The Seven Deadly Sins

by Christopher Lovejoy on August 24, 2010 · 4 comments

I invite you to read the following statements, slowly and deliberately, with sacred intent, from your own perspective:

Here and now, I am all that I can be.

I have it all: I have satisfied my every need and I have fulfilled my every desire.

In good conscience, I can be, have, and do whatever I wish, whenever, wherever, and with whomever I wish.

I have as much as I need to be who I am and I have as much as I desire to enjoy what I do.

My life is complete: I enjoy blissful continuity and I am prepared to leave a lasting legacy.

After reading these statements, how did you feel? Did they make you feel good? Or did they make you feel bad? Did they feel right to you? Or did they somehow feel wrong to you?

If these statements made you feel good, and if they felt entirely right to you, then congratulations: you have realized the pinnacle of your fulfillment. You need not read any further.

If, however, they didn’t make you feel all that good, or didn’t feel entirely right to you, then you might like what I have to say in the remainder of this post, as it favors the pinnacle of your fulfillment.

Parallels: Keys and Sins

I’ve noticed a curious divide between those who take their sins seriously and those who find nothing serious in talking about their sins in a light-hearted, even cavalier manner.

For myself, I prefer a more neutral stance.

I’m not so thick in the head as to declare that we are all, inevitably and necessarily, sinful by nature, but I’m also not so bubble-headed as to suggest that the seven deadly sins don’t point to anything that might compromise personal fulfillment.

The notion of sin deserves thoughtful consideration, especially in the context of personal fulfillment.

In my post, Personal Fulfillment, I outline what I believe to be seven key elements that serve as a way to support personal fulfillment. Now, at the risk of going out on a limb here, I also believe that there are some curious but interesting parallels between these keys and the seven deadly sins.

In Praise of Grace

Many of us are familiar with the seven deadly sins. For your benefit and reference, here they are, in the order I wish to discuss them: greed, sloth, Pride, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony.

The seven deadly sins are deadly for a reason. They have the effect of undermining or destroying your capacity for grace, and if you’re a believer, leave you open to the threat of eternal damnation.

A person who lives in a state of grace exudes unity and harmony.

Such a person is the picture of fulfillment. People of grace have as much as they need to be who they are. People of grace have as much as they desire to enjoy what they do.

Many of us know, without a doubt, when we’re in the presence of grace – in the presence of someone who lives in a state of grace, and some of us, in this graceless age, might even still appreciate it.

Personally, I always feel pleasantly mollified when I have the pleasure of meeting a person of grace, and when this person combines power with grace, I am always left feeling impressed.

Interpretations of the seven deadly sins have evolved through the centuries. I’ll be using a modern classification to sketch parallels between the deadly sins and the keys to personal fulfillment.

Before reading further, I would recommend that you read or review my post, Personal Fulfillment, to get a quick overview of the seven keys to personal fulfillment, as I understand them.

Legacy : | : Greed

Greed is a sin of excess.

You are greedy when the frequency, duration, and/or intensity of your desire for power, status, and/or wealth is excessive. You are greedy when you desire more than you need or deserve.

All sorts of pernicious effects, both unintentionally and deliberately caused, can arise in the course of pursuing greedy desires. You risk the betrayal of yourself or others. You risk disloyalty from others and you risk becoming disloyal to others. You risk becoming a miser, hoarding and scavenging your way to a hidden treasure. You risk manipulating people and situations with your authority to gain and secure prized objects or objectives.

In short, you risk becoming a loser in life and love.

This is not the kind of legacy many of us would like to leave after we die.

The virtuous antidote to the deadly sin of greed is charity. Honorable, charitable giving, while you live and after you die, will ensure that you leave a lasting legacy.

Continuity : | : Sloth

You enjoy continuity in your fulfillment …

  • when you’re healthy, fit, and vital;
  • when you have strong, flexible boundaries and appropriate standards of propriety, success, and excellence;
  • when you have the maturity to be carefree, productive, and responsible;
  • when you know when you can trust and respect yourself and others; and
  • when you know who you are and what you stand for

As you come close to meeting these conditions of personal fulfillment, the temptation to become lazy and indifferent rises as you approach the pinnacle of your fulfillment.

This same temptation can arise even before you articulate a complete vision of the fulfillment of your promise; as you align your vision and path of fulfillment; or as you re-align your vision and path.

Sloth can sometimes be more a sin of omission than of commission.

With sloth, you let yourself go; you let yourself slide into the abyss …

  • you might not care so much about your health, fitness, or vitality;
  • you might not care so much about your boundaries or standards;
  • you might not care so much about being responsible for your freedom;
  • you might not care so much about being reliable or dependable; or
  • you might not care so much about the integrity of your purpose or promise

The virtuous antidote to the deadly sin of sloth is diligence. Even as you approach the pinnacle of your fulfillment, it pays to remain diligent with the use of your time, money, energy, and effort.

Integrity : | : Pride

Pride, religiously speaking, is the original sin, and is generally considered the most serious of the seven deadly sins, the ultimate source from which all the other deadly sins arise.

Unfortunately, there’s some confusion here between capital-P Pride and small-p pride.

The secular small-p pride is an ethical virtue. Indeed, it is the crowning virtue – a culmination and realization of all the other virtues that serve reason, purpose, and a healthy self-esteem.

The religious capital-P Pride is an abomination. Pride, in this sense, is a desire to be seen as more attractive, more effective, more accomplished, more important, more worthy than others.

For example, a noted author posts a new work online as a shared document. He invites a group of people to read it and make suggestions for improvement. At first, a small number of people make a few modest suggestions for improvement. But then, someone comes along and floods the shared document with bold suggestions for improvement, ignoring and repeating suggestions made by others.

This is Pride with a capital P.

The integrity of any commitment to clarify and live up to your values is made easier and more enjoyable with healthy doses of small-p pride in your attainments and achievements.

To focus on this commitment is to focus on what you do well to discover what inspires you most; it requires that you live your purpose and passion to realize fully what truly matters to you.

The virtuous antidote to the deadly sin of pride is humility, but rather than rely on humility alone, I would suggest that you hook up your humility with healthy doses of small-p pride.

Visibility : | : Envy

Envy is the deadly sin of fortune and misfortune.

Envy would have you be deprived of what is due to you. Envy would have you hang your head with shame for having lost or failed. Envy would have you believe that you are not worthy.

When I make visible my intention to trust and respect others, I do so with the expectation of finding common ground. With common ground, I can learn, grow, care, and share.

I can learn from another. I can grow with another. I can care for another.

The virtuous antidote to the deadly sin of envy is kindness.

Maturity : | : Wrath

Some say that the anger (spite, contempt, resentment, hostility) you direct toward others is in fact a reflection of the anger you’ve bottled up and stored inside yourself against yourself.

Others say that the frequent, simmering, or intense anger of some one or some group might be a justified reaction against a monstrous injustice committed against one or more of them.

Wrath might be an expression of a deep, pervasive, and prolonged frustration, which manifests as chronic impatience. Or, it might in fact be a justified reaction against a heinous crime.

The sin of wrath is a tough one to gloss over. Personally, I’m more inclined to extend compassion to those who find themselves caught inside its grip than I am to judge or condemn.

Still, a big part of maturity is being able to let go. To forgive but not to forget, at least for the sake of your own peace of mind and your capacities for enthusiasm and optimism.

Another big piece to maturity is being able to take responsibility for your frustrations, by learning to channel them constructively or by releasing them as you go (e.g., The Sedona Method).

The virtuous antidotes to the deadly sin of wrath are patience and forgiveness.

Viability : | : Lust

Lust is the deadly sin that virtually no one takes seriously anymore.

But I’m going to buck the trend and give it some serious consideration here.

When I talk about lust, I talk about lust generally: for money, power, wealth, status, and sex.

Personally, I believe that the feeling of lust is healthy, normal, and natural. Potential problems arise, however, when you go beyond feeling your lust and begin acting on your lust.

We feel what we feel. If I feel lustful, I feel lustful. There’s no point in making any attempt to deny or suppress what I feel in the moment. I welcome it. I allow it to be. I release it.

Lust, as a controlling desire, however, can dominate your thoughts and feelings, leaving you relatively incapable of judging conduct and situations quickly and accurately.

With judgment impaired, you can lose sight of your boundaries; your standards can be lowered.

The viability of your boundaries and standards depends on forgoing lust.

Forgoing lust requires presence of mind. It requires an attitude of chastity. Not chastity per se, but an attitude that reminds you of the benefits that can be had from being chaste in the moment.

This might be a tough one for some of you to swallow.

But remember: if you lose sight of your boundaries and lower your standards, you take the risk of compromising your maturity, your capacity to trust and respect, as well as your integrity.

The virtuous antidotes to the deadly sin of lust are presence of mind and acceptance, along with an informed attitude of chastity if you wish to be taken seriously.

Totality : | : Gluttony

Most of us enjoy a good meal. And a cold drink on a hot day.

To make sense of why anyone would want to eat or drink too much, let’s briefly revisit the keys of fulfillment that I outlined in my post, Personal Fulfillment.

I began by outlining five keys of fulfillment that could serve as a fertile ground for sowing the seeds of your success and excellence: viz., totality, viability, maturity, visibility, and integrity.

I then introduced two more keys that point to the pinnacle of your fulfillment: viz., the continuity of your fulfillment (while you live) and the legacy that you leave (before and after you die).

I treated these keys as layers, with the totality of your health, fitness, and vitality as your most basic layer of fulfillment and your legacy as the uppermost layer – the topsoil of your life, perhaps.

If we imagine systemic failures or absences of viability, maturity, visibility, and integrity occurring above totality, we might also imagine the effects of those failures or absences trickling down to the most basic level and creating a kind of backlog or logjam of frustrations and disappointments.

In attempts to assuage such feelings, we might eat or drink – a lot. Gluttony is not so much a sin as it is a desperate attempt to numb ourselves to persistent feelings of chronic failure.

The current epidemic of obesity around the world indicates a basic but profound failure to learn and grow, to care and share. The health care costs and the costs to productivity are steep.

The virtuous antidote to the deadly sin of gluttony is temperance – but a temperance informed and inspired by those who have mastered the challenges of viability, maturity, visibility, and integrity.

Some Quick Advice

The seven deadly sins are as deadly as we make them.

We have a choice about whether we let ourselves be taken over by them and we have a choice about whether to relieve ourselves of them if we have let ourselves be taken over by them.

For the sake of our own personal fulfillment, we would do well to address them, at the very least, and then confront them if we ever hope to embrace the pinnacle statements at the start of this post.

Whether we feel tempted by them or crushed by them, here’s some advice for dealing with them:

1. Presence. Having presence of mind relies on grace, but in the absence of grace, one can still assume a witness perspective to observe, accept, and release your feelings. 

2. Acceptance. If you feel greedy, slothful, Proud, envious, wrathful, lustful, or gluttonous, then accept that you feel what you feel, and please remember: you are not your feelings.

3. Practice. Whichever technique you choose to use to release unwanted feelings, make it a daily practice (if you feel that’s necessary). Mornings are best, before the world wakes up.

I sincerely wish you the best with this. If you should have any comments or questions about any of this, please feel free to drop me a line. I’ll be more than happy to help.

{ 4 comments }

BriteLite August 28, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Very interesting. I would never have thought to draw parallels between personal fulfillment and the 7 deadly sins. The parallels you draw make sense to me. I think a more in-depth treatment of these parallels would make for an interesting read.

Christopher Lovejoy August 28, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I thought at first that writing about the deadly sins would feel onerous, but I actually enjoyed writing about them in the context of personal fulfillment. Perhaps I’ll explore them in more depth at some future date.

Evelyn Lim September 3, 2010 at 3:25 am

Just two days ago, I was reading The Wisdom of the Enneagram which shared about the “Deadly Sins” or rather “Passions” as it is called. You have certainly done an excellent job in providing with a more detailed explanation. I honestly think that you should write a book based on your thoughts and insights.

Abundance always,
Evelyn

Christopher Lovejoy September 3, 2010 at 10:43 am

Hi Evelyn, I’m delighted to see you again. Thanks for the compliment. The Seven Deadly Sins was a joy to write. As for your suggestion, I intend to write a primer on personal fulfillment and offer it as a pdf download. Stay tuned.

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