The Seven Deadly Sins

The seven deadly (or ‘capital’) sins are “deadly” in that they are the source from which other sins flow. All sin distances us from God, and the capital sins do it in serious ways. When we sin, we tell God, “I want it my way, not Your way.”

As soon as we are willing to ask for God’s forgiveness and empty ourselves of our sin, God can come in to fill the void in our hearts that sin creates. Archbishop Fulton Sheen says, “As sin is an aversion to God, grace is the conversion to God. Our Lord does not say, ‘I told you, you would fall.’ He does not desert us though we desert Him. He turns, once we know we are sinners. God never gives us up.” Think about Peter and his denial of Christ in the Gospel. Peter sinned, but he repented, and was able to live out the extraordinary plan God had for his life.

Learning about the sins that trip us up and cause us to desert God can help raise our awareness of them in our lives. Below we have given you a list of the seven deadly sins and brief descriptions of each. You can click on each of the sins to learn more about them, see how you may be susceptible to them, and learn how you can stop committing them.

Get your DVD or CD copy of Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues by Fr. Robert Barron from Word on Fire Ministries

 

Pride

Pride is a tough struggle for all of us. Pride is the capital sin of the capital sins. All sins flow from pride. In fact, it was pride that made the devil turn away from God and Adam fall into original sin. Pride can be very destructive. That means that if we can get pride under control in our lives, then we will be able to work on ridding ourselves of other sins with much greater ease.

What is pride?

Pride is self-assertion, selfishness, the inordinate desire for your own excellence, undue self-love or self-esteem, the over appreciation of your own worth. Pride sets you in competition with God.

Living with pride

Pride leads us to do crazy things. When we are living with pride, we may enjoy taking credit and seeking attention/recognition for accomplishments or talents, try to minimize our defects in front of others (or magnify others’ defects), hold ourselves superior to others, be given to stubbornness or vanity or want to be known as the “holy one.” But there is good news. Through prayer and some hard work, you can free yourself from the heavy burdens that pride brings and the damage it can cause to you, others, and your relationship with God. You can treat your pride by working on the virtue that helps temper our pride: humility. 

What do the experts say?

“There is one vice of which no man in the world is free [pride]…There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.” –C.S. Lewis

“Pride is the greatest sin because it is the living heart of all sins. Every sin says to God, ‘my will be done.’” –Dr. Peter Kreeft

“Pride looks down, and no one can see God but by looking up.” –Dr. Peter Kreeft

The greatest misery does not stop Me from uniting Myself to a soul, but where there is pride, I am not there. —St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in my Soul (1563)

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace; but with the humble is wisdom.” –Proverbs 11:2

How do I treat my pride?

By cultivating its opposing virtue: humility.

Greed / Avarice

St. Paul calls greed the “root of all evil.” It is natural to desire earthly goods and money in order to live well, but greed takes this desire to an immoderate level, making goods and money into gods.

What is greed (also known as avarice)?

Greed, or avarice, is the disordered love of riches or earthly goods. Money and possessions take an improper role in the life of a greedy person. The greedy person likely sees earthly goods and wealth not as instruments, but as ends in themselves.

Living with greed

Living with greed reorients our priorities in a backward way. It may cause us to hoard money or be overly concerned with growing in wealth, care too much about the quality and quantity of our possessions (perhaps always wanting the newest gadget or clothing line, etc.), and make us not want to share our wealth with those in need. But there is good news. Through prayer and some hard work, you can free yourself from the heavy burdens that greed brings and the damage it can cause to you and your relationship with God. You can treat your greed by working on the virtue that helps temper our greed: generosity. 

What do the experts say?

“Jesus spoke more about avarice than about any other sin…He scandalized his disciples with many hard sayings about detachment from worldly goods and about how hard it would be for a rich man to enter his Kingdom.” –Dr. Peter Kreeft

“For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.” –1 Timothy 6:10

“Riches prick us with a thousand troubles in getting them, as many cares in preserving them, and yet more anxiety in spending them, and with grief in losing them.” –St. Francis of Assisi

How do I treat my greed?

By cultivating its opposing virtue: generosity, liberality.

Anger

Anger as an emotion is not sinful; it is neutral, as all emotions are. But, when the force of the will is added, anger can quickly become sinful. When the will tells the emotion of anger to rise irrationally (and ultimately flourish out of control), it becomes a ‘deadly’ sin.

What is anger?

Anger is the inordinate desire to punish or seek revenge. Anger is a passion, and passions are neutral, so anger can be bad or good depending on how it is used. (Jesus got angry in a good way!) When anger is used in a vengeful way, it is a vice—or capital sin.

Living with anger

Many of us know what it’s like to experience out-of-control anger. We may exhibit a short temper, be given to unreasonable outbursts, or seek revenge. If these ‘symptoms’ pop up regularly in your life, than you might have particular struggles with anger. But there is good news. Through prayer and some hard work, you can free yourself from the heavy burdens that anger brings and the damage it can cause to your relationships. You can treat your anger by working on the virtue that helps temper our anger: forgiveness, “meekness. 

What do the experts say?

“He that is angry without cause shall be in danger, but he that is angry with cause shall not.” –St. John Chrysostom

“Anger’s special danger is that it leads to the worst sin of all: hatred, the opposite of love, which is the greatest good.” –Dr. Peter Kreeft

“Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.” –Matthew 5:22

Anger is a desire for revenge.” –CCC 2302

How do I treat my anger?

By cultivating its opposing virtue: forgiveness, meekness.

Sloth

Sloth is a very modern sin in that our current culture probably exhibits this in a far stronger way than past cultures have. Dr. Peter Kreeft explains sloth as “joylessness when faced with God as our supreme joy.” Sloth robs us of our hunger for God. It is a deadly sin of indifference. Sloth is depressing because it keeps us from seeking God, without whom we cannot find true happiness in life!

What is sloth (also known as acedia)?

Sloth is a laxity in the effort to grow in virtue and faith, a lack of spiritual effort, laziness. A slothful person sees growing in virtue as too much work, so he simply doesn’t try and eventually doesn’t really care.

Living with sloth

Sloth can exhibit itself in our lives when we slack off in our attempts to become a better person, ignore God’s call to grow deeper in faith, or neglect prayer and Scripture reading. Sloth is a big roadblock to our growing in holiness and happiness. But there is good news. Through prayer and some hard work, you can free yourself from the heavy burdens that sloth brings and the damage it can cause to you and your relationship with God. You can treat your others by working on the virtue that helps temper our sloth: zeal. 

What do the experts say?

“Sloth is a cold sin, not a hot one; but that makes it even deadlier…God can more easily cool our wrath than fire our frozenness, though he can do both.” –Dr. Peter Kreeft

Acedia or spiritual sloth goes so far as to refuse the joy that comes from God and to be repelled by divine goodness.” –CCC 2094

“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” –Matthew 26:41

“When the sense of God is lost, there is also a tendency to lose the sense of man, of his dignity and his life.” –Blessed Pope John Paul II

 

How do I treat my sloth?

By cultivating its opposing virtue: zeal, diligence.

Envy

Envy is competitive. Unlike other sins that grant very temporary satisfaction to someone, envy doesn’t ever bring someone pleasure. It removes joy, brings pain, and leads to other sins…the worst being hatred. The prideful person often finds himself arriving here: at envy. But the good news is that you don’t have to be chained down by envy any more.

What is envy?

Envy is the resentment or sorrow at the good fortune of another. Envy can be dangerous, in that while jealousy seeks to possess, envy seeks to destroy.

Living with envy

If you’ve ever experienced envy, you know how unhappy and on-edge it makes you. Envy causes is to find other people’s successes threatening, have a “grass is always greener” attitude that becomes destructive to our own happiness, and to wish misfortune on others who are more prosperous. Envy can even cause us to get annoyed with those who are more virtuous than we are. But there is good news. Through prayer and some hard work, you can free yourself from the heavy burdens that envy brings and the damage it can cause to you and your relationship with God. You can treat your envy by working on the virtue that helps temper our envy: admiration, brotherly love, solicitude. 

What do the experts say?

“Envy’s word is, ‘I’m just as good as you.’” –Dr. Peter Kreeft

“So put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander. Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation.” –1 Peter 2:1-2

“Envy represents a form of sadness and therefore a refusal of charity; the baptized person should struggle against it by exercising good will. Envy often comes from pride; the baptized person should train himself to live in humility.” –CCC 2540

“Would you like to see God glorified by you? Then rejoice in your brother’s progress and you will immediately give glory to God. Because his servant could conquer envy by rejoicing in the merits of others, God will be praised.” –St. John Chrysostom

How do I treat my envy?

By cultivating its opposing virtue: admiration, brotherly love, solicitude.

Gluttony

Gluttony may not seem like a deadly sin to many at first glance, especially if you can easily think of a half a dozen times in recent history when you overate or drank immoderately. But the reality is that gluttony can be deadly when it turns us away from our ultimate focus, God.  Gluttony is an addiction, and addiction is an element of all sin, and sin keeps us from growing in relationship with God.

What is gluttony?

Gluttony is the unrestrained consumption or overindulgence in food or drink. Gluttony is opposed to moderation.

Living with gluttony

Gluttony leaves you feeling pretty lousy, as all sin tends to do. You may experience gluttony in your life by always eating or drinking without waiting for others, being excessively picky about the food you eat, eating or drinking in excess, depriving yourself of enough food or drink (anorexia or bulimia), or eating too quickly or greedily. But there is good news. Through prayer and some hard work, you can free yourself from the heavy burdens that gluttony brings and the damage it can cause to you and your relationship with God. You can treat your gluttony by working on the virtue that helps temper our gluttony: temperance. 

What do the experts say?

“There is a deep unwisdom, a deep folly involved in gluttony, something more serious than an overfull stomach. It is the illusion that we can be made happy by cramming our inner emptiness, of body as of soul, full of the things of this world. It is a recipe for disappointment.” –Dr. Peter Kreeft

“Let neither gluttony nor lust overcome me, and do not surrender me to a shameless soul.” –Sirach 23:6

“It is impossible to engage in spiritual conflict, without the previous subjugation of the appetite.” –St. Gregory

How do I treat my gluttony?

By cultivating its opposing virtue: temperance.

Lust

Lust is considered one of the seven deadly sins. The fact that the culture tries to make it not one, under the proposal that “lust doesn’t hurt anyone,” does not change its damaging nature to our souls and lives. Lust is a very popular sin and it blinds the mind. Like other sins, we really need to understand how lust hurts us in order to avoid it.

What is lust?

Lust is the disordered desire for or indulgence in impure sexual pleasure. Lust seeks sexual pleasure outside of its proper context of marriage.

Living with lust

Lust enslaves us to our passions. It can lead us to dress immodestly to gain attention, use artificial birth control, have sex outside of marriage or use sex for pleasure only, look impurely at another man or woman, or fall into other dangers habits that damage or demean our dignity and the dignity of others. But there is good news. Through prayer and some hard work, you can free yourself from the heavy burdens that lust brings and the damage it can cause to you, others, and your relationship with God. You can treat your lust by working on the virtue that helps temper our lust: chastity. 

What do the experts say?

“By Lust I mean that affection of the mind that aims at the enjoyment of one’s self and one’s neighbor without reference to God. Lust indulged became habit, and habit unresisted became necessity. There is no remedy so powerful against the heat of concupiscence as the remembrance of our Savior’s Passion. In all my difficulties I never found anything so efficacious as the wounds of Christ: In them I sleep secure; from them I derive new life.” –St. Augustine

“The ‘mastery’ over the world that God offered man from the beginning was realized above all within man himself: mastery of self. The first man was unimpaired and ordered in his whole being because he was free from the triple concupiscence254 that subjugates him to the pleasures of the senses, covetousness for earthly goods, and self-assertion, contrary to the dictates of reason.” –CCC 377

“But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” –Matthew 5:28

“Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body.” –1 Corinthians 6:18

 

How do I treat my lust?

By cultivating its opposing virtue: chastity.

 

 “No matter what our past may have been, no matter how far we may be from the summit right now, no matter what state in life or career we are in, no matter what temperament or inclinations we have, no matter what our job may be, we are all called to be saints.”
– Fr. Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion Deep Prayer