Seven Deadly Sins

Seven Deadly Sins


Finding unity through kindness, honesty, and connection. Thinking about what these ideas around "undesirable" behaviors have in common, what we can learn when we think about them as a whole.

The Union Path Podcast - Seven Deadly Sins

In conversation with my family the other day, the idea or the concept of the seven deadly sins came up. I think most of us are familiar with this list, or at least the idea of the list, whether it's through a certain upbringing or probably for most of us, a certain movie we saw in the 90s.

We started talking about what was the origin of these ideas and where did it come from? But pondering this idea, a deeper idea, seemed like it might be a little bit more interesting. This idea of these seven qualities that seem to be particularly harmful or destructive, what do all these qualities have in common? Is there some message buried in the inclusion and the association of all seven of these ideas?

So these ideas, at least the way it's most commonly thought about, are pride, greed, rath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth.

Every single one of them is profoundly self-centered. Every single one is, to put it lightly, taking ourselves a little too seriously, putting the focus on ourselves, a little too much.

Separating ourselves from others in a profound way, usually trying to get something for ourselves through the other.

Take pride, for example, the idea of elevating ourselves above others. Or greed, attempting to sequester and capture as many resources as we possibly can, usually in a competitive, transactional manner with others.

Wrath, believing another to be the source of the ills in our life, to the point of needing to damage, if not destroy this other. Envy, the idea that someone else has what we want and thus we don't. Separating ourselves from others in a way and really blaming them for the lack we currently perceive or experience.

Lust is an obvious one of objectifying and focusing our desire on another person while at the same time diluting, if not entirely erasing their individuality and humanity. Gluttony, over consuming of resources purely for our own sensual gain. And sloth, not doing the things we really should be doing. That's not a judgment, that's not a moralizing, that's looking at it from the perspective of ourselves, of can we look at our own behavior and judge it right? Do we feel good about it?

But when we look at all these seven qualities, it's interesting to me how all of them have this idea of self-centeredness, all these have this idea of separation.

All of these have this idea of focusing too much, if not solely, on ourselves. And by doing that, we take a hit. We take some level of damage, at the very least to our experience in life, but perhaps to our humanity as a whole.

I've experienced it more times than I can count of when I'm particularly in a negative place, I can look at my own thoughts and behaviors and spot a fair amount of self-centeredness.

It's part of the human condition. It's one of the reasons why we're such a funny animal is we seemingly have to balance these opposites and find our way to truth and virtue and the full life that we want,

through being able to balance these opposites in our lives.

Just the state of our being itself, seemingly we have this incredible capacity and capability on a spiritual level, but at the same time, we're clearly animalistic creatures on some level as well. We're not one or the other, we're both. We have to balance this creature part of ourselves with a creative part of ourselves. If we get too lost in one, we lose the other, and thus, we're no longer whole.

And a lot of these opposites, it's really easy to demonize and diminish one particular part of it. But the reality is, we find ourselves, we find our true selves in our wholeness, in accepting every part of ourselves.

And the learning of life is finding ways to balance these opposites and find the joy and the reward in the combination, not the exclusion.

And so I think that's really interesting. I think that's really interesting how life has a way of nudging us back to unity. Even just from our feelings, when we are experiencing times of suffering, at least internally, and we can see how our self-centeredness has gotten a little,

a little too much attention, a little too active lately, we can bring ourselves back into balance by intentionally finding unity.

We can find our way back by simple gestures. Doesn't have to be a grand new life mission of where we're only going to do such and such from now on, and we're never going to do that other thing ever again.

It's when we find ourselves a little too focused on ourselves, we can gently lift off and redistribute that focus to others, and we can do that through fairly simple means.

We can do that by shifting our focus from what am I not getting out of this thing that I expected to get, to how am I being of service right now? How am I enriching the lives of those I interact with? Even on a small level, how am I taking advantage of the opportunities that life gives me to do just simple gestures to create that bond,

to create that community, create that unity that I'm really trying to? How do I shift and lean away a little from my own individual attainment and a little more towards how can I help? How can I spread a little bit of positivity? How can I be something positive for someone else?

And the best part is when we do this, the other person doesn't even have to know. Doesn't have to know it was us, because we do it for the sheer joy that connection brings us. Just like we can find suffering and despair and frustration in our separateness, we can find the opposite in our unity.

That's the funny thing about life. It has this amazing way of always leading us back, gently but consistently, of applying this pressure towards what we actually want deep down, towards the fulfillment of the desires that we hold in our heart.

Life is always there nudging us, but it doesn't force us. Sure, it can definitely get forceful at times, but life never forces us to surrender free will.

We're always free to think whatever we want. In any given situation, we're always free to respond however we want. Of course, there are physical limits on what that response can be, but the choice is always ours.

The opportunity is always there. We can choose what attitude we come from. We can not only choose what we do, but more importantly, we can choose how we do it. We can choose to let go of our expectations on meeting our own sensory, and the superficial needs, and instead focus on something greater. We can always make that choice. We can always move in the direction of wholeness, of connection, of unity. It's always our choice.

Because one thing I've definitely experienced over and over again is when I find myself upset and frustrated, especially if my expectations in any given situation are violated,

and I take the time to look underneath these feelings, and really try to trace it back to its origin, really look at the original intent, which was both fueling and undergirding my behavior,

I usually find there's a desire for something fairly basic in there. There's a part of me reaching out for some sort of greater fullness, greater comfort, greater connection with someone or something else. And so even though as ideas, these are all perfectly noble and fine, where they can get all twisted up obviously, is how they're done. How are we trying to achieve this sense of greater fullness, greater connection, greater comfort?

Are we doing it at the expense of someone else? Are we doing it in a competitive way, what we're trying to take instead of trying to cooperate and co-create?

Because the thing about expectations is that oftentimes they blind us and numb us to actually experiencing what we're doing. We can get so focused on what we're trying to achieve, what we're trying to get, what we're trying to get done, that we miss a lot of the experience of the doing.

We miss the opportunity to maybe learn something new. We miss the opportunity to see how things really are, we squander opportunity for truth.

We miss the present moment because we're so focused on outcomes. We're so focused on gathering evidence that we're going to get what we want, and along the way, miss the opportunity to really observe what we're actually doing.

We miss the opportunity for the clarity of what we're really doing and why we're really doing it, because we're not paying attention to anything other than is this going to meet this expected outcome or not?

I think that's really interesting to think about. Really interesting to think about how we get these ideas, we get these reasons for doing things, and then turn into these goal seeking machines trying to force, trying to cajole,

trying to manipulate our way into this expected outcome, instead of going into situations because it's simply what we want to do.

That's the thing about ideas like kindness, especially when we're in a state of frustration around missed expectations, expressing acts of kindness towards other people can sometimes feel like the last thing that we want to do.

We can feel like that we're not getting what we want, and so what do we have to give anyway? We need to have our tank filled up first before we can give to someone else. But almost paradoxically, that's not how it works, right? I think we've all experienced the effect of truly giving to another with no expectation, no agenda other than the gift itself.

And there's a feeling that comes along with that. When we're really giving the sake of giving, or we're not just giving to get something else, that's a unique experience in and of itself. That has a unique character, a unique quality. It's alluring, it's energizing, because of course it is. Because when we're doing these true acts of kindness.

When we're giving just to give. When we're connecting with another human being on a level that is purely supportive, that creates a connection. We're no longer so alone. In that moment, we're no longer so deficient. Because ultimately a lot of these desires that we have, a lot of these things we chase, what we're looking for is connection. What we're looking for is greater wholeness, which is exactly what we experience when we freely give to another.

We have the experience of not being so hyper-focused on our own needs for a minute. We have the experience of really feeling a bond, really feeling that positive social connection with someone else, and they feel it with us too, it's reciprocal.

And so even at times where we feel like we don't have anything to give, the truth is kindness, when it's done from a pure place, is never depleting.

We never lose anything. We have only to gain. We have only to gain what we're really after. Through giving purely, we get to experience not only unity with someone else, but unity with ourselves. We get to engage that deepest part of our being and let it flow all the way through to our physical experience in this world.

We get to manifest the love and joy within ourselves, and we get to share it with another. That can be a really sublime and delicious experience. That can also be a highly medicinal experience, especially if we found ourselves too self-centered for too long.

That's one of the most beautiful things about life is it really seems designed this way. It has all of this positive reinforcement built in to encourage us towards growth, and all this negative reinforcement to discourage us from going backwards.

Because a lot of these qualities, a lot of these seven deadly sins sort of qualities, we see in ourselves as we grow. And most of us, usually, grow out of them eventually.

So there's a maturation process that takes place, which is probably why it's a little frustrating to encounter these in full grown, seemingly aware adults. There's a part of us that kind of wonders, haven't you grown past that yet? You're still doing that?

But obviously that isn't for us to say. Everyone has their own journey, everyone has their own timeline, and the beautiful part about this negative reinforcement is that, seemingly, we're supposed to try all of these things and have them fail us. That's the point.

We're supposed to do all these things that really don't help us, really don't suit us even, to have them fail so we can find our way towards what actually does work for us. What actually is us.

And we move through our own self-centeredness, through growing and expanding. Through paying attention, through learning as much as we can about ourselves, being as aware as much as possible, of what we actually do, why we actually do it, and how what we do affects others.

That just by paying attention and just by being honest, just by really feeling what it feels like when we act one way versus the other, the path to our growth is obvious. It's obvious because it not only is pretty simple to understand, but more importantly, it feels a certain way. Good feels good, bad feels bad. It's not really that complicated.

Doesn't mean it can't be challenging, because of course life is challenging. But the truth is always there. We're the ones that have to be willing to see it, and once we see it, we have to be willing to integrate it and live from that new truth from now on.

Life isn't theoretical, it's applied. What matters is what we do. What matters is the effect that we have on others.

So the path through life is a path of growth, a path of having experiences and learning what seems to be productive, what seems to be enriching, what seems to lead us to our wholeness,

and then moving forward with that knowledge. Gaining enough knowledge to where it turns into wisdom, gaining enough wisdom to where it really alters our being. It alters who we're being. It alters who we are.

We grow through our own self-centeredness, through our own suffering and frustration that's caused by our own self-centeredness, by learning to let it go.

We grow past it by first going through it. We let it fail us so that we can move on in something greater, so that we can be something greater. So that we can be the person in the world that we actually are, that we actually want to be.

We can achieve the wholeness and fulfillment that we're really after by experiencing unity with others, and thus experiencing unity with ourselves.

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