Virtues and the Seven Deadly Sins:
A Potpourri of Thoughts
Laura Brown, Jonathan Castele, Taylor Crawford,
Daniel Ensign, Mary Flowe, Abby Gabor,
Greg Hess, Shaneice Johnson, Anne Lehan,
Tim McGarvey, Dustin McGowan, Candice Misch,
Stephanie Rentas, and Caleb Wood
Edited by Cliff Williams
This material is a product of discussions in a course taught at Trinity College in Deerfield, Illinois, during the Spring 2012 semester. The name of the course was Virtues and the Seven Deadly Sins; I was the teacher. Each class period two students wrote down ideas on the virtue or sin that was being discussed that day. In addition, I mined the papers and tests the students wrote for insightful thoughts. The particular virtues that were treated in the course are the ones that appeared in the textbooks for the course, which were:
Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Sins and Their Remedies (Brazos Press, 2009)
Robert C. Roberts, Spiritual Emotions: A Psychology of Christian Virtues (Eerdmans, 2007)
Solomon Schimmel, The Seven Deadly Sins: Jewish, Christian, and Classical Reflections on Human Psychology (Oxford University Press, 1997)
Clifford Williams, ed., Personal Virtues: Introductory Essays (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005)
What follows is inspired by these books, but in no case is there a direct quote from the books.
• SINS •
PRIDE AND VAINGLORY
• VIRTUES •
PRIDE AND VAINGLORY
Marks of pride
Do I get upset when someone challenges my opinion?
Do I look down on people with different jobs?
Can I empathize with others’ struggles?
Do I get defensive when people criticize me?
Do I continually reroute conversations to myself?
Do I get possessive of my creations?
Can I accept the possibility of being wrong?
Do I always want credit for what I’ve done?
Can I laugh at myself, especially when I make mistakes?
Do I always have to be better than others?
Am I threatened by those as talented as myself?
Can I let go of disagreement?
Am I controlling?
Do I always think my way is the best way?
Am I willing to listen to what others say?
How do I react when I lose a game?
Do I want to do better than I am capable of doing?
Am I obsessed with myself?
Do I regard myself as having more value than others?
Can I see my own limitations and faults?
Remedies for pride
Listen to others; don’t talk so much.
Remind yourself of how big the world is.
Look for the good qualities in other people.
Refrain from making excuses for mistakes.
Spend time with people who don’t think the world of you.
Spend some time living as if you were homeless. Sit on a sidewalk beside a homeless person.
Go to a less developed country.
Try new things and expect mistakes.
Give God credit.
Look for virtues in others.
Do things you are not good at.
Admit failures and mistakes.
Do I always want to be seen as excellent at what I do?
How intense is my desire for attention?
Do I use others as tools to gain a reputation for myself?
Do I try to get attention in conversations?
Antidotes to vainglory
Take the spotlight off yourself in little ways.
Do not look into mirrors.
Listen to others.
Place yourself in the background.
Have gratitude for the good things in your life.
Allow yourself to be humbled and broken.
Be honest with yourself.
Marks of humility
Can I receive praise graciously and with gratitude?
How accurate is my appraisal of myself?
Shame and self-loathing
Do I constantly belittle myself?
Can two individuals who value each other for vainglory be in a relationship?
There are few things more prideful than false humility. It is a calculated attempt to put yourself above others by putting on false virtue.
Vainglory is an epidemic in our culture.
“I have a thousand Facebook friends.”
Every aspect of our culture is fused with competition and the desire to be better than everyone else.
Pride warps our perception of reality.
Pride prevents people from receiving criticism.
Why is envy so deadly?
Envy comes from hate for others because they possess a good we do not.
Envy causes the envier to be bitter.
Envy can cause one to fall prey to other deadly sins.
Envy is tied to a false sense of self-worth.
Envy is irrational and unpredictable.
Envy is based on a fickle self-identity, since it is not rooted in anything unchanging.
Envy leads to gossip, criticism, violence, and murder.
In envy we lose ourselves, because we are attempting to be like someone else.
Envy leads to wicked desires and actions, such as hate and scheming.
Envy can cause us to be angry.
Envy often leads to degrading those who are superior to us.
Do I constantly evaluate myself in comparison to others?
Do I resent it when someone else has something I want?
Am I hyper-aware of other people’s successes?
Do I express disdain for things that are in perfect condition?
Do I blame others for my situation, even though they are not responsible?
Do I one-up others with my successes?
Do I have irrational anger or resentment?
Do I dislike people who have done me no wrong?
Am I spending long amounts of time stewing in bitterness toward others?
Am I dissatisfied with myself and my situation?
Am I overcompetitive?
Am I obsessed with someone who has a better situation than I do?
Do I have a sense of injustice about my circumstance?
The grass is not always greener on the other side.
If we were to delight in what we have, we would have no envy and would be happier.
Envy arises from self-centeredness that refuses to celebrate others for what they are.
An envious person does not have gratitude.
The real problem with envy is not in wanting good things, but in hating others for having good things.
One origin of envy is the fact that modern Western children are raised in constant comparison to one another.
We do not envy simply because another is better, but because by comparison another’s superiority makes us feel inferior.
We should be content with what God gives us and stop looking at others to see whether we are successful.
Because the sin of envy first shows its appearance in childhood, parents should discourage comparison in young children.
Envy can lead to self-loathing.
Envy is opposed to the love of our neighbor. If we truly love our neighbor, we will rejoice with them in their gifts and accomplishments, not resent them with envy.
To envy another’s talents is to wish that God had not given those talents to the person, but to you.
Undervaluing another’s worth derives from overvaluing our own worth.
Envy undermines compassion.
Sources of envy
Feeling as if one is not where one is supposed to be
Feeling the need to fill a role
Lack of self-identity
Losing oneself in others
Not valuing what one has
Shame of who one is and what one has
Overemphasis on the value of things
A desire for wealth; the love of money
Feelings of inferiority; low self-esteem
A skewed desire for justice
Not viewing one’s identity through God’s lens
Valuing other’s good qualities over one’s own
Not seeing the big picture, but only what one lacks
Clinging to the ideal of the American dream
Strategies for dealing with envy
Decide that what is envied is not the most important thing in the world.
Be content with what you have.
Celebrate what other people have.
Do not adopt society’s ideal of upward mobility.
Do not take in the false virtues in advertisements and music.
Be happy for others.
Be grateful for what you have.
Play noncompetitive games.
Envy produces antagonism between people.
We need to learn to appreciate goods outside of a competitive frame of mind.
In healthy competition, we strive to make each other better.
Envy can lead to anger.
The envious are really playing God, that is, wanting control and wanting to be the best.
Envy is a sneaky vice that easily creeps into our daily lives before we notice.
One can be envious of the moral virtues of another.
Being envious of another is saying to God that you are not content with the lot in life that God has granted you.
A virtue of envy is that it is very good at discerning the excellence of other people.
Envy can motivate us to improve ourselves.
The root of envy lies in the comparison of oneself with another along with the recognition that the other is superior in some way.
Why is it that we are naturally competitive—to prove our self-worth?
Can we be envious even of God?
Is it possible to play noncompetitive game without turning them into competition?
What would happen if society taught that our worth had nothing to do with how we compared to others? Could we tolerate that?
Is envy always bad?
Would envy dissipate if we remembered that we cannot take our toys with us across the River Jordan?
What are the marks of an angry person?
A tendency to pick fights
A need to challenge everything
Fixation on a certain topic
Easily upset by small concerns
The mentality of “everyone is after me or against me”
Inability to laugh at oneself
Taking things too seriously
Wanting to be in control
“We live in a very angry society” (Solomon Schimmel, The Seven Deadly Sins, p. 91). How so?
We feel entitled to be in control.
We are extremely individualistic.
We are obsessed with reaching the top, regardless of who we must step on to get there—the “king of the mountain syndrome.”
The sense of self is emphasized.
Aggressiveness and competition are widespread.
Independence is valued.
We live in a violent society.
We do not want to be seen as weak.
When a compliment is given to someone, they respond defensively, seeing the compliment as an underhanded insult.
Our society is fast-paced; there is no room for patience.
It feels good to release emotions.
The media depicts injustice and focuses on an angry response.
American society is very driven by conflict.
Angry people are celebrated, such as revolutionaries, reformers, and rebels.
Every socio-economic issue has polarized sides who are very angry at each other.
Technology enables us to display our angers and passions.
Modern people are so used to instant gratification that whenever we do not get what we want, we get angry.
With American individualism, everyone has their own ideas, which inevitably results in conflict.
There are numerous instances of vigilante justice.
Widespread injustice causes people to be angry.
We live in a society of constant stimuli from media and sugar, placing us in perpetual agitation.
Rebels are glorified in the media, justifying anger.
All revolutions—cultural, political, artistic—rebel against a former state.
Society is driven by competition, which often causes anger.
We have a sense that we are constantly being wronged.
The angrier a person is, the more they are turned into a symbol for angry followers to cling to.
The aggressiveness and competitiveness in society can lead to anger, because everyone wants to win.
What makes anger bad?
It is hard to control.
It blocks off our need to forgive.
It can cause us to act irrationally.
It can be self-degrading.
One can end up looking like a monster.
It disrupts peace.
It can lead to hurtful actions.
It can make us crabby.
It can cause us to do things we later regret.
It can consume us.
It is very difficult to contain anger.
It makes us discontent.
It blinds us.
It leads to hate.
It is poisonous.
It is difficult to keep anger from boiling over.
It is emotionally tiring.
Anger is essentially obsessive.
We should respond to injustice with active love instead of anger.
Anger can be controlled if one denies the desire to act upon it.
Without anger toward rape, thievery, murder, or deceit, we would not be emotionally stable human beings.
The deadliest part of anger is that it makes us unable to forgive.
Righteous anger does not mean simply being angered at injustice, but being stirred to counter that injustice with righteousness.
The presence of anger in us tells us what we value because it is usually aroused when something we value is compromised or confronted.
When a person’s self-concept is injured, they can be consumed with a blaze of wrath.
Anger has too often been thought to be a good response to injustice. Other emotions, such as love, compassion, and sadness, should be the catalysts of justice. Love, unlike anger, is inherently restorative.
A danger of good anger is that the demand for justice can lead to a fit of rage.
Untreated anger can cause a person to develop a psychological disorder.
Eventually good and bad anger look the same.
Good anger can lead to peace.
If we sinful, fallen creatures cannot be angry without drifting into wrath, then anger is something to be avoided.
We get angry when we feel the need to defend ourselves or when something threatens our self-love.
Anger can be a catalyst for action.
Anger is dangerous not only because of what it causes us to do to the object of our anger, but also because of what it is capable of doing to us.
Anger can cause a person who desires justice to hurt themselves, their cause, and people they care about. Love is a better motivation for positive action than anger.
The longer anger remains, the stronger and less righteous it becomes, no matter how noble it began.
We can become addicted to our emotions.
If you don’t realize that you can’t be angry forever, you’ll end up hurting yourself.
Even just anger is difficult to keep from becoming obsessive.
An angry person is usually self-centered.
Many times simple frustration that is harbored turns into anger.
There is a difference between brooding anger and explosive anger.
Brooding anger is dangerous because it can fester in us and lead to hatred and malicious revenge.
Some anger comes from selfishness.
Today’s gender roles can cause people to become angry.
If media intake does not cause us to sin, it is acceptable; but we must be careful, because it is easy to go into denial when media intake is actually affecting us.
Bad anger magnifies the wrong done, making everything seem more terrible.
We often use anger to give ourselves a feeling of power.
Unjust anger is often derived from envy.
Pride makes us feel justified in our anger.
Passion and zeal cannot be calmly and coolly controlled.
Anger strikes fear in our hearts.
Both anger and sadness cause us to notice that things are not as they should be.
People become angry because of their insecurities.
If we reflect on a situation that angers us immediately after we encounter it, we have a better chance of handling it.
Anger produces rash decision-making and bitterness when left to fester.
Anger is manageable and treatable.
How can we control anger?
Stop coming into contact with what angers us.
Have a proper view of justice.
Take time to ask about the situation.
Have emergency protocols of what we need to do when angered.
Direct anger in a good way.
Direct anger toward the proper place.
Stop and evaluate whether our anger is worth it.
Pray for what is angering us.
Realize we can’t hold everyone to a high standard.
Remember instances in which we have been forgiven or been given grace.
Reflect on the big picture.
Take deep breaths and count.
Spend time alone with God.
When we are in conflict, we must respond with examination of the situation instead of acting purely out of emotion.
Be discerning as to what kinds of media we expose ourselves to.
Take ourselves and our situations more seriously and more realistically.
Reflect on the object of our anger.
Do not demonize our opponent and do not over-glorify ourselves.
Remember times we have been forgiven for being angry.
Think about good ways of dealing with anger.
How can we avoid becoming an angry person?
Avoid what angers us.
Pray for people who offend us and pray that we can forgive them.
Know our limits.
Associate what makes us angry with a Bible verse that we can be reminded of.
Cultivate care for others.
Have a proper self-image.
Let go of our pride.
Realize that we have no control over others’ actions and words.
Be intentional in loving, and respect people with opposing views.
Is it permissible to be angry at God?
Is it desirable to feel only sadness toward injustice instead of anger?
Can one feel sadness toward injustice without also feeling anger?
What makes us the most angry?
Even though some anger can be righteous, is it better not to allow ourselves to feel even that anger because of the likelihood of its leading to harmful consequences?
Is there anything wrong with feeling anger toward the unfairness of someone’s dying young?
Does the fact that Jesus displayed anger justify our displaying it?
Are sinful humans capable of a right and holy anger?
In view of the dangerous effects of anger, might it not be best to cultivate a personality that avoids anger at all costs?
Is it not human to feel livid at the rape and murder of children?
Is the emotion of anger intrinsically bad?
Is hate intrinsically bad?
Can we know when we have a purely good anger?
© 2012 by the authors and editor
All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced without the consent of the editor.
PART TWO: Lust, Gluttony