This is another in a series of posts on developing a peace within in order to be a Peacemaker.
As a result of a nightmare my granddaughter and I were discussing, of all things, the so-called Seven Deadly Sins. First of all we had trouble naming them and then ran into the difficulty associated with the word, “Sin”. When you look at their definition you can see that they each have a little of each other in their character and a case can be made that there is a positive embedded within each as well.
Lust- desire, longing, gluttony
Greed- craving, longing, ambitious
Envy- resentment, lusting, longing, ambitious
Gluttony- greed, lust, longing, ambitious
Wrath- anger, indignation, displeasure.
All are extremes of self-regard i.e. self-centeredness, and of the ego-self. When the focus is on the self it has less room for others, and one becomes exclusive rather than inclusive, disconnected rather than connected, and separated versus belonging.
She and I came to the conclusion that short of becoming an ascetic monk each in moderation would bring about greater spiritual, emotional, and psychological harmony than would be available if one were to allow any of them to take one over.
Each of us has an ego, that part of us that we identify as being our self, and each ego is dedicated to the emotional and psychological survival of the self. Notice that I don’t include the spiritual survival of the self for that is of the greater Self, that which includes everything and everyone and that which is not of the body, but transcends the body. To the degree that one walls themselves off from this greater Self through the ego-sustaining activities of the “seven deadly sins” is the degree to which one separates them from the greater Self.
We also decided that when we looked at these so-called “sins” in this way, when we defined them in moderation, that achieving their opposite character was much more attainable.
But then she asked what does one do when they notice that they have been taken over by any of the seven?
My answer comes from having worked for over 30+ years with children and families in a therapeutic environment as well as the work I’ve done on and for myself. To try and eradicate any so-called sin from your behavior only gives it more energy and thus more power over you. In short, abstinence and resistance doesn’t work in the long run because this only suppresses i.e. hides them and allows them to rise once again, usually at the least opportune time. Ultimately these behaviors are but symptoms of inadequately dealt with unmet needs.
Bottom line: Being negative with a symptom only adds to the negativity of the symptom.
The trick is to not try to eradicate them but to get through them. Looking for the motivation behind the “sin” will help you work with it. For example, if you’re feeling lonely and want to feel more connected you might experience anger or envy or greed or even lust when what you really want is to feel connected and cared for. This adds a more positive spin and uses the negative experience of the “sin” as an indicator for ones needs that need to be better met.
In short, sorting out the positives from the negatives is the best way of dealing with the darker aspects of our natures. Rather than fighting with the negatives, walk into them and explore. If the negative comes up a lot, look to see what from the past may have generated it and what from the present has triggered its return.
For example, certain people’s (male or female) will trigger great annoyance in me. “Annoyance” in this case becomes my indicator that a ‘complex’ associated with my mother’s hypercritical nature has been triggered and that I’m responding to the feeling of being unaccepted. This feeling of insufficiency or “less than” often triggers a version of one or more of the “sins”, usually pride or wrath. I suggest that the trigger for all of the sins is some experience of insufficiency and the need to bring balance or equilibrium to that.