The Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven Heavenly VirtuesCredit:

The seven deadly sins have been a part of Christian theology since Pope Gregory refined earlier lists of “mortal” sins into the list we know today.  During the middle ages seven heavenly virtues were set in opposition of the seven deadly sins in order to inspire the faithful with ideals to work towards as opposed to sins to avoid.  Below is a list of each of the seven deadly sins along with it’s corresponding virtue.

Lust and Chastity

Lust originally meant a very strong desire for anything.  However, in our modern world it has come to hold the meaning of sexual desire.  Sexual desire has been known to cause many of this world’s evils ranging from the political intrigues of Anthony and Cleopatra to common jealousy between friends.

In opposition to lust is set chastity.  Chastity refers to the practice of refraining from sexual activity outside of the bonds marriage and also to keeping oneself free from intoxicating substances such as drugs or alcohol.  Practicing chastity is seen as a way to decrease distractions from the outside world and as a route to spiritual peace.

Gluttony and Temperance

The sin of gluttony is committed when a person consumes more than they need.  Most commonly gluttony is used to refer to over-eating; however one can be a glutton for anything including drink, material possession, public accolades, etc... The evil created by this sin is twofold.  First it creates an absence of goods for those who are needy and perhaps do not have the means of providing the means for themselves.  Secondly, gluttony can cause physical deterioration of the body which is viewed in the Christian faith as God’s temple. 

In opposition to gluttony is set temperance.  Much in line with frugality, temperance is the careful consideration of the goods and materials that a person consumes along with a consideration of the consequences of all actions in a person’s life.  This duo of vice and virtue has almost a zen-like quality.

Greed and Charity

Greed is the desire and pursuit of wealth or material things in excess of what a person needs.  Much like gluttony, this sin creates an absence of necessities for other people.  It can also lead to crimes such as theft and fraud.  An obsession or love of wealth, particularly money, was mentioned by Jesus as the “root of all evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10).

In opposition to greed is set charity.  This is not the charity that we are most familiar with that constitutes giving to the poor or to “good causes.”  Charity is derived from the Latin word caritas which is more correctly translated as the love for humanity, both as a group and on an individual level.  According to scripture, this love is the greatest of the virtues.

Sloth and Diligence

Sloth is the neglect of committing an action that one should commit.  A synonym for this sin is laziness.  Sloth leads to evil through inaction as opposed to the other sins which require action or at least desire.  A direct consequence of sloth is that through the inaction of good men evil is given a chance to exist in this world.

In opposition to sloth is set diligence.  Diligence entails the possession of a strong work ethic along with the ability to perform one’s best even when not being watched by others.  Through diligence many of the evils in this world can be overcome.

Wrath and Patience

Wrath is synonymous with rage and is usually considered as manifesting itself in an act of anger.  However, wrath does not have to include only actions resulting from anger but also anger towards oneself that does not manifest itself outwardly.  Consequences of wrath can include unjustified violence and revenge.

In opposition to wrath is set patience.  Patience is the ability to endure misfortune or evil committed.  It is tied closely with forgiveness.   Developing patience is seen as a method for reaching inner peace.

Envy and Kindness

Envy is the desire of a neighbor’s possession.  It is the only sin that can be directly linked to one of the Ten Commandments, specifically the tenth which states that one should not covet.  Envy leads to evil because it can inspire joy over another’s loss.

In opposition to envy is set kindness.  Kindness is good will that is shown to others.  It is closely related to charity.  Kindness is hoped to inspire good feelings and actions in other people and enables a person to be glad for their neighbor’s good fortune.

Pride and Humility

Pride is often quoted as the most serious of the seven deadly sins and is viewed as the seed from which each of the other sins springs.  Pride can be defined as an excessive love of oneself.  Loving oneself can cause feelings of superiority and a reasoning that one should have power over others.  In its worst form pride can lead to a hatred of other people.

In opposition to pride is set humility.  Humility is the modest view of oneself.  It is what allows a person to consider others, their actions, and their points of view.  Humility allows a person to respect others, allows self-examination, and ultimately is what enables a person to correct their flaws.

Further Study:

Seven Deadly Sins (History Channel)
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If you're interested in learning more about the seven deadly sins from a historical point of view, the History channel has a great series on the subject. Each sin is reviewed individually along with its history as interpreted by Christian teachings.