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. — Cliff Williams
• SINS •
PRIDE AND VAINGLORY
• VIRTUES •
What is the difference between lust and legitimate sexual desire?
Lust is obsessive.
In lust one regards a person merely as a means for pleasure.
Lust makes people impulsive.
Legitimate sexual desire is in a context of knowing the other person and having depth in the relationship.
Legitimate sexual desire involves having a mature mindset.
Lust is only for sexual pleasure; legitimate sexual desire involves more than just sexual pleasure.
The difference depends on the type and level of relationship.
In lust one sees the other merely as an object to be used.
Lust is excessive sexual desire, but the line between the two is hard to draw.
With lust one does not hold any regard to another’s thoughts, feelings, or emotions.
What makes lust so deadly?
It is addictive.
It tends to damage marriages and families.
It can lead to idolatry.
It can lead to greed or gluttony.
It consumes one entirely; sex is all one thinks about.
It can create unrealistic expectations.
It can tear apart friendships.
It exaggerates the importance of sex.
It can cause infidelity.
It does not fulfill one’s desire for love.
It tends to damage the structure of societies.
It can lead to adultery.
It leaves one empty after trying to satisfy it.
What are the marks of a lustful person?
Obsessed with sex
Treats abstinence as a burden
Hungers for sexualized images in magazines and other media
Thrives off of attention from the opposite sex
Talks about sex a lot
Thinks about sex a lot
Thinks beauty is only sexual
Acts ingenuinely around someone they want to impress
Sees the other sex only as objects to be used
Sees only part of a person and not all of them
Uses the appearance of virtue to attract someone
Cares only about the physical aspects of a person of the opposite sex.
What are the marks of a chaste person?
Doesn’t just say “no,” but says “not that way”
Doesn’t lament abstinence
Sees sex as a goal for chastity
Thinks of sex as a psychosomatic activity to be carefully protected
Steers clear of dirty jokes
Does not watch sexual movies, television sitcoms, and the like
Respects sex as something sacred
Respects people for everything and not just their bodies
Has an intentional naïvete and innocence about sexual matters
Purposefully avoids situations of sexual humor
Does not immerse oneself in sexual culture
Develops a character that cares for others
Accepts others unconditionally
Understand and empathizes with the feelings and perspectives of others
Realizes that no one likes to be used in an illegitimate way
Looks at other for who they are rather than merely for what they can do for one
Recognizes the difference between appreciation and lust
How does lust get displayed in popular culture?
We dress in ways that attract persons of the opposite sex.
Advertisements use sexual attraction to sell products.
Only the pleasure of sex is shown, not the harmful consequences or the responsibility for it.
Popular culture says that sex is the most meaningful way to express love and affection.
Words are displayed on clothes in certain places.
Clothing styles are designed to be sexually provocative.
Is lust connected to other deadly sins?
It is connected to greed in that the lustful person is selfish and hurts other people to get sexual pleasure, regardless of consequences. David was greedy for Bathsheba.
It is connected to pride, because in pride one thinks of oneself as more important than others and thus able to enjoy whatever pleasure they wish.
Is chastity possible?
“I have my chaste days.”
How can we control lust?
Selflessly appreciate other people.
Respect other people.
Accept others for who they are.
Do not use others illegitimately.
Love our neighbors as ourselves.
Observing someone who is attractive is not the same as lust.
Lust can be socially acceptable.
It is not sinful to acknowledge someone’s beauty.
We like lust.
Sexual activity affects our emotions.
Enjoying sex is not selfish unless it harms another person.
We may not notice that we live in a lustful environment.
If Christians can do all things through Christ, who strengthens them, as Phil. 4:13 says, then Christians should be able to be chaste.
Appreciating another’s beauty is not selfish.
One who controls lust will be free from haunting guilt for past indiscretions.
Do we all have an innate addiction to lust?
Is lust part of our nature?
“Our culture is saturated with consciousness of food and drink” (Solomon Schimmel, The Seven Deadly Sins, p. 139). How?
We have unlimited resources to vast amounts of food.
Food is at the center of our social engagement.
A great deal of food is wasted.
Everyone has a great deal of food options.
We are obsessed with food and nutrition.
Food is displayed in advertisements.
The medical aspects of food are written about.
Eating is sometimes displayed as the way to be happy.
Social gatherings nearly always have food with them.
Gluttony is common in wealthy nations.
“We have everything anyone could ever need to have a party in our stomachs all the time.”
Gluttony is so pervasive in our culture that we do not notice when we engage in it.
We are so used to having as much food as we want that we don’t realize what we are doing with respect to eating.
Eating to salve emotional deprivation is culturally encouraged.
We take advantage of the fact that we have a choice of what we eat.
Addicts to eating do not know that they are addicted.
Most people do not care about the sin of gluttony.
What are the motives and attitudes of a gluttonous person?
Making eating a substitute for something else that is good
Treating eating only as a recreational activity
Eating in order to be happy
“I don’t care what I eat and I don’t care what you think about what I eat. It is my life.”
Eating because it is pleasurable instead of for our health
“I don’t want to stop.”
Eating in order to pass the time
Wanting to fill an emptiness in one’s soul
Is every overweight or obese person gluttonous?
We can decide who is gluttonous only on a case by case basis.
Gluttony is a matter of degree.
What are the marks of a gluttonous person?
Habitual overeating that hurts oneself physically
Eating hastily (along with other criteria)
Eating too much
Eating quickly in order to feel a satisfying emotion
Losing ourselves, that is, becoming an “external person”
An habitual lack of self-control with respect to eating
Being addicted to eating
Primal emotions causing one to crave food even though one is not hungry
Feeling the necessity of unnecessary eating
Not allowing God to fill us with living bread and drink
Being utterly self-concerned, with little regard for others
Placing an inordinate amount of concern and value on the pleasures of eating
Not taking food seriously
Desiring food without limits
Food being a stronghold around which our lives are centered
Being a slave to eating
Allowing the pleasure of eating to dominate everything else, including physical health, spiritual health, and valuing other people
Daydreaming about our next meal
What is a life free of gluttony like?
Less wasted food
A healthier culture
Alienation from those who are not free from gluttony
A feeling of entitlement can produce gluttony.
Food gluttons, chain smokers, heavy drinkers, and drug addicts all share the same mindset.
Eating something that you enjoy is not a sin, but if it takes the place of something that is more important, then it is.
Some people treat the subject of food as a religion.
Gluttony with respect to possessions is greed, with respect to sex is lust, and with respect to oneself is pride.
Gluttony occurs when eating rules our life.
Self-control in general is difficult.
Food is a good thing but when eaten excessively it becomes a bad thing that controls our lives.
All of the seven deadly sins involve self-absorption.
There are many different pleasures we get from eating.
Gluttony is not confined to junk food.
Getting excited about eating something that someone has made for us is not necessarily gluttony.
Occasional overeating is not bad.
Most people in our culture are gluttonous and don’t realize it.
It is less likely for a healthy eater to be gluttonous.
A test of whether we are addicted to a certain food is to try to stop eating it.
Gluttony is a problem of the heart, not the body.
We can get more pleasure from food when we are not continually trying to gratify ourselves with it.
Can giving thanks before a meal control gluttony?
How can we tell if we ourselves are gluttonous?
Why are infants who eat hastily and passionately not gluttonous?
Can we eat too much without changing our priorities?
Is it a sign of a gluttonous society that we are given far more food in restaurants than we can or should eat?
Gluttony makes food our God.
Indulging in things unnecessarily turns into obsessive behavior that consumes our every thought and desire.
Enjoying food in moderation is good, but when we indulge in it excessively it turns into something obsessive, which overturns our priorities.
No amount of food can satisfy emotional or spiritual cravings.
People defend the way they eat as if it were their religion.
A preoccupation with food undercuts the pursuit of happiness.
The deadliest aspect of gluttony is being obsessed with oneself.
The highest pleasure comes only when one has learned to master oneself.
The wanton unconcern for what others have to eat and for the work that has gone into bringing us our food is a mark of extreme self-absorption.
The glutton is a poor dinner guest.
The pleasure of eating is distinct from the pleasure of a fastidious glutton.
With gluttony we deceive ourselves into thinking that eating will fill an emptiness far deeper than the emptiness in our stomachs.
There is something terribly wrong about enjoying one’s favorite food in front of a starving child.
Gluttony can be as much about being picky as it can be about eating too much.
Being picky is an indication that we are spending too much time thinking about food.
Protestants often say they do not abstain from food for a time, such as during Lent, because it so easily can be done for the wrong reasons. But it can be done for the right reasons.
Eating quickly is sometimes gluttonous and sometimes not.
The absence of temptation while fasting is a good sign of spiritual growth.
It is no sin to enjoy eating.
The cure for gluttony
Fasting—waging war against the physical habits that control us and getting re-centered on the creator of the universe.
Abstinence from specific foods for a time
Appreciating and using food in moderation
Being grateful for food
Altering what we eat
Finding meaning and fulfillment from doing good
Having someone to whom we can report
Stopping late night eating
Having the right people around us
Scheduling times of eating
Giving eating a deadline
Having a set schedule for eating
How does abstinence have spiritual benefits?
Abstinence can lead to discipline, which is conducive to spiritual growth.
It teaches us things applicable to other parts of our lives.
It produces self-control.
It raises awareness of things other than the self.
It helps us re-evaluate our eating.
It causes us to recognize the value of what we abstain from.
We can get pretty lax if we go all year without times of abstinence.
Abstinence is dangerous if it leads to unhealthiness.
Should gluttony be one of the seven deadly sins?
No, because there probably are more important things to be concerned with.
Yes, because eating is so commonly done and easily obsessed over.
Yes, because gluttony is an abuse of a common pleasure.
Yes, because it is the same as lust and greed, but with a different object.
Yes, because gluttony tends to be utterly self-concerned.
© 2012 by the authors and editor
All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced without the consent of the editor.
PART THREE: Greed and Sloth