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 gives hope value?
Hope keeps us going.
Hope gives us a sense of purpose.
Hope gives us a desire to survive.
Hope enables us to love better.
Hope gives us goals.
Hope gives us psychological health.
With hope we believe something can actually happen.
Hope increases the restoration rate in patients.
Hope makes us more passionate.
We do better in things that give us hope.
Hope inspires people to take good risks.
One who hopes tries harder.
With hope we push beyond normal boundaries.
Hope brings peace.
A person with hope . . .
is without delusion.
has a sense of purpose.
is encouraging to others.
has vitality and investment in existence.
has “optimistic realism.” © Laura Elizabeth Brown
Christian hope . . .
is in the infinite.
has a larger perspective.
is for self-betterment.
gives us a way out of wallowing in our trials.
The opposite of hope
Despair: seeing no positive outlook for the future. Nothing matters.
Without hope . . .
one might be a total hermit.
one might get very depressed.
one might have complacency.
one might commit suicide.
one might never love.
one’s faith will be dry.
Dangers of hope
Hope can cause unrealistic expectations.
Hope can set one up for disappointment and frustration.
Hope might be illusory or unjustified.
Hope might be for something malicious to happen.
How can we restore hope when we are depressed?
Hang onto the little things you have more control over.
Remind yourself that things won’t always be as they are. Nothing lasts forever. Things will get better.
Remember that healing takes time.
Find the source of the depression.
Think of positive things that will occur.
Forcibly reevaluate the situation in order to reach optimism.
Reteach yourself how to live.
Remember joys from the past, such as hobbies.
Tap some part of your body, such as the back of your hand, and say repetitively, “You’re doing great.”
Build confidence in yourself.
A balance of hope and caution is commendable.
If a person has too much fear, they lose passion and purpose and cease to take risks.
Having hope does not mean that we have to be happy.
We often cannot get out of depression on our own. We need outside contact.
Hope is a gray area between wishing and expecting. Christian hope must carry a form of expectation.
Sometimes God’s grace is too abstract, and we need little practical methods of restoring hope.
There is no guarantee that we will survive suffering.
EMOTIONAL PEACE: TRANQUILITY, SERENITY
Why are we so anxious? Because of . . .
the unpredictability of life
not having control over our surroundings
being uncertain whether we have offended someone
the frenzied noise and fast-paced life in our culture, which take away our ability to process things
a big shift in life
dealing with a bad relationship
dealing with a good relationship
expectations of others
How can we nurture emotional peace?
By eliminating our desires—the Buddhist way
With Stoic resignation—wanting things to go in the way they actually go
By basing desires and emotions on something that does not change—the Christian way
By asking God for peace in our heart
By reflecting and meditating
By finding comfortable things
By resting and getting enough sleep
By surrounding ourselves with peaceful people
By empowering ourselves
By nurturing self-confidence
By getting a purpose for living—like dealing with sloth
By trusting in God
By forgiving people
By taking a vacation
By taking up a hobby
Thoughts and questions
Is it possible to eliminate all our desires or expect nothing from life?
Is it better to acquire tranquility by eliminating our desires or to retain our desires even though tranquility suffers?
The ideal is to have both desires and tranquility.
In Christianity, emotional peace involves having the proper priorities, not eliminating priorities.
Tension can lead to emotional strengthening.
Marrying a person with emotional peace contributes to a long marriage.
What are the marks of a compassionate person?
Sensitivity to serious suffering
Taking suffering to heart
Remembering the details of suffering
Having genuine caring
Fulfilling legitimate needs
Seeing things from the perspective of a sufferer
How can we become compassionate?
Engage with people who are suffering.
Recognize that deficiency does not diminish the value of a person.
Listen to people’s stories.
How can we fail to have compassion?
By not being willing to help those who suffer
By helping spiritually but not physically
“Young people are often short of compassion” (Robert Roberts, Spiritual Emotions, p. 183).
Young people are less able to identify with others’ suffering because they have not experienced life’s struggles.
Those who are detached from others do not have compassion so readily.
Young children are compassionate—they want to help.
Young children are self-centered.
Do we need to suffer in order to have compassion?
No, but suffering helps one to have compassion, even if the suffering is only minor.
We need to be given compassion in order to give it—the memories of being given compassion stimulate us to give compassion.
Sympathy and empathy may be the same as compassion, except that compassion involves having a desire to alleviate suffering.
How can we have compassion on those who are rich, popular, or successful?
By understanding that they are human
By not assuming that everything is well with them
By having an open conversation with them
By having a desire to have compassion
Is it compassion or favoritism that we have toward the rich?
The famous cannot be broken; they have to appear to be perfect. This includes ministers.
Everyone feels pain.
“We strive for wealth, fame, and success, little knowing that it is a curse.” – Cliff Williams
“Wealth is only a curse when that is what you are looking to for happiness.” – Greg Hess
If suffering is halfway serious, then it deserves halfway compassion.
Unknowingly being taken advantage of is serious suffering.
We feel disappointment or sadness, not compassion, for those who call down trouble on themselves.
Mercy sets aside a judgment of wrongness, whereas compassion does not.
We sometimes feel compassion for someone whose suffering is their own fault, particularly when we have suffered the same way for the same reason.
We are not compassionate for people’s stupidity, but for the results of their stupidity.
One cannot have compassion without passion.
Some people feel an inclination to help, but not a strong desire.
No one is too low to be associated with.
Becoming compassionate does not happen overnight. We cannot simply choose to be compassionate.
We lack compassion because of ignorance, not because of malice.
Self-reliance undercuts one’s ability to have compassion.
Is mercy the same as compassion? Does mercy involve compassion?
What causes people to be upset about trivial matters?
Are stupidity and naiveté the same thing?
Can one have compassion without acting compassionately?
Laura Elizabeth Brown is a sophomore who recently declared philosophy as her major. She has little intention of actually using the degree in the “real” world,” and plans to become a missionary.
Jonathan Castele is a freshman philosophy major who is trying to understand life, music, and truth.
Taylor Crawford is a sophomore philosophy and psychology major who is trying to determine what good he can do with his life, loves, and talents.
Daniel Ensign is a senior biblical studies major who will work with youth on the Navajo reservation in Arizona.
Mary Flowe is a senior philosophy major and an ardent feminist. She plans on using her skill with the pen to leave a loud and outrageous mark on the world.
Abby Gabor is a junior history major who does not yet know what God has planned for her, but hopes to serve God as best as she can.
Caleb Gore is a junior philosophy major. He intends to do graduate studies in philosophy or literature with an emphasis on Christian themes in existentialism. He is left-handed and often enjoys reading Dostoevsky and Boris Pasternak.
Greg Hess is a senior philosophy major. He intends to pursue a career in professional baseball this summer as well as other activities, including inventing, engineering, and sustainable living.
Shaneice Johnson is a sophomore philosophy major and political science minor who wants to be a lawyer and eventually a judge. She enjoys life to the fullest plus the little things it has to offer.
Anne Lehan is a freshman who wishes she could spend her whole waking existence outdoors examining and interpreting the earth.
Tim McGarvey is a senior philosophy major who plans to go to graduate school in philosophy the year after next. He enjoys reading Nietzsche and Kierkegaard.
Dustin McGowan is a senior. He plans to go to graduate school and eventually be a pastor and do inner city outreach and evangelism. He also would like to be the principal of an inner city high school.
Candice Misch is a senior business major with an accounting and management emphasis. She wants to open her own photography business someday and earnestly seeks to make a difference in this wonderful, beautiful yet somehow downright crazy world.
Stephanie Rentas is a philosophy major who wants nothing more than to explore all of the mysteries in life and share all that she has found with other people.
Cliff Williams has taught at Trinity College since 1982. This is his 44th year of teaching. He hopes to teach until he dies, maybe a little after.
Caleb Wood is a senior philosophy and psychology major who is considering doing an M.A. in humanities at the University of Chicago next year.
Back row: Caleb Wood, Tim McGarvey, Taylor Crawford, Jonathan Castele, Greg Hess, Anne Lehan, Stephanie Rentas, Mary Flowe, Dustin McGowan.
Horizontal person: Caleb Gore
Front row: Shaneice Johnson, Laura Elizabeth Brown, Candice Misch, Abby Gabor, Daniel Ensign
© 2012 by the authors and editor
All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced without the consent of the editor.
PART ONE: Pride and Vainglory, Envy, Anger
Also: "The Seven Deadly Sins"