Archive for April 15th, 2008


7, Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Can you list the 7 Deadly Sins? I usually get to number 6 and fade out. I can never remember all 7. The 7 Deadly Sins began with Evagrius Ponticus as a list of 8 capital vices. A condensed version of the list was given to Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th Century. He chose to go with 7 (in this order):

1 – Lust
Lust began as extravagance, and later became lust. (Is it okay to be extravagant but not lustful?) Lust includes
obsessive or excessive sexual thoughts or desires, and adultery. Unfulfilled lusts sometimes lead to sexual or sociological compulsions including sexual addiction, adultery, rape, and incest.

2 – Gluttony
Gluttony derives from the Latin, gluttire, meaning to gulp down or swallow. Gluttony is the over-indulgence and over-consumption of material objects, food – anything, to the point of waste.

3 – Greed
Greed includes acquisition of wealth, avarice, disloyalty, deliberate betrayal, or treason, especially for personal gain. Bribery, scavenging, hoarding of materials or objects, theft and robbery.

4 – Sloth
Sloth is laziness or indifference, an unwillingness to act. Sloth replaced sadness in the 17th century. (Who knew it was a sin to be sad?)

5 – Wrath
Wrath is a harboring of uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger. These feelings can manifest as vehement denial of the truth (both to others, and in the form of self-denial), impatience with the procedure of law, and the desire to seek revenge outside of the justice system.

6 – Envy
Envy is insatiable desire. Those who envy, desire something someone else has which they perceive themselves as lacking (scarcity mentality).

7 – Pride
Pride is the original, and most serious of the 7 deadly sins; it is the ultimate source from which the others arise. Pride is the desire to be more important or attractive than others, failing to give compliments to others, excessive love of self.

The 7 Deadly Sins have been made famous by artists, writers, and filmmakers. Purgatorio, Part II of Dante’s Divine Comedy, is one of the best known sources since the Renaissance. The most graphic depiction I’ve ever seen hit me square in the face in the film, Se7en. If you haven’t seen the movie, prepare yourself for some of the most twisted psychological murders in film history. Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Morgan Freeman know how to pull it off.

Luckily, each cardinal sin has a 6th-century, equivalent punishment in Hell. For the sin Pride, one is to be broken on the wheel. For Envy, dropped into freezing water. Anger is rewarded by being dismembered alive (not unlike a scene in Se7en.). For Sloth, you are thrown in the snake pits; Greed, immersed into pots of boiling oil; Gluttony, forced to eat rats, toads, and snakes; and Lust, smothered in brimstone and fire.

The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things, Hieronymus Bosch, 1485, Public domain image, copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years.In 1485, a few years before Columbus sailed, Hieronymus Bosch painted The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things in oil on wood panels. The painting has 5 circles or mandalas. The 4 small circles depict Death, Judgment, Hell, and Glory.

The 5th, and largest circle, contains the 7 Sins:  wrath at the bottom, then proceeding clockwise, envy, greed, gluttony, sloth, lust, and pride.

The center of the large circle is said to represent the eye of God, and Christ can be seen emerging from his tomb. At the bottom of the image is the Latin inscription, Cave Cave Deus Videt (“Beware, Beware, God is Watching”).

How deadly are your sins? Are you quick to judge others for theirs? Are 7 sins enough?

Not for everyone. After 1,500 years the Vatican has brought the seven deadly sins up to date by adding seven new ones for the age of globalization. The list, published in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, came as the Pope deplored the “decreasing sense of sin” in today’s “secularized world” and the falling numbers of Roman Catholics going to confession.

The new deadly sins include polluting, genetic engineering, being obscenely rich, drug dealing, abortion, pedophilia and causing social injustice.


Each of the original Seven Deadly Sins has an opposite, corresponding Holy Virtue. In Writing Practice lingo, the Holy Virtues are the underbelly of the 7 Deadly Sins. In parallel order and opposition, the Seven Holy Virtues are:

  • Chastity (opposite lust)  – Purity. Embracing moral wholesomeness, achieving purity of body and thought through education and betterment.
  • Temperance (opposite Gluttony)  – Self-control, abstention, and moderation.
  • Charity (opposite Greed)  – Generosity. Willingness to give. Nobility of thought or action.
  • Diligence (opposite Sloth) – Zealous and careful nature in one’s actions and work. Decisive work ethic. Budgeting one’s time; monitoring one’s own activities to guard against laziness.
  • Patience (opposite Wrath) – Forbearance and endurance through moderation. Resolving conflicts peacefully, as opposed to resorting to violence. The ability to forgive; to show mercy.
  • Kindness (opposite Envy) – Charity, compassion, friendship, and sympathy without prejudice, for its own sake.
  • Humility (opposite Pride) – Modest behavior, selflessness, and the giving of respect. Giving credit where credit is due; not unfairly glorifying the self.

The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things. Hieronymus Bosch, 1485, Public domain image, copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years  The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things. Hieronymus Bosch, 1485, Public domain image, copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years  The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things. Hieronymus Bosch, 1485, Public domain image, copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years  The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things. Hieronymus Bosch, 1485, Public domain image, copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years

How has the nature of sinning changed since the 6th Century? Do you even believe in sin? What about modern Holy Virtues? What are they?

  • Choose a Deadly Sin and do a 15 minute Writing Practice on how it applies (or doesn’t apply) to you
  • Do another Writing Practice on the underbelly, a Holy Virtue (the Sin’s opposite)
  • Which Deadly Sin do you have the strongest reaction to? Is it a moral issue? Connected to past associations? Something you learned?
  • For National Poetry Month, compose a poem or haiku from lines of your Writing Practice

If none of the Sins or Virtues appeal to you, there is always Gandhi’s list of Seven Deadly Sins. Mohandas Karamachand Gandhi, one of the most influential figures in modern social and political activism, considered these traits to be the most spiritually perilous to humanity.

Choose a line from Gandhi, and 15 minutes, Go!

Gandhi’s Seven Deadly Sins

  • Wealth without Work
  • Pleasure without Conscience
  • Science without Humanity
  • Knowledge without Character
  • Politics without Principle
  • Commerce without Morality
  • Worship without Sacrifice



-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

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