How did you not flinch when it was too painful? When you fell while carrying the weight of the world, how did you rise up again? How far ahead did you see when your present was too agonizing? How far back did you have to look to remember that you were everything but a criminal?
How did you not break when they shattered you? When rebuked, how did you not hate? How long did it take you to forgive? A minute? A day?
How had you chosen pain over glory? Dying over living? How were you not reminded of ruthlessness by those scars, that instead of waging chaos you uttered “peace be with you”? How did you do it?
What is the opposite of pride? I thought it’s humility but the sharing of a speaker in a weekend retreat I attended had me reconsider my answer. He thought that it’s love.
Not since watching the film “Seven” have I given the seven deadly sins a good stare. I did agree with the speaker that love is the opposite of pride (Proverbs 16:5 – “arrogant in heart”). But I am also convinced that, so are gluttony (Philippians 3:19 -“their god is their belly”; envy (Proverbs 14:30 – the one the “makes the bones rot”); sloth ( Proverbs 19:15 – “idle person”); wrath (Matthew 26:52 – those “who take the sword”); greed (1 Timothy 6:10 – “love of money”) and lust (1 Corinthians 6:18 – “sexual immorality”).
Love’s OTHER-centeredness, no doubt, opposes the seven deadly sins’ SELF-centeredness.
In my life, I have wondered how I have fought a sinful thought.
First is by recognising these sins on their onset. These sins could sometimes blend into our skin slowly, cunningly and quite subtly. We watch out for signs of these sins and nip it in the bud before we get consumed by them.
I would call these early signs my moments of unease. Guilt-ridden urge. Sweating. Racing heartbeat. Feeling a “bit sad”. A mind peppered with the “what if’s”. Fantasizing and daydreaming. Cravings. Mindless scrolling on the phone. Restless feet. Indecisiveness. Aimless pressing of the TV remote control. Stressful eating. My signs could go on and based on my history, these underlie these sins. Before any of these signs spiral out of control, I try to nip it in the bud. But how?
Pray and in praying, each word really matters. Fr. Andrew Ricci has always suggested to NAME IT in our prayer. It does not have to be grand, thought-out well or grammatically correct. It just needs to be flowing, honest and specific. God I am feeling the urge to forgo again an opportunity. God I am feeling lazy today and I am not being productive. God, I am feeling the urge to stay home, lie on the couch, miss church and become slothful. God, I am being stuck in my thoughts and my cravings. You know that this could lead me to excess and become a glutton. God, I am feeling uneasy right now that I don’t have what my neighbour has. This is envy and it is not ok. Deliver me from envy and help me realise that what I have is enough. God, I don’t really understand why I am feeling annoyed right now. Help me through my feelings before it boils over and becomes anger. Prayer at its most specific could help win against the enemy.
In early childhood education, there is what is called dispositions or habits of the mind. If we train ourselves to resort to prayer every time we are challenged by sinful thoughts, then the mind becomes a very powerful tool which could stomp sins on their head.
Since love is the opposite of the seven deadly sins then it is only love that can vanquish them. When you love, then there is the “other” to think about; the “other” that we see beyond the “self”.
Giving to others for example, vanquishes greed. The law of marginal utility tells us that no matter how much material things we acquire, we will never ever be satisfied. Greed just gets us caught in the cycle of buying things that will never be as satisfying as when it is new but being generous? This empties us and allows us to see that others’ happiness could be truly gratifying.
When I slack, feel unmotivated and slothful, I think of the “other” who might benefit if I look ahead and soldier on; perhaps the children I teach who could learn from my enthusiasm or my family whom I could build great memories with. Lying on the couch all day is not what I would consider loving.
Beating the seven deadly sins today does not mean we have slayed them for good. Sinful thoughts are here to stay. A sinful thought is that unwanted visitor always wanting to hang out with us at home, at work or even at church. It could stare right at us through our TV screens. But remember that God is also here to stay; His goodness endures forever. God also loves to hang out with us in every corner of our home, at work and certainly He is alive and longs for us, at church. He is ready to meet us at each moment we are tested.
Luke 15:13 – “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one or love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
I value my “family” but there were points in my life when my actions led me away from them.
I had some irrational obsessions years ago. Obsessing with fixing broken things at home or keeping the house insanely and perfectly tidy, was one of them. This came in a guise of “valuing family”.
Who doesn’t like a clean and tidy house for your family?I think we all do but for the longest time for me, it bordered on irrationality when even the tiniest things would keep my head in and would make me fly off the handle. I abhorred it when things at home would get broken or misplaced. I hated looking for lost things. That would be enough for me to have a fit. My feelings after exploding would be much, much worse.
Was it worse because of growing anger? Or was it worse because of guilt stemming from hurting the feelings of the people I love. Little things at home seemed really “big” enough to pull me and my family apart. I knew I needed help,
Never stray from your values. Work towards aligning your actions with your values. I came to realise this when I went through counselling for depression. People who suffer the feeling of inadequacy, worthlessness and depression, may have really admirable values in life like faith in God, family, friendship or diligence but our actions or inaction, like sinfulness, disloyalty, betrayal or sloth, could further lead us deeper down the pit.
What I found that I have always valued are faith in God and my love for family. I have always aimed to live by these in the past but was unsuccessful several times. I guess by not praying, I had not realized my faith. I guess by having a short temper over household matters, I had not been a good father or husband, either. Such was a mismatch of values and actions that tormented my soul.
My inaction, I knew, would only make matters worse. On the contrary, I learned later on that the more I spent meaningful time with my family and the more I pray and learn about God’s word; the closer I get to realise what really matters to me.
Now, I know enough that I value my faith and that, not praying or not learning about the bible, will only make me feel inadequate and more depressed. I still do struggle now but I know enough that I value and love my wife and my children, that petty household things must not feel big enough to overcome that love.