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.