The Seven Deadly Sins: Memorize and Understand Them

Early in my priesthood I began to feel a bit embarrassed that there were certain things I did not know more thoroughly and had not committed to memory. Among these things were the Seven Deadly Sins, and the Seven Gift of the Holy Spirit. Priests are like doctors. Imagine going to a doctor who was poor at diagnostic medicine or a doctor who knew nothing of medicines and cures available. Not much of a doctor and I didn’t what to be “not much of priest.” It should be the case that when people come to me, either in confession, counseling or Spiritual Direction that I have some command of the particulars both of spiritual disease and spiritual healing. So, I committed myself to memorizing and understanding the basic areas of spiritual and moral trouble such as the seven deadly sins, lists of the deeper drives and sinful attitudes, works of the flesh from Galatians 5 and other negative thinking or drives. I committed to learning the names and “moves” of these maladies. I also committed to memorizing and understanding  the gifts and methods of healing to to be sought: sacraments, scripture, prayer, holy fellowship, virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Fruits of the Holy Spirit and so forth.

I cannot write on all these things here but since it is Lent how about one. Do you know what the Seven Deadly Sins are? It is a great value to know and begin to understand these deep drives of sin in us. They are more than just sins per se, they are drives or patters of sin and from them issue many other sins. The more we can know and distinguish them the more we can grow in self knowledge. We can begin to understand better how we “tick.” Further, being able to know and name these seven deep drives of sin helps us to know their moves and gain mastery over them. As they stir deep within us we can see evidence of their stirrings and begin to take greater authority over them.

Too many Christians know little about twisted nature of sin. They just know they’re a little messed up (or alot!) and can’t seem to figure out why. Have you ever gone to the doctor, not knowing what was wrong and left feeling better just because you finally knew what ailed you had a name and a cure? Being able to name our demons is an essential part of growth and healing.

Fr. Robert Barron recently published a 100 minute DVD on the subject of the Seven Deadly Sins called Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues. I would like to recommend you get it and learn all you can about these root sins and the virtues that help us to overcome them by God’s grace.  You can order it as well by clicking on the title above. At the bottom of this post is a brief video in which Fr. Barron describes the intent and structure of the DVD.

Briefly stated though here are the Seven Deadly sins listed for you:

  • Pride – The sinful drive that distorts proper self love so that we esteem ourself more than is proper and at the same time denigrate the goodness of others. There is such a thing as well ordered self love and self esteem but Pride is love of self  which is perverted causes us unjustly to think of others as beneath us or less worthy. Pride also stirs us to reject lawful authority of others over us including God and refuses appropriate submission. Pride is at the root of every sin for through it we pridefully think we have a way better than what God has set forth or that we alone can be the judge of right and wrong. Adam and Eve wanted to “be like Gods” and wanted themselves to determine what was right and wrong. Hence they demanded to eat of the tree of the “Knowledge of good and evil.” This is Pride.  
  • Greed – The sinful drive that stirs excessive desire for wealth and possessions. It is the insatiable desire for more. It is not wrong to desire what we need but through greed we hoard things and acquire far beyond our needs or what is reasonable, and we fail to be generous and bless the needy and poor. Through greed we can also come to see the things of this world as more precious than the things of heaven.
  • Lust – The sinful drive that leads to an excessive or inappropriate desires or thoughts of a sexual nature. It is not wrong to experience sexual desire per se but lust perverts this either to become excessive (all that matters), or for the object of it to be inappropriate (e.g. sexually fantasizing about someone other than a spouse). More broadly, lust is thought of as an excessive love for others that makes the love of God secondary.
  • Anger – The sinful drive that leads to inordinate and unrestrained feelings of hatred and wrath. It is not always wrong to experience anger, especially in the presence of injustice. But anger here is understood as a deep drive which we indulge and wherein we excessively cling to angry and hateful feelings for others. This kind of anger most often seeks revenge.
  • Gluttony – The sinful drive to over-indulge in,  or over consume anything to the point of waste. We usually think of food and drink but gluttony can extend to other matters as well. This sin usually leads to a kind of laziness and self-gratification that has little room for God and the spiritual life. Over indulging in the world leaves little room for God and the things of the spirit. Gluttony may also cause us to be less able to help the poor.
  • Envy – The sinful drive that leads to sorrow or sadness at the goodness or excellence of another person because I take it to make me look bad or less excellent. If I envy someone I want to diminish or undermine their excellence. Envy is not the same as jealousy. If I am jealous of you, I want what you have. If I am Envious, I want to diminish or destroy what is good or excellent in you. St. Augustine called Envy THE diabolical sin because of the way it seeks to eliminate excellence and goodness in others.
  • Sloth – The sinful drive that leads to sorrow or sadness at the good things God wants to do for me. Instead of being joyful at the offer of holiness, chastity, self control, etc. I am sad or averse to it. I avoid the call to embrace a new life.  Most people think of sloth as laziness. But what sloth really is, is an avoidance of God and what He offers. I fear or dislike what He can do for me so I avoid him. Some avoid God by laziness, but others avoid him by becoming workaholics, claiming they are too busy to pray, get to Church or think about spiritual things.

Please consider getting the Fr. Barron Video. Learning of these deep drives of sin is essential for spiritual growth.

Here’s Fr. Barron’s brief into to the DVD: