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 •
PSYCHOLOGICAL GENEROSITY: BEING GENEROUS WITH THOUGHTS, EMOTIONS, AND VIRTUES
Marks of psychological generosity:
Am I performing my duty with a generous heart?
Do I try to act well and perform beyond what is needed?
Am I giving others good feelings?
Do I give others as much benefit of the doubt as I expect to receive?
Do I thank others for going out of their way?
How often do I give encouragement?
Do I break my routines occasionally to express generosity?
Do I look for the good in others?
Am I making a good environment in which people can be virtuous?
Am I willing to let others tell me things even when I know better?
Do I focus on what people do right or do I quickly point out their faults?
A few questions
What would it be like for a physician to be generous hearted?
What would teachers do to be generous hearted?
How can married people be psychologically giving to their spouses?
If generous mindedness involves giving favorable judgments to others, is it not essentially dishonest?
Is romantic love a virtue?
What is romantic love—infatuation, eros-love, erotic love, amorous love?
Can infatuation be a virtue?
Is romantic love a moral virtue or a nonmoral virtue (if there is a distinction between these)?
Romantic love is a virtue if it is selfless but not if it is selfish.
Romantic love is a virtue if it has good reasons for it.
Should the idea of virtue be built into the idea of romantic love so that it would not be romantic love unless it has virtue?
A virtue is what makes one a better person, and “better” need not mean “morally better.”
If romance is just infatuation—a frenzied passion, being blindly connected to someone—it would not be a virtue.
Good reasons for romantic love
To be happy
To give purpose
To be able to express oneself honestly
To have a shared history of mutual caring
To be of service to the other
To be an image of God’s love
To be complete
To feel good
To be self-sacrificial
To assuage loneliness (Is this a good reason or a bad reason?)
Any reason by itself is a bad reason. There must be a myriad of reasons in order for romantic love to be good.
Bad reasons for romantic love
To acquire self-esteem
To show off the other as a trophy
To arouse jealousy in someone else
To fulfill a desire to control another person
To fulfill a desire to be controlled
To be babied
To avoid having to make choices
To fulfill a neurotic need for attention
To fulfill a neurotic need to be liked or loved. (A neurotic need is obsessive.)
To inflict revenge on someone
To make the other miserable
Out of immaturity
Out of stupidity
Is romance for bad reasons just lust?
Can anyone fill the voids in our lives? Must these voids be filled by God before we get into a human relationship?
Should not romantic love remain mysterious, if only to preserve the mystery of human life?
Romantic love motivates us to love more deeply.
Lovers inspire each other to be more virtuous.
Romantic love gives us an opportunity to express ourselves as we are.
In good romantic love there is both a we-consciousness and an I-consciousness.
Love excites the lover about particular features of the beloved.
Vices such as jealousy and fear can give rise to real love while still being unhealthy.
Shared history makes a love relationship between two individuals unique.
Love relationships are often torn apart or wrongfully kept together because of perverse reasons that the lovers do not recognize.
Aristophanic love (love based on a relationship rather than on characteristics of the beloved) is best because it helps to guard against self-interest.
If you had to choose between patience and courage, which would you choose?
Most people would desire courage rather than patience.
We are afraid to decide.
Cowardice is the greatest vice (Mikhail Bulgakov).
Courage needs patience to avoid being impulsive.
Patience requires courage in order to avoid being passive.
What is heroic patience?
Patience and composure in the midst of danger or chaos
Rising to the occasion courageously and with patience
Self-enlarging courage tends to push out patience.
Submissive or self-sacrificing courage is compatible with patience.
Is patience always a virtue?
No: Sometimes it is a hindrance to pursuing justice.
Yes: When patience looks as if it is not virtuous, it is really something
different, such as sloth or laziness or even resistance.
What is good about patience?
Patience can empower others to mature and grow.
Patience helps avoid irascible, impetuous, or erratic behavior.
Patience helps bring about contentedness and joy.
Patience gives one time to think.
Patience reduces anxiety and depression.
Patience leads to hope.
Patience helps one get a perspective on a situation.
Patience can cause one to take a step back.
Patience gives others another chance.
Patience limits stress.
Patience helps prevent hurt feelings.
Patience improves communication in relationships.
Patience helps nurture children.
With patience there would be fewer deaths on the highway.
With patience there would be fewer wars (provided other nations also exercised patience).
A patient person . . .
is slow to anger.
tries to understand.
generally does not rush.
bears a lot with calmness.
makes it appear as if they are not suffering.
has joy in the face of suffering.
is affected by suffering differently.
is aware that suffering will pass.
How can one become patient?
By deciding to do so
By choosing to want to become patient
By training oneself:
to spend time with patient people
to slow down
to look at the big picture
By cultivating love and compassion
By cultivating humility
Patience is applicable to every single moment of life.
We are very impatient people.
Patience sometimes requires courage, such as when one waits in the face
Patience is similar to perseverance.
What emotion does forgiveness overcome?
Indignation? Sometimes, but not always.
Resentment? Sometimes, but not always. (Resentment is long term, a brooding anger.)
Moral hatred? Sometimes, but not always.
What is the aim of forgiveness?
Reconciliation, unless the offender is not capable of it
Relieving one’s own bitterness and anger
Healing an emotional wound
Why is forgiveness good?
It contributes to health.
It is freeing to both the offended and the offender.
It humbles the offended and the offender.
It removes a feeling of guilt in the offender.
It releases one’s anger.
One fulfills a command of God.
Forgiveness is intrinsically good.
What are the marks of a forgiving person?
Not seeing oneself as more important than others
Being aware that one has oneself been forgiven
Being honest with oneself
Having a desire to maintain relationships
Wanting to live with joy
Naïve—a determined naïvete, not an innocent naïvete
How can we forgive when it is difficult to do so?
Keep working on it.
Work on eliminating anger.
Act as if the offense is not present and perhaps restoration will take place.
Keep forgiving if anger at an offense comes back.
Is it ever permissible to withhold forgiveness?
Yes: One can withhold forgiveness without being angry.
There is no point to forgiveness if the offender does not accept forgiveness.
If there is habitual offense without repentance, one can withhold forgiveness.
Churches sometimes expel people who are not repentant.
One should not force oneself to forgive.
No: In not forgiving, one allows one’s anger to continue.
Without forgiveness, one would develop negative attitudes, such as bitterness and a critical spirit.
Not forgiving undercuts compassion.
Not forgiving prevents helping or serving others.
Forgiveness is not a matter of degree for extreme wrongs.
In forgiveness one treats the person as if they had never sinned.
Forgiveness is something we do, whereas forgivingness is a character attribute.
You have not truly forgiven someone if you cannot enter into a trusting relationship with them. But this is not true for some offenders, such as murderers, kleptomaniacs, or pedophiles.
Our everyday instances of forgiveness do not involve murderers, kleptomaniacs, or pedophiles.
To forgive is not the same as to condone, because the latter excuses an action, that is, says that there was nothing wrong after all, whereas the former is based on an action being wrong.
Forgiveness always involves consequences.
It is mean to withhold forgiveness if the offender has remorse for their offense.
There are two types of forgiveness—one in which the offender gives restitution for their wrong and one in which the offender does not give restitution.
In some situations the wrong remains even after forgiveness, such as a death or a destroyed possession.
We can only forgive sins committed against us, not against others, except in so far as the harm done to others harms us.
Forgiveness is a matter of degree.
Biblical forgiveness is complete, without stipulation or condition.
The subsequent behavior of an offender has nothing to do with forgiveness. If it did, that would be conditional forgiveness, which is not true forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a process.
Forgiveness can get very complex.
There might sometimes be perfect forgiveness.
If some anger toward a person is given up, then there has been some forgiveness.
If one acts as though they have forgiven someone and gives up anger only so that things may be civil, then they are viewing the relationship with the person as instrumental.
Forgiving someone in the heart, i.e., without saying that you forgive, is best shown through one’s deeds and attitude.
It is much easier to forgive a person who feels remorse for what they have done; it takes a stronger act of forgiveness to forgive an unrepentant or unremorseful person.
Can we ever be totally over an offense even with forgiveness?
Can we ever forgive perfectly?
© 2012 by the authors and editor
All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced without the consent of the editor.
PART FIVE: Humility, Contrition, Joy, Gratitude