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Archive for November 10th, 2012

I wrote this for my class during my final semester at Webster about The Seven Deadly Sins.

Are Sins Still Relevant?

Since the dawn of humanity, there has been a steady evolution of consciousness, both within the individual and society as a whole. Thoughts and goals began with the primitive instinct to survive and receive instant gratification. Little regard for anything existed beyond receiving sustenance for the body (food and water), ensuring the continuation of the species (sex), and having strength to endure conflict (not being killed). The mind was not sufficiently developed to the point where the ideas of morality and conscientiousness regarding other people were even considered. In fact, we were closer in mentality to animals.

Intelligence and a concept of what is right and wrong progressively emerged over time. Family units were created, civilizations rose, and systems of belief were established. Religions such as Judaism and Christianity united people together in a community of worship and faith that still continues today. With them came the idea of sin, thoughts and behaviors that removed one from the ultimate goal of spiritual union with God. The worst of these were the seven deadly sins: pride, envy, anger, lust, gluttony, greed, and sloth.

Today’s society, particularly in the United States, is heading to a point where religion and spirituality are fading into the background and losing significance to the individual. What is concrete, proven, and happing now is most important. The desire to succeed in this life is the focus rather than what may come afterward. Some suggest that sin is no longer relevant, that we are being boxed into archaic belief systems based on fantasy and myth. But I believe that with an understanding of what are considered the seven deadly sins and their relevancy today, we can rise above the base, animalistic instincts that hinder our intelligent growth.

Pride is considered the core deadly sin from which all the others stem forth. Echoes of it can be found among the characteristics of the rest. Being confident and filled satisfaction of personal achievement is different than what is considered the sin of pride. Instead, what makes it wrong is a person’s belief that he or she is the center of the universe, narcissism to the extreme. Other people have no significance or value in life. Everything is secondary (or third, or more) to what the person is thinking, feeling, or doing. Life is a stage for the person to perform in front of an audience and be revered. If he or she encounters a problem, the world stops. No one else matters. Every choice and interaction must benefit them in some way. Problems with pride are extremely relevant today. Instead of cooperation and compassion, we can be consumed with how others can serve our needs. We depend on compliments and attention. It is interesting to note that often people who are consumed with pride are inwardly struggling with insecurities and have the need to project perfection outward.

Envy has been referred to as the daughter of pride. Issues of power, privilege, and entitlement run rampant. With envy, you want desperately what someone else has and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it. Pain is present at the very accomplishment of others. It is as if anything positive that another person encounters is a personal insult to you. They are not allowed happiness when you could be considered lacking. This is extreme jealousy. Often today you see another person succeed and wish you could be experiencing that yourself. That can be a healthy inspiration for personal growth and effort towards a future goal. But when you become consumed with the goal to destroy someone else to make you look better, it is dangerous. Tonya Harding is a perfect example of being envious of another to the point of seeking out malicious actions to create her rise in prowess in the ice skating world and the fall of Nancy Kerrigan (her talented rival). Tonya arranged to have Nancy physically attacked in order to prevent her to compete, thus ensuring her own success. How can this not be considered seriously wrong and detrimental to the furthering intelligence of humanity?

Anger and wrath are terms for another sin that can be dangerous in the physical sense. Everyone gets frustrated and angry sometimes. It’s healthy too because it drives motivation for change and self-growth. It is, after all, a self-protective mechanism. Without it, Rosa Parks may have never become a figure of the racial equality movement. Frustrations within inspire me to reflect on the issue and brainstorm ideas on how to solve it. However, using anger and wrath for harm can create a devastating explosion of hurt. Abusive relationships are frightening. The victim becomes scarred by the words, threats, and beatings. Instead of love, the person chooses fury. This irritability may be a sign for something deeper than anger though, perhaps depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Often someone being angry with another is just the projection of an internal issue onto the other person. We as human beings are more than just animals battling to the death. Taking steps toward patience could possibly help keep the monster at bay.

We almost always associate lust with sex. Yes, it usually involves sexual arousal, but that is not what makes it a deadly sin. Sex is a normal part of life and responsible for the new creation of a being. What makes lust “deadly” is its reduction of another person to an object solely for the use of pleasure, their body “borrowed for an orgasm.” Sexuality is running rampant today, in books, advertisements, movies, magazines, and virtually everything wishing to get someone’s attention. It’s often said that sex sells. In this society, there should be more importance on the nurturing of a loving relationship, seeing a person as a whole rather than body parts to serve certain appetites.

Gluttony is more than being addicted to food. Often that is the association made with this deadly sin. It should rather be thought of as an inordinate desire to consume more than what one requires. There is a constant urge to control and fill oneself up to the brim. One is never enough; more is always necessary. Perhaps today gossip could be considered gluttonous. The constant addiction to words and knowledge of people that might not necessarily be true can certainly be considered unacceptable. More and more must be said in ways that could be more and more ridiculous in an effort to maintain attention. Eating too much is an epidemic in the United States that does create a cause for concern of overindulgence, but obesity isn’t a sin. Rather, gluttony prevents us from achieving balance in life, both physically and mentally.

Greed is the insatiable desire to acquire and possess more and more money, riches, and material possessions. It is very similar to gluttony. Yet physical objects will not have any importance after death. The problem with our society is being consumed with the idea that our value in life is determined by what we own. Many people believe the afterlife has no significance and may not even exist.  That is why little to no concern is given for morality and consequences. People that embrace greed have a tunnel vision blocking out anything deemed insignificant or irrelevant to their goal. It reaches the point where their very existence is defined by how much money they make, how many cars they own, or the brand name of the clothes they wear. It becomes an addiction to covet as much as possible.

The last of the deadly sins is sloth. Characterized by listlessness and melancholy, sloth seems to be on the opposite end of the sin spectrum while the other six involve overstimulation and grandiosity. These people suffering have no ambition and prefer that way of being. Inertia is the state in which they choose to remain. Nothing is worth any effort. It takes being a couch potato to a completely new level. It is impossible to imagine not having any goals or desires in life for the future. Perhaps this is the most dangerous sin of all, the sin of inaction and indifference. Without the spark of desire or ambition, there can be no growth or advancement.

We all have choices in life. We can strive to reach our highest potential, or we can reduce ourselves to creatures without a conscience. Although people question the validity of the seven deadly sins and the very religious institutions that use them as a basis of beliefs, these vices are important examples of how it is possible to stray from a higher purpose. The world was not created with one human being on it, living as he or she saw fit and ruler over everything. There are billions of us, a social species meant to interact and cooperate with one another. Even if someone doesn’t believe in God, they should believe in being a good, moral person. Life exists beyond our selfish desires. Utilizing our ability to reason gives hope for a continued future of developing our minds for more ethical interactions.

-Me

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