You Are What You Want #1:
To Err is Human. To Improve, Define
I’m a glutton.
It has taken me years to acknowledge that, even though it must have been obvious to those around me. Why did I have such a hard time? Mostly because I was able to downplay my vice in light of others. I assumed I wasn’t gluttonous because I knew of plenty of people who were more gluttonous that I was. Yes, I overate, but I didn’t drink alcohol. Further, though I was clearly obese, my weight was under 300 pounds (if barely). Were I truly a glutton, it would be around 350 or 400.
This was the trap. I knew gluttony was wrong, and yet I spent every day giving in to it without a second thought because I got to define what gluttony was for myself. I have no doubt that if I had reached 400 pounds, I’d have found some excuse why I still wasn’t a glutton.
Defining my own vices is a bit like instructing children to simply “be good.” In the absence of any more specific guidance, children may try to be good…to the standards they themselves have set. Based on observation of family and friends’ children, a kid’s definition won’t line up with that of his parents.
My struggles with food prove that I don’t do much better as an adult. In fact, I think I’m probably worse. I find the vices that I don’t struggle with and elevate those as the keys to being a good person. Meanwhile, I’ve treated the vices I do indulge as lesser concerns.
I guess I’m in good company. This seems to be at the heart of a lot of the political struggles we see. Traditionally, the right has placed heavy emphasis on abstaining from lust and sloth. The left has railed particularly against greed. We all seem okay with pride…as long as those proud people agree with us. (After all, there’s nothing worse than someone being arrogantly wrong.)
I can’t fix the world at large. I wouldn’t even know where to start. More importantly, when we start wielding the Bible like a hammer, we isolate more people than we convert.
However, I can work on myself. So, let me be clear: I’m not here to tell you how to live. Instead, I’m going to figure out how sin and desire are affecting my life and try to better define them. I’m going to ask questions about what they each mean, and how I can better resist these temptations by defining what it is I’m resisting.
I’m not Catholic, but I’ve long believed that the seven deadly sins are a concise way to sum up a lot of human failings. As such, over the coming weeks I’ll be devoting time to better understanding them: greed, gluttony, lust, envy, wrath, pride, and sloth.
My answers probably won’t be your answers. Chances are good that you don’t struggle how I do. Still, if you’re curious, then check back as I explore these issues each week. Hopefully it will be thoughtful, interesting, and—yes—a little controversial.