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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Avoid the "Seven Deadlies"

I've talked often of Buddhism's "Three Poisons"--Greed (or Desire), Anger (or Hatred), and Ignorance (or Delusion)--as sure-fire ways to become unhappy.

But recently, I led a discussion on Christianity's version of the Poisons: The Seven Deadly Sins.

Can you name them? (I can name the Seven Dwarfs, but the Seven Deadly Sins aren't as easy). In fact, it's kind of a trick question, as the list has changed over time. As taught today, they are:

  • Lust: Call it "sexual intemperance." The Opposite Virtue is Chastity. Certainly a failure to behave well in the area of intimate relationships can be a great source of unhappiness.
  • Gluttony: Intemperance in consumption. We could throw in materialism, addiction to drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, etc.--anything that violates the Opposite Virtue, Temperance.
  • Greed: Like desire out of control. The Opposite Virtue is Charity, or Generosity.
  • Sloth: This one is not mere laziness, but is a special meaning of the word. It has to do with lack of Diligence (the O.V.) in spiritual things. The original word was "acedia" (look it up), and described things like monks not getting out of bed for prayers.
  • Wrath: Like Buddhism's Anger; the Opposite Virtue is Patience.
  • Envy: This goes beyond mere jealousy (wanting what others have) to actually wanting them to not have it (somewhat like "begrudging"). That's why the Opposite Virtue is Kindness, a willingness to rejoice in their success.
  • Pride: Though last on the list, this "vaunting of self" may be the root of them all (as the last Poison mentioned, Ignorance, is the root of the others). The Opposite Virtue, Humility, is an abasing of oneself.

There they are. And their pertinence to happiness?

Simple. Avoid these Seven, which are Deadly to happiness, and guess what?

You'll be happier.

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