Seven Deadly Sins

What Is Sin

Lust… that affection of the mind which aims at enjoying one’s self and one’s neighbor, and other corporeal things, without reference to God. Again, what lust, when unsubdued, does towards corrupting, one’s own soul and body, is called vice;(1) but what it does to injure another is called crime.(2) And these are the two classes into which all sins may be divided. But the vices come first; for when these have exhausted the soul, and reduced it to a kind of poverty, it easily slides into crimes, in order to remove hindrances to, or to find assistance in, its vices.”

- St. Augustine

What is sin, not the elementary concept of sin as an act of disobedience to a set of moral boundaries, but sin as in “a missing of the mark”, sin that is separation from God? As Vine’s Dictionary states, sin is:

(a) A principle or source of action, or an inward element producing acts…
(b) A governing principle or power…

I’m oversimplifying here, but as I understand it now, sin is discernable as any motion of the soul that is ultimately a violation of Jesus commandment to “Love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” Mathew 22:36-40. Oversimplifying in that understanding and more importantly awareness of motions of the soul are not always self evident and generally come from extensive meditative practice.

Pride & Vainglory

I recently caught a show on the History Channel “Seven Deadly Sins”, which stirred my interest in the topic of sin. After realizing what they were describing was something I had discovered, not too long ago, as a peculiar nemesis that would drag my mind off seemingly at will. They called this, my nemesis, “vainglory”…

In vainglory, what a person is doing is using other people as a way of puffing up one’s own ego “I need you only because you tell me what a wonderful person I am.” Evagrius believed vainglory interfered with holiness writing, the prayer of one who loves popularity will not rise up to God. Where the sin of vainglory is concerned with others opinions the sin of pride focuses only on one’s self. Pride is the sin of self sufficiency where there’s no need for God. Anything that calls into question the place of God and assumes that somehow we have a higher kind of place than we are entitled to would be pride.”

For those of you, like me, who do not have a rich Catholic heritage to fall back on, vainglory, by definition, is an offshoot of pride. Not virtuous pride, AKA “Authentic Pride” that is associated with feelings of productivity, confidence, accomplishments, but rather sinful pride, AKA “Hubristic Pride” that is associated with feelings of arrogance, egotism, conceitedness. Throughout history many sects such as the Anabaptist and others have tried to eliminate the sin of pride by defying culture and shaping the world around them with a pride free facade. The downfall to any outward approach is that it can often lead to a sense of spiritual pride.

 “They are proud in humility; proud in that they are not proud.”

 -Robert Burton


Guided by Wisdom

My particular experience with vainglory would be something paramount in weighing ideas, future plans, or other personal decisions to the opinion of others. Not in person, but in thought, or as Teresa of Avila would put it “in a ghostly manner”. The most peculiar part of this whole distractive process is that the person(s) that I was so intensely considering the opinion of, are currently, and have long since been far removed from my day-to-day life. This process of balancing my next move based on long gone acquaintances or irrelevant influence is a type of bondage, vainglory surely takes the Kingdom by force and strives to challenge or shape life changing decisions that would be better guided by Wisdom alone. This is nothing less than vainglory at its root, sin in motion!

“And the Devil did grin, for his darling sin
  Is pride that apes humility”

- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Death The Cure For Sin? (Romans 6)

What does a soul do when sin is found entrenched within? I am reminded of Romans 6, that sin is bondage and “For one who has died has been set free from sin.” Not sinless perfection, the apostle Paul goes on to clarify “thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”

As for my own nemesis, seeking the opinions of ghost that wreak vainglory, there now stands a new standard that answers their call… “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8 (ESV)

Pax Vobiscum
-C.M. Gregory

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13 Responses to Seven Deadly Sins

  1. Thanks for speaking from your heart and sharing a bit of your own story, Gregory. While it’s impossible for me to single out one vice as my nemesis, I can certainly relate to your experience with vainglory. Your point about referencing people of the past is very astute, whether we are talking of parents, siblings, old classmates…. One of the things I hear in this, and it seems relevant to awareness of all the vices, is the practice of self-judgment, which is the ego seeking some degree of credit for fulfilling some standard of righteousness, even if it is via the would be penance of self-flagellation. I am reminded of your last post’s admonishment to forgive and forget, which, for most of us, seems to be more challenging within ourselves than anywhere else. Yet, if we cannot love ourselves in that way, what does it say about our love of others? And then the ego tries to grab hold of this, and…. Ah, thank God for grace!

    • C.M. Gregory says:

      Your welcome Chuck, and right on base about the difficulty of self forgiveness. Beyond that, letting go is no longer just a philosophy. What once began as a meditative practice has somehow slipped past the walls of my prayer closet and penetrated my being, new birth perhaps…

  2. Mark D. Daniels says:

    I agree if I have the correct understanding of what has been presented. I think sin is an outward reflection. Instead of reflecting inward and seeing within our being a love of God and thus others and because of this a feeling of fulfillment through service. I should not compare people or circumstance to myself but must see myself compared to the highest form of love as expressed in 1Cor.13. This is expressed in willing selfess service to humanity. Not out of duty but as an expression of my understanding of who I am. And by doing this with faith I will build upon this understanding and attain more understanding. I believe this is the growth every soul, in our true form, seeks. Anything short of this is cause for inner reflection. And the result of this reflection, if it is not in tune with God, is to correct our perception to be in tune or more in tune with God. I believe inner reflection should be at least a daily practice. If we do not seek to align ourselves with the force we understand as God, then we look elsewhere for our identification.

    I do not know if I have the correct understanding of this or not, but this way of thinking is has always lead me to an inner peace. But it is important for me to understand that this is a process to be built upon and because of our infinite souls not an end destination to be acheived. The process is of itself one that produces joy and should be a living thing. Seeing a finite goal to attain to will lead one to a misunderstanding of true happiness. The true happiness is in the doing, the process, the intention not in the result. If we trully look to the process with faith then the result is always one for the good of the individual soul and by this the group soul (humanity) as well.

    Does this make any sense. Or do you think I am off the mark. And if so how and/or why?

    • C.M. Gregory says:

      Hi Mark,

      Very well stated, in times past contemplation was for me, another state of mind or as you stated “an end destination to be achieved.” True enough that contemplation is a process and awareness of the very subtle, first motions of things such as vainglory are not the goal. Humility of the self before God as taught by Christ is reason enough for my practice of contemplation. As you reminded me of 1 Corinthians 13 one could also correctly understand my post in the light of love by: “love does not envy or boast… but rejoices with the truth”.

      Thanks -Gregory

  3. Lisa says:

    Thank you for this site!

  4. kelly says:

    I love this post! Thank you!

    Vainglory is a direct result of one not loving themselves, and therefore, not loving correctly. And just when I think that I have abolished this Vainglory in myself once and for all, I get caught up in the world again, and find myself “puffing”. Grrrr! Oh, God, please help me, I am a half-with-it “Puff-n-stuff.”

  5. Tony Haynes says:

    This speaks to my condition, as Quakers say.

    I have had much time to reflect upon my 69 years, in recent months. I found myself feeling more and more guilt. I have indulged in all seven deadly sins, and probably a few more. The dodgiest time was being half awake (or half asleep) when thoughts tend to run at random. I kept finding that all the times that I had let others down were paraded before me. None of the good times showed up!

    In the end I felt that I was being encumbered by Marley’s locks and chains.

    But then the realisation hit me that I have a Friend, who holds the keys. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us,” took on new depth of meaning.

    So did, “Thy will be done,” and “Thy kingdom come.”

    And something that had been missing from my life for quite a while began to shine again….. Joy.


  6. seth says:

    My favorite sin is wrath – that is, if we’re allowed to have a favorite.

    Tony: you can spend your whole life feeling bad, but I’m sure you know that isn’t what God wants from you. “…where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” and “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”.

  7. Tony Haynes says:

    Thanks, Seth. Your encouragement is appreciated.


  8. Jnana says:

    all very interesting concepts and observations and truthful expressions of inner experience yet never really touching essence ..

    God is all and to be in tune with god requires nothing .. Everything is an expression of the creator and hence even when your human form likes to theorise and fantasize about these things the true mystic rests in the place beyond form or reason, in deep surrender to the mystery, not as a strategy, though as a deep knowing of self beyond time and form, yet honours time and form as much as the nothingness .

    do not judge others and god will not judge you ! when judgement dies we realise that u are god and so am i

    blessings and namaste
    Jnana Jones

  9. Jnana says:

    the rest is just mental masturbation !!

  10. C.M. Gregory says:

    Hi Jnana.

    I have opened a discussion in the forums over Judgment. Thanks for your comments…

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