The Seven Deadly Sins

by Christopher Lovejoy on August 24, 2010 · 4 comments

Update: this post was last updated on November 26, 2010 at 11:21:49 am and (unbelievably) was spontaneously revised and updated nine years later to the day on November 26, 2019 at 2:55:32 am. I view this as a meaningful coincidence, one that fills me with wonder.

I invite you to read these statements, slowly and deliberately, with sacred intent:

  1. I am all that I can be, here and now, and feel comfortable with who I am
  2. I have it all, having satisfied my every need and fulfilled my every desire
  3. I can be, have, and do whatever I wish, when, where, and with whom I wish
  4. I have as much as I need to be who I am and as much as I desire to enjoy what I do
  5. I enjoy blissful continuity and am prepared to leave a lasting legacy; my life is complete

In reading these statements, how do you feel? Do they make you feel good? Or do they make you feel bad? Do they feel right to you? Or do they somehow feel wrong to you? Overall, how do you feel?

If these five statements make you feel good, and if they feel entirely right to you here and now, then congratulations: you have reached the pinnacle of your fulfillment. You need not read any further.

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

Parallels: Keys and Sins

I’ve noticed a curious divide between those who would take their sins seriously and those who would 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 undermine personal fulfillment.

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

In my post, Personal Fulfillment, I outline seven keys in support of personal fulfillment. Now at the risk of going out on a limb here, I am also given to believe there are some rather curious yet interesting parallels that can be drawn between these keys and the seven deadly sins.

Let’s explore seven of them, but first, a few words about the power of grace.

In Praise of Grace

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

The seven deadly sins are deadly for a reason. These sins have the effect of consuming your capacity for grace, and if you’re a believer, their indulgence leave you open to the threat of eternal damnation.

A person who lives in a state of unity and harmony is a picture of grace and ease; such a person is also the picture of fulfillment. Furthermore, people of grace and ease have as much as they need to be who they are; they also 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 with grace and ease, and some of us, in this graceless age, might even still appreciate it.

Personally, I feel pleasantly mollified as and when I have the pleasure of meeting and greeting a graceful person; when this person combines power with grace, I always walk away 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 recommend reading or reviewing my post Personal Fulfillment.

Legacy : | : Greed

Greed is the sin of excess.

We are greedy to the extent to which we excessively desire anything, including but not limited to power, status, and/or wealth. We are greedy when we desire more than we need or deserve.

All sorts of bad things can happen when greedy desires are pursued. We risk the betrayal of ourselves or others. We risk disloyalty from others and we risk becoming disloyal to others. We risk becoming misers, hoarding and scavenging our way to hidden treasures. We risk manipulating people and situations with the authority to gain and secure prized objects or objectives.

In short, we risk becoming losers 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

I enjoy continuity in my fulfillment when …

  • I remain healthy, fit, and vital;
  • I have strong, flexible boundaries with appropriate standards of propriety, success, and excellence;
  • I have the maturity to remain carefree, productive, and responsible;
  • I know when I can trust and respect self and others; and
  • I know who I am and what I stand for

As I approach meeting all of these conditions for the fulfillment of my person, the temptation to become lazy and indifferent rises the closer I get to reaching the ultimate in personal fulfillment.

This same temptation can arise even before I articulate a complete vision of the fulfillment of my promise, and can arise as I align my vision with the path of my fulfillment or as I re-align my vision with my path.

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

With sloth, I let myself go; I let myself slide into the dark abyss …

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

The virtuous antidote to the deadly sin of sloth is diligence. As I endeavor to approach the pinnacle of my fulfillment, it usually pays to remain diligent with the use of my time, money, energy, and effort.

Integrity : | : Pride

Pride, religiously speaking, is the original sin, and is generally considered the most serious of all the deadly sins and the ultimate source from which all of 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 of the word, is a desire to be viewed and treated as more attractive, more effective, more accomplished, more important, and therefore more worthy than others. There’s a deep, underlying cynicism with Pride.

A noted author posts a new work online as a shared document, inviting his readers 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 ~ or even worthless.

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. I can share with another.

The virtuous antidote to the deadly sin of envy is simply this: be kind.

Maturity : | : Wrath

Some would 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 deadly grip than I am to judge or condemn the gripped.

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 (I recommend The Sedona Method).

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

Viability : | : Lust

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

I am going to buck the trend and give it some serious consideration.

Now 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 suppressing or denying what I feel in the moment. I welcome it. I allow it to be. I release it. Easy come, easy go. Quick, simple, easy.

Lust, as a controlling desire, however, can all too easily dominate thought and feeling, leaving us relatively incapable of judging conduct and situations quickly and accurately. With judgment impaired, we can lose sight of our boundaries and our standards can be lowered.

The viability of your boundaries and standards depends on foregoing lust, at least for a time. 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 to swallow, but if you lose sight of your boundaries and lower your standards, you risk compromising your maturity, your capacity to trust and respect, as well as your integrity. Yes, the pleasures of lust are great, but then, so are the risks of indulgence.

The virtuous antidotes to the deadly sin of lust are three: presence of mind and acceptance, along with an informed attitude of chastity, that is, of course, 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 or too frequently, let’s briefly revisit the keys to 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 ~ not unlike the topsoil of your life.

If we imagine absences or failures 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 that is informed and inspired by those who have mastered the challenges of viability, maturity, visibility, and integrity.

Some Quick (and not-so-dirty) 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 be embraced by the ultimate statements outlined at the start of this post.

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

1. Presence. Be present. 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 any controlling feelings.

2. Acceptance. Accept how you feel. 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. Practice release. 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.

Again, the deadlies are as deadly as we care to make them.

{ 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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