If you are attempting to overcome any of the 7 Deadly Sins, or similar, here are some practical tips which can be of great help.
The first tip is to recognise which of the sins you are most prone to and be particularly vigilant to that one. Then you can also choose to work on the particular virtue too offset that sin. It is important to realise that a virtue can be an antidote or a remedy to its related sin. What happens is that the sin literally dissolves into the virtue, that is what makes the virtue a “solution”. Technically a solution has something dissolved in it.
Traditionally the Seven Deadly Sins are; vainglory (pride), greed, covetousness, lust, envy, gluttony (and drunkenness), wrath (anger) and sloth.
The virtues help us overcome these are usually named as; humility, charity, chastity, gratitude, temperance, patience and diligence.
The sins and virtues are listed in order, so the first virtue listed helps offset the first sin listed and so on (ie cultivating humility helps offset pride, etc). However, there is another way to approach the issue of sin, which we will come to shortly.
The next tip is consider what benefits will come to you, and those nearest and dearest to you, as you cultivate a specific virtue. For example someone who cultivates patience eventually finds it more and more unlikely that they will get angry or frustrated. Thus they substitute, by practice, one tendency for another. Eventually anger is no longer an issue, and they get all the benefits of peace of mind and physical health (such as heart health and blood pressure levels) which come from having patience.
Think of a virtue you would like to make your own. What effect will it have in your life? Will it make you happier? Will it give you peace of mind? Will it make you a better spouse? Will is make you a better parent or a better child to your parents? Will is make you a better employee and what benefits would you get, and what benefits would your employer, or employer? If so what benefits will you get from that? The more you consider it the more you realize that cultivating specific virtues, be it kindness, forgiveness, or one of the 7 eternal virtues, will add great benefits to you. Whereas the opposite is true of the 7 deadly sins and their associates.
Our moral problem is not just about what we want; it is also about what we do in order to get what we want. A strong desire can cause us to tell lies, cheat, steal (in one way or another), be jealous or envious of what others have and so on. Under the effects of a sin, we can be tempted to “use” other people and just see them as a means to an end. The fact that the other person may well be in agreement with our lack of value of them, in no way justifies our view. We could just be affirming low self esteem in another person through our lack of care for them. Our purpose in being here is to help raise each other up and at least show respect to others even if we cannot show them love. However help is at hand out of our malaise.
Something which can be of great help is the quality of kindness. If you cultivate kindness it will help you overcome many of even the 7 deadly sins. This is because kindness will help prevent you from doing harm to others, not just out a sense of moral obligation, or a sense of duty, but because it will feel good and right to do so, as it will have become your preferred way of relating to people. You will feel a sense of wellbeing from being kind that will become a tangible and valued part of your life experience. You will be more and more unwilling to live your life in any way which prevents you feeling the benevolent presence which accompanies you while you are being kind.
Although kindness is not specifically listed in the traditional virtues it is at the very least implied in “charity”. It could even be argued that how we currently use the word “kindness” may well be a modern equivalent of what they used to mean by “charity”, or certainly an aspect of it. Besides it seem to me that kindness is a virtue modern people can easily understand and relate to. It is part of our common experience and used in everyday language; whereas some of the others virtues, not so. The last thing we need is for virtues to seem obscure and “far away” from us and our everyday lives. We need to make virtues understandable and accessible.
It is not difficult to see how making virtues understandable and accessible brings many benefits. A greedy person will tend to see others solely as means to an end. Yet, if that person cultivates kindness this will soften any tendency to “use” people till eventually their “greed” diminishes.
Likewise, a proud person tends to look down on others. Yet, if that person cultivates kindness they will notice the difference between the sense of well-being they have when they are being kind and how this disappears when the look down on someone, and they will be more likely to quickly return to being kind. Hence, they too tend to diminish their tendency to be proud, in the negative sense of the word
Even a sin like lust will diminish under the onslaught of kindness. Through kindness it gets more and more difficult to see another person in a solely lustful way as you develop your capacity for kindness. It becomes impossible to take advantage of others, to mislead them or to treat them unfairly in any way. Yet, most sins depend on us treating others unfairly in order to function.
Kindness gets to the root cause of sin as it reconnects us with the higher and wiser aspects of ourselves. It softens the edges of our sense of separation from others, and starts to dissolve our tendency to be tempted by sinful thoughts and feelings.
At other times it might require boldness, courage or some other dynamic quality we need to develop to overcome slothfulness or some similar disposition. Therefore, I am not by any means suggesting that kindness is the be all and end all. A kind person who is also bold and courageous can do much good in the world.
The point is that the quality of kindness brings a certain type of fulfillment which is hard to describe. It is a sense that you are leading the life you are meant to live or at least beginning to. You are beginning to access parts of yourself which can help and guide you through life. The sense of there being a beautiful presence coming into your life as you practice kindness may become very tangible. You may start to feel less lonely and isolated in your life journey and more like you have an inner companion who upholds you and helps carry you forward when things get challenging. You get the feeling of joy which comes from realizing that this inner companion is going ahead in front of you and preparing the way – making the way smooth.
Another overarching quality like this is forgiveness. Yet, forgiveness is not just a virtue it is also a skill. Like any skill it really helps to have a method by which to practice it. Many people are not able to forgive because they simply do not have a method, or not one that they feel is accessible to them. (See The Four Steps to Forgiveness. Immediate download.).
When we do now know how to forgive ourselves we can tend to act as judge, jury and punisher of ourselves. This is a form of arrogance as we are assuming we can take the role of God. When we cannot forgive others we may feel justified in treating them badly – we feel that we can be nasty to them because they are “the enemy”. This paves the way for various sins to take us over. Forgiveness, including forgiveness of ourselves, has a great power to help us overcome even the 7 deadly sins as it take the power away from sin and sinfulness and the effect it has on us. It restores power to the virtues and gives us breathing space to develop them.
Many people nowadays are offended by the idea of being referred to as a “miserable sinner”. I recently saw a lady in a church get up and shout “This is abusive!” when this approach was taken during a Sunday service. Perhaps it is time for church leaders to focus more on the virtues, how to help people cultivate them, and to understand the benefits which they offer; and a lot less on sin and sinfulness.
If you want to explore a way to forgive try, The Four Steps to Forgiveness, available from this page. You might be very surprised about how easy and effective it is. The ebook is free and you don’t even need to give your email address to receive it – it should download immediately when you click a link or the image of the book.
Written by William Fergus Martin, Author: Forgiveness is Power.
Four Steps to Forgiveness
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Four Steps to Forgiveness
A powerful way to freedom, happiness and success.
William Fergus Martin