Over the centuries people have struggled with sin. The fallen human nature of man predisposes people to pick their own will over the will of God, even though this is actually more harmful to them; they pick the immediate pleasure, not realizing the long-term effects it has on their earthly and ultimately eternal life. As individuals and societies commit the same sins over and over again, people begin to recognize these sins and are able to be on guard against them. For hundreds of years people have recognized the seven capital or deadly sins. These are seven human failings which are very common and which generally are the cause of many sins. Corresponding to these are seven virtues, often called the Heavenly or Holy virtues because of their ability to reject the seven deadly sins. Since they are so common in every person's life, it is worthwhile to examine them briefly and to always be on guard against of each of these sins, and to be constantly striving to cultivate each of these virtues. If these virtues can be mastered and the sins avoided, it will go a long way towards living a godly life.
Lust is broadly defined as disordered desire, but it often has a connotation of sexual desire. Sexuality is something beautiful in all of us, but it has the tendency to become disordered. It is properly reserved for marriage, but there are all sorts of temptations to misuse it in various situations. It is a very strong desire, and if it is not kept in check, it can easily become disordered.
Chastity is the virtue by which these desires are kept in check and properly ordered. Sexuality is not something to abhor or shun, but it also something sacred which shouldn't be lightly discussed or made fun of. This virtue gives people the ability to control all their desires, particularly their sexual ones, and to live an ordered life. This control should not be seen as a repression, but rather as the proper use of the gift. Everything has a proper use, and is liable to break down when not used in the way its maker intended. God gave us these desires for a specific purpose, but when we let them run away from us and don't control them, they aren't being used in the proper way. This leads to problems. The virtue of chastity is the only way to ensure that our desires work properly and we get the most out of life and what those desires lead us to.
This deadly sin particularly has to do with eating and drinking. It is the sin of over-eating or over-drinking. Food and drink are necessary for our existence, and we must partake of them regularly in order to remain alive. However, there reaches a point in each meal at which we are satisfied and have no more need for these at that time. If we continue to eat or drink past the limit of moderation, we commit the sin of gluttony. We can also commit this sin by being too worried or picky about food. Particularly if we have care of others, we should try to make sure that there is going to be enough food to eat for the future, and we should even try to ensure that people have food that they enjoy, so that they will want to eat. However, it can be a sin to spend excessive amounts of money on food or to only want rare foods. While everyone is going to have different tastes and different levels of money to spend on food, there is a tipping point. At some point, the attention paid to food becomes too excessive, and it takes away from loving God and our neighbor.
The opposite virtue of glutton is temperance. This is a virtue of moderation, to eat and drink what is necessary and even pleasant, but not to devote our lives or all of our resources to food and drink. We should provide for ourselves and those in our care, and then devote our other energies to other works of charity and to loving God. Temperance also demands that we remember the less fortunate. There are those who don't have the resources to sufficiently provide for themselves, and so we should strive to help them if we are able. When we eat or drink excessively, we waste things on ourselves which could have been used for the relief of others.
Greed pertains directly to material items. It is the over-accumulation and desire to have too much stuff. We all need something to survive in the world. As physical beings, we need physical objects to support life. There is a point, however, in which the accumulation of these things becomes an end in and of itself and stops being for the purpose of supporting life. When that happens, greed has conquered. It doesn't matter if a person has billions of dollars or nothing. It is all in a person's mindset. They can own nothing, and yet want to accumulate things because it helps their self-image. This person has succumbed to greed. A person can be a billionaire and realize that it is a gift from God and must be properly managed, probably with massive gifts to charity. This person is not greedy.
Charity is the opposing virtue of greed, and it realizes that our physical possessions are a gift from God. Our first and only priority must be to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. If we see our possessions as a way to love God and our neighbor, we practice charity. For some people this will mean contributing money or something else to a charity, but some might not be able to. The important thing to realize is that these are gifts from God, and that we must be stewards of these possessions. We must allocate and use them wisely so that humanity gets the best use from them. We must rule our possessions, and not let them rule us.
Sloth is also called laziness, and it can refer to physical laziness, but it also has reference to spiritual laziness. Regarding the physical, it can be easy to get by on minimal work. God gave work to man as his vocation and duty in life, and so shirking reasonable work is a sin against God. It is sometimes possible to get away with other people doing extra work for us, so that we can relax and do whatever we think is fun. This is physical sloth. There is also spiritual sloth, which is failing to do enough to advance our spiritual life and love God. Just like anything worth having, a relationship with God is hard work, and it can be easy to overlook or ignore the work we need to do in order to grow in love for God. This is the worst kind of laziness, because it can lead to a lifetime of spiritual apathy and eventually we find ourselves unable to cultivate a good relationship with God.
The opposite virtue to sloth is diligence. This is the virtue of a good work ethic, and putting our full minds to the work at hand, and doing the best we can. Even if we don't get as much done as we thought we could, or we aren't as successful in completing a task as we had hoped, if we give our full attention to the work and do the best we can, we are pleasing God
Wrath is related to anger and holding a grudge. Everyone is wronged at some point in their life. Other people commit injustices against their neighbors. There can be a tendency to hold a grudge and want to get revenge if we perceive, rightly or wrongly, that someone has committed an injustice against us. We can view them suspiciously or angrily for years and years, even if they have apologized and the offense was not that important. This poisons relationships and goes against the mandate of God to love all, including our enemies.
The way to combat wrath is through forgiveness. We can forgive a person without condoning their offense. True forgiveness means letting go of vindictiveness and revenge. It means continuing to love them despite the injustices they have committed against us. Forgiveness involves letting go of grudges and realizing that perhaps the person did not mean to offend us or that they were merely mistaken, and not vindictive, in their offense. God is the great example of forgiveness. He is ready to forgive anyone who asks Him for forgiveness, even for the greatest sins against Him. He has given us the task of forgiving our neighbors if we wish to receive His forgiveness, so this is almost a mandate to practice forgiveness among our fellow humans.
Envy is that vice by which we want to be better than our neighbors and hate it when something good happens to them. We see life as a competition, and we need to win the competition. Whenever our neighbors have something good, we want that because they have something we don't have. Every good thing our neighbors have must also be ours. We are sad when they receive some blessing or benefit, because they are in some higher place than we are.
The way to combat envy is kindness. This virtue disposes us to be glad at the well-being of our neighbors. Whenever they receive some blessing, we rejoice with them, instead of sorrowing that it didn't come our way instead. Kindness can also extend to generosity, to sharing our blessings with our neighbors and not hoarding them for ourselves. Whenever we have the opportunity, we should give of ourselves to others. This will combat the tendency to want to hoard ourselves and our possessions.
It is often said that pride is the mother of all sins. This is because the very act of sinning is one of pride. It is putting ourselves and our wishes over those of God, who knows what is good for us better than we do. Pride is that sin by which we think we ourselves have had a greater influence or exalted place in the world than is the case. It greatly distorts our influence on the world around us. We think that we are the center of the universe, and that everything we touch must have our influence and is only good when we have contributed our share. We see our part as the best and everyone else's as unnecessary.
Humility is the opposite of pride. Many people falsely think that humility means degrading oneself. It does not involve downgrading or falsely under representing what we have done; rather it recognizes the true place our contribution had in the effort of whatever is undertaken. We recognize that God has a great part to play in our lives, and that whatever good is done is done through His grace. We also realize the positive impact that others have had in our lives. We don't falsely minimize our own input, but we also recognize that for the most part, our own input is dwarfed by that of others. Humility is the virtue of truth. We recognize the truth about ourselves and our relationship to God and the rest of humanity.