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The Seven Deadly Sins

Karl Menninger, M.D. profoundly asked in his 1975 book titled, Whatever Became of Sin?  Menninger's book should have resurrected the orthodox concept of sin and its consequences; however, it appears it did neither.  In fact, sin thrives and abounds in our hedonistic culture.  Perhaps a timely review would expose the truth so we might better understand. Let us consider the Seven Deadly Sins which I have composed from my Catholic education, my experiences and my perceptions. 

PRIDE is the deadliest of sins and is always in disguise and can justify almost anything, especially, a sinful lifestyle. In the conscience of the sinner, pride’s cohort, rationalization, cagily obscures truth with illusion and gets a hardy assist from the self-serving concept of relativism. Today the foremost tenet of pride is to denounce others as intolerant as they preserve the differences between right and wrong. The prideful believe everyone is right except those who fail to adhere to this concept. Plainly, this is a new version of the supposed taboo-CENSORSHIP. This form of hubris is steeped in self-importance and condescension.  Often pride emerges as selfish indifference preferring to shield itself from detection.

ANGER is a most debilitating emotion.  Instructed to bear wrongs patiently, one must learn to manage anger in a deliberative manner.  Once having given in to anger, it is difficult to control.  It leaves one incapable of civility and often leads to violence in one form or another.  Subtly, anger inflicts relatively minor damage on those who are its target, but its wrath levies a heavy toll on the enraged.  It is important to recognize when one neither forgives nor forgets he continually injures himself with the same pointed instruments of rage, hate, and revenge.

Only when someone sets out deliberately to hurt another is anger justified.  Although not always possible, it is essential to determine before one acts, if his angry response will benefit anyone.  Acrimony upsets emotional balance and distorts good judgment.  Therefore, discretion dictates anger should be left to those who can handle it.  Thus, one should repair to the wisdom that vengeance is the Lord’s.

Justified anger can motivate one to right a wrong, preserve justice, or embrace a challenge.  Anger is not evil when in accordance with reason, and attacking that which is repugnant to a civilized society.  It is a manifestation of the soul’s power to stand for the good.  Gregory the Great said, “Reason opposes evil more effectively when anger ministers at her side.” The contemporary culture fails to see that conviviality is never an acceptable substitute for honesty or direct action in the face of evil.  Society must fight the evils that pervade the culture with humility, kindness, and purity of heart to minimize the sins against the general welfare.

AVARICE is more than amassing possessions.  A life of wanton extravagance or wielding power at the expense of others is a serious sin.  Nonetheless, many cast aside principals in the quest for material wealth.  The moral man knows acquiring great wealth is not the ultimate goal.  There are better measures of a man than his bank account.  This assumption only assesses a man's ineptness in accumulating goods but fails to examine his record of achieving good.  Certainly the world would be a better place if all men were all judged by their contributions to the common good.

In, The Peter Prescription, the author, attributes to S. Howe this quote about true wealth, “I take him to be the only rich man that lives upon what he has, owes nothing and is contented.”  Those who indulge their passion of avarice only create a thirst for more, and more is never enough.

GLUTTONY conjures up Roman banquets with people reclining at table, eating with their hands, and then repairing to the vomitorium.  In spite of that outdated perception, many people today suffer from a variety of eating disorders rarely thinking the good life as anything gluttonous.  Today many overeat or drink to excess to ease their pain.  Others starve themselves to express their self-loathing.

Proper eating goes far beyond the nutritional value of the food ingested.  Few families gather daily around the dinner table any longer to relax, share a meal, and enjoy conversation.  Unfortunately, the benefits of gracious dining have been lost to yesteryear.  This loss poignantly is reflected in the quality of modern family life.  Often, intemperance eclipses common sense and many continue to drink to excess and eat beyond their fill.  In justice, gluttony supplies it own revenge in the form of obesity, infirmity and rejection.  The rotund, G. K. Chesterton, said: “We forget Henry VIII was intellectual, but we remember that he was fat.”

LUST is a disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure.  It is egocentric.  Today lust is not considered a sin but a right of self-expression and a form of recreation.  In truth, promiscuity is not a lifestyle but a life of sin.  The acceptance of pornography and militant sexual emancipation gravely wounds society.  The dissemination of uninhibited sexual information has produced an endless stream of coarse vulgarity and has become the preeminent and predominate form of transmitting a self-gratifying agenda.  The modern world speaks of “safe sex” but is it safe from disease, social consequences, emotional turmoil, and moral decay?  The special property of lust is it makes one a slave to desire by eroding the power of reason and the will.  Morality is an obstacle to self-gratification and, in time, leads to a denial of virtue and God Himself.

People of all ages have an obligation to be chaste.  Yet the word “adult” has undergone a metamorphosis.  It once meant maturity and responsibility.  Now, the dictionary, infers sexual license.  Grownups use the word “adult” to exempt themselves from appropriate standards of behavior.  This adult claim to moral exemption comes at a high price.  Morality is not only meant to protect souls but also, society.  It is the primary defense against assaults on communities.

Despite the devastating consequences of immorality there is little effort for reform.  It should be understood, when you provide raw meat to an un-caged lion; you may become part of the meal.  The lion of sexual license is out of his cage and he now prowls the preserves of the public domain not previously compromised.  Modern society has become a jungle of licentiousness.  Gone are the days when purity of mind, body, and soul were intrinsic to living a good and holy life.  Genuine human decency must be restored.

ENVY upsets the homeostasis and steals contentment from one’s own estimation of himself.  It can be as insidious as being unable to congratulate a co-worker on his or her promotion.  Initially, envy appears as detraction.  This is the tendency to divulge the failings of others, without good reason, to those who have no knowledge of them.  Or it may be rash judgment by assuming the moral failings of others is true without sufficient evidence or confirmation.  Slander is a deliberate attempt to falsely ruin another’s reputation and to nullify the good deeds or good fortune of another.

SLOTH disregards the demands of everyday life particularly (acedia) the spiritual dimension.  Yet responsibilities left unattended quickly overpower the disciple of sloth.  Like gluttony, sloth exacts a price by steadily reducing the quality of one’s life and the prospect of redemption.  Sloth is contemptuous of self-discipline and, eventually, leads to the avoidance of all effort.  The slothful expect others to provide for them, yet for centuries, it has been held that bread not earned should be denied.

Dan Shea - EGL 2 


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