the 7 deadlies

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”  C.G. Jung, MEMORIES, DREAMS, REFLECTIONS (1989)

Let’s allow those words to soak into our collective thick skulls.  Consider the person in your world whom you detest, whom you would never entertain in your home, whom you would vehemently argue will go to hell.  Yeah, think about that person for a moment and then let’s do a sincere soul search.  What is it within me, within you, that reflects with such intensity our dislike for that person?

“Well, Larry, I have a sense of values, compassion for fellow humans, a moral compass to guide me.  I am in no way like …….” (insert name here).

Okay, I get it.  You and I are stellar human beings with no quirks, no faults, no skeletons in our closets.  We have been nominated numerous times for sainthood and are just waiting for that moment when we will sit with the old man in the heavens pronouncing judgment upon the lesser of us – those whom we have previously decided will burn in hell.

Really?  Is that who we are?  Nothing more than pawns of runaway egos determined to remind others of the splinters in their eyes while ignoring the logs in our own eyes?  Is that what we are destined to be?  Granted, that is the human way, but aren’t we destined to be more than ego-driven bags of human flesh?  I am remembering a verse from the book of Luke, chapter 6, verse 41 which reminds me that the plank I carry in my own eye is needing my attention more than the speck of sawdust in my brother’s eye.  Matthew 7:3 has the same message.  Are these ancient writers trying to instill a bit of introspection in me to replace my self-serving ego-stroking?

Yeah, guilty as charged.  That neighbor who always rubs me the wrong way, the city councilman who seems more concerned about his image than job performance, the preacher who doesn’t appear to walk the talk, the politician who is obviously lacking a moral compass – they are all a composite of me and my own character defects.  The national leader who seems to always be screaming, “Look at me, look at me, dammit look at me,” is the same small voice within me screaming, “Here I am, pay attention to me.”

The denial wells up within, but maturity, which can be so evasive, tells me that those seven deadlies – the 7 vices which challenge our spiritual journey – are inherent in each of us.  GREED, ANGER, SLOTH, ENVY, GLUTTONY, LUST, PRIDE are at the center of any and all distractions from the universal truth that we are all one humanity, one organism, one Spirit simply trying to navigate the impermanence of this life on earth.

Doing life perfectly is not the goal.  It is impossible.  The ending of this trek is not foreseeable, but we have within us the capacity to alter the journey.  What will it be?  Ego driven or Spirit centered?

LOVE

 

OPINIONATED

Heck no! I’m not opinionated
I am merely rightlaughing emoji3
always.

I’ve spent many days pondering
religion
politics.

sex
women
men.

No, not opinionated
simply always right
seven decades pondering life.

observing
interacting
discerning.

Nope, not opinionated
simply wise
prudent.

Sensible
pragmatic
logical.

Reasonable
rational
perceptive.

You, sir, are opinionated
always thinking you are correct
never admitting fault.

Closed-minded
narrow
conceited.

I, on the other hand, am simply a man who is always right.laughing emoji2

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Jonah’s Whale

jonah

 

Jonah, historically, was a prophet of the northern kingdom of Israel in about the 8th century BCE.  His name is given to the Book of Jonah representing the  Judaic teaching of teshuva, the ability to repent and be forgiven by God.

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.  He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’  You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.  A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.”  Jesus left them and went away.  Matthew 16: 1-4

There’s only one sign I’m going to give you: the sign of the prophet Jonah.

Briefly, the Biblical story of Jonah tells about a man of faith who was instructed by his God to journey to the city of Nineveh to warn the residents to repent of their sins or face divine wrath.  Jonah instead flees in the opposite direction and gains passage on a ship to Tarshish.  The voyage encounters tumultuous seas threatening ship and crew with destruction.  Jonah, realizing he is the cause of this raging storm at sea, orders the crew to throw him overboard.  He is swallowed by a whale, survives inside the whale’s belly for three days, is then vomited ashore.  Jonah completes God’s mission, the people of Nineveh repent, the disobedient man of faith is forgiven.

I enjoy reading this story about Jonah.  It is a rich example of the Judaic society of that time drawing upon the writings of the Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans expressing a faith system in greater powers than themselves.  It is a fascinating mythology.  But, in contrast to the neighboring cultures, the Hebrews developed a monotheism worshipping one God to whom they attributed power greater than any of the other gods of the time.

Our powerlessness is acutely apparent when we are in the “belly of the beast”.  Those times when I know what is right and sustaining, but choose instead to follow what is convenient and comfortable are days in the belly of the beast.  The times when I know what the Lord of my life commands, but follow instead what pleases my ego are even more days in the belly of the beast.  I relate to Jonah when what I choose to do is in opposition to what God desires for me.  The seven deadly sins (character defects) of greed, anger, envy, sloth, lust, gluttony, and pride will in a heartbeat put me in the belly of the beast.

It’s a place I can’t fix, control, explain, or understand.  Sooner or later, life is going to lead us there, you and I.  Graciously, that’s where transformation most easily happens—because only there are we in the hands of God—and not self-managing.  It’s transformation that leads recovering addicts out of the beast of addiction.  Like Jonah, that whale vomits us back up onto the shores of sanity and submission.  I am rebellious by nature, slow to learn lessons, and have spent many days and nights suffering in the belly of my personal giant beasts.

Thankfully, the Hebrews taught me about teshuva.  The story of Jonah affirms the teaching of their wisdom.  Repentance and forgiveness, repentance and forgiveness – the cycle continues into eternity.

envy

Does everybody know the seven deadly sins?  They are sometimes called the cardinal sins.  And if you don’t like the connotation of the word sin, let’s call them defects of character.  Ok, here’s the countdown and they are not listed in order of severity.  Each one of them can be deadly if allowed to run rampant.

  • anger
  • greed
  • lazinessembarassed
  • pride
  • lust
  • envy
  • gluttony

I am entertaining envy today.  No, it’s not related to materialism or physicality or status.  I am envious as hell about those folks who can maintain an aloofness from the shenanigans being foisted on us as religion and politics.  Yes, I am dead serious.  If for just one day I could not hear the news, read the newspapers, and view the screens depicting another episode of name-calling in Washington, D.C., another horrible act of violence in Syria, or another Hollywood celebrity enmeshed in a tangle of sexual wantonness, then I might be content.  If I could limit my social media time to nothing but wholesome, heart-warming stories of man’s goodness toward man, then I would be at peace.

Twenty-two years ago when I moved into this house in which I now live my next door neighbor was a saintly woman who had lived many years in the far country and, by the grace of her God, returned to marry a good man and raise a brood of decent kids.  They were all skinny because she was a strict dietician, and they were all cheerful and kind-hearted.  The woman read her Bible every day.

During an extremely active hurricane summer, we spoke to her about the imminence of an approaching hurricane.  She knew nothing of it.  “Oh no,” she chortled, “we don’t have a TV in the house and we only listen to Christian music on the radio and we don’t receive a newspaper.”

I’m sure she recognized the horror on our faces.  Sweet lady, you are so out of touch.  Don’t you realize the danger that could be approaching?  Don’t you care about the world around you?  What in the world will you do when calamity strikes?

Smiling sweetly, she responded to our unvoiced questions,  “Jesus will take care of us.”

OMG! What faith!.  She had been in the world, she knew the inherent dangers, she had lived life on the edge, and now she firmly believed that her Lord and Savior would protect her and her family.  It did not matter if she was living in a fantasy existence because in her world she found contentment and peace.  And maybe, just maybe, her fantasy reality is the truth we all envy and desire.

Yep, I am harboring envy today, but I know the fix.  I often use an analogy of sobriety to make a point.  There is a fine line between me, a committed sober-living man, and my brother, a man caught up in his alcoholism.  One step across that line into his world and I have a slip, a relapse; one step across that line into my world and he has a recovery, a miracle.

Both our worlds are a reality, but that fine line which I call Jesus makes it a living hell or a blessed journey.  Nah, there’s no place for envy on this journey.  Now, if I could just get a handle on gluttony!smiley 3“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”Psalms 51:10