middle class folks.
Excessive or rapacious desire for wealth or possessions. Buddhists believe that greed is based on incorrectly connecting material wealth with happiness. Christians often explain it as valuing money or possessions more than God.
Greed is a hard one to deal with in today’s society. American society places a lot of value on money, status, and the amount of “stuff” you have. I’ve been working hard on reducing my Greed in recent years. It’s very difficult when you see others around you with more stuff. I believe that you have to really make a belief shift where you accept your place in life and you know that happiness is not based on possessions.
Habitual disinclination to exertion; indolence; laziness. In Christianity, it is defined as spiritual or actual apathy, putting off what God asks you to do, or not doing it or anything at all.
In American society, I would characterize it as those not willing to make a living to support themselves and their families. Those looking for free handouts instead of earning it themselves. We really do live in the land of opportunity, and you really can do or be anything you want, with enough effort.
Strong, stern, or fierce anger. With anger being a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong. I like this definition by Saint Basil who viewed anger as a “reprehensible temporary madness.”
I think we all understand anger. Anger is often difficult to come to terms with. We often look to blame others for our anger. In truth however, we are ultimately responsible for controlling our own emotions, including anger. Anger really is a “temporary madness” in which time, you cannot think clearly. This is very difficult to control. I heard a saying a long time ago, that “anger should arise slowly and dissipate quickly.” Put these concepts together, and I believe that you must recognize anger as it starts, and stop it before it reaches the point of temporary madness.
A feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, or possessions. An emotion that occurs when a person lacks another’s (perceived) superior quality, achievement, or possession and desires it or wishes that the other lacked it.
I believe that Envy is one of the hardest “deadly sins” to overcome. I see envy every day, in my neighborhood, at work, and among friends. Envy is trying to “keep up with the Joneses.” The only way I can see to overcome this is to find happiness within. To know that you are happy with, and be thankful for, your place in life and with the possessions you have. Bertrand Russell, a British philosopher, said that envy was one of the most potent causes of unhappiness. Funny when you think about it, as I see “Happiness” as one of the only cures to envy.
A high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority. In many religions, vanity is considered a form of self worship, in which one rejects God for the sake of one’s own image.
Pride and Vanity are sometimes lumped together, and I’m doing so here. I feel they are one in the same, as vanity would be excessive pride in your own physicality. To this, I would also add a combination of envy and vanity, where one desires beauty. This is seen all too often in media and print, with a slew of magazines and shows dedicated to beauty. Pride is sometimes considered a virtue, and sometimes a vice. I believe that pride in oneself is a vice, while pride in your accomplishments is a virtue.
Why so deadly?
So, there we have the Seven Deadly Sins, but really, what makes them so deadly? How many of us have really died from a little laziness of sloth or being a bit greedy? From what I can gather, the sins aren’t necessarily deadly to the physical body (although I could make a case for this) they are deadly to one’s spiritual self. Looking at it from a spiritual or personal growth perspective, it’s easy to see how they can kill your progress. In fact, from a personal growth stance, the most menial sin of sloth becomes the worst of the bunch, killing off your growth completely.
Personally, I think each of these in small doses can be fine, but excessive “sinning” in any of these will seriously retard your own growth and development. They can also lead to much unhappiness and grief, and a general hard time getting along in this life. Which do I struggle with the most? For me, it’s probably greed. I have a really hard time giving to others. My Spidey senses tell me there may be an upcoming blog topic on this, so I’ll leave it at that and you can catch the details in a later episode.
What are your thoughts on these Seven Deadly Sins? Do you struggle with some of these more than others? Which have you found the hardest to overcome?