I was listening to a talk on spiritual direction and the speaker referenced the seven deadly sins of traditional Christianity. In recent times there has been a distancing from the word sin, the concept of moral absolutes and an acceptance of moral relativity (to our detriment, I might add). As I was going over the list (lust, sloth, gluttony, greed, wrath, envy and pride) I realized how damaging they are not only to our relationship with God, but also to a marriage and other relationships.
Out of the list it is generally accepted that pride is the original and deadliest of the seven sins and the source of all the others.
Traditionally, each of the sins had an opposite which was labeled a “virtue”, and the goal of every true believer. The virtue associated with pride is humility. Often when we are at a stuck place in counseling it is because at least one person is unyielding because of pride.
It is so sad to watch a marriage unravel because of the unnecessary stubbornness of a spouse. There are times when a solution is evident and easy, but one or both are unwilling to take a step towards each other because of selfish pride.
What makes us hold out even though we know we are going to lose something precious? I think it is because we fear we are going to lose something which feels even bigger to us, which is a sense of self. The problem is, we are operating under a lie. The self is always enlarged by humility because it requires strength to lay down one’s life for another. It challenges us to love our neighbor as ourselves. That is not an easy task for anyone.
Think of the other sins on the list. Each one of those is an unwelcome guest in a relationship, marriage, or family. Which of these are particularly problematic for you? I know that as I look at the list some jump out at me and I cringe.
Just for the record here are the sins and virtues in pairs: lust/chastity, gluttony/temperance, greed/charity, sloth/diligence, wrath/patience, envy/kindness, and pride/humility.
How can we overcome our sinful tendencies in a culture that often supports them? I think only by surrendering to our loving God who is not looking to punish us, but to draw us towards Himself into an eternal family.
Interestingly, many New Year’s resolutions have traditionally come from this list. I think they are still valid as personal goals for the coming years. What do you think?
Let’s begin the new year with some joyful anticipation.