Distorted Desires: The Seven Deadly Sins

The seventeenth century poet Thomas Traherne is known for his joyful and positive spirit. He affirms that human souls are driven by desire, and that we desire what is good. The problem is, that desire is either distorted or directed wrongly by sin.

Very often when we think about the seven deadly sins we view them rather like they were portrayed in the bleak film Seven. In that film two detectives had to track down a serial killer who was gruesomely murdering his victims who were guilty—one after the other—of one of the seven deadly sins. In other words, the seven deadly sins are just that: deadly.

The Catholic Church also calls them “deadly” because they drive us away from God, who is the source of love and life. The seven deadly sins lead us on the path to hell which is a state of eternal separation from God’s love and life. Jesus likens hell to a place outside the city of Jerusalem called “Gehenna”. Gehenna was the city trash heap and sewer. The drains from the city flowed into Gehenna and there was a never ending trash fire burning there. This is the image of hell: a trash dump, an open sewer, a place where the rubbish is burnt and the fires never go out.

It is not easy to look on the bright side of the seven deadly sins, but we can do so when we realize that each of the “seven deadlies” are forms of distorted or misdirected desire. Our desire is good at heart. We all want the best. We all want life, love, beauty, truth and goodness. The problem is we seek it the wrong way in the wrong places. When we cling to the objects of our distorted desire and will not be corrected we embrace to our hearts a twisted and sick kind of love.

We can correct the seven deadly sins through self control and discipline, but this is only one step of the process. Simply stopping the bad action or controlling our twisted decision is not enough. As the distorted desire is corrected we have to add to the self control the positive virtue that counters the negative vice. In this series of short articles for Catholic Exchange we will examine the seven deadly sins—not only considering the vice, but seeing how to add the virtue.

As a reminder, the seven deadly sins are: wrath, greed, sloth, lust, pride, envy and gluttony. These are sometimes also called the “capital sins”. “Capital” meaning “head”. In other words, they are the foundational sins from which many other vices flourish and grow. When we strike at the capital sins, therefore we strike at the head of sin. We trample on the head of Satan and help to overcome in the name of Christ.

I hope you will enjoy following this series on the seven deadly sins and read these posts and share with others to help evangelize. The end point is not to dwell in the darkness and guilt, but to see how to walk more positively in the light and love of Christ.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker

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Brought up as an Evangelical in the USA, Fr. Dwight Longenecker earned a degree in Speech and English before studying theology at Oxford University. He served as a minister in the Church of England, and in 1995 was received into the Catholic Church with his wife and family. The author of over twenty books on Catholic faith and culture including his most recent title, Immortal Combat, Fr Longenecker is also an award winning blogger, podcaster and journalist. He is pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina. Ordained as a Catholic priest under the Pastoral Provision for married former Protestant ministers, Fr Longenecker and his wife Alison have four grown up children.

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