The Seven Enemies

written by Laolu Ogundele 

 If you think we’re about to discuss your bitter exes, wicked mother-in-law, or business competitors, I’m sorry to burst your bubble. We’re not. As much as those people might make your skin crawl, what if I told you that there exists a deadlier set of foes lurking around you unnoticed? 

 If you search your neighbors’ homes, you’ll find two, if not three, of these adversaries. They are located on fiery battlefields and also in air-conditioned chef kitchens. They linger not only among the young and naive but also around the old and experienced. They dine with the rich and the poor alike, have survived the most hostile terrains, and require neither heavy-duty rucksacks nor ballistic equipment. I’m sure you’re now wondering who precisely these scary enemies might be, and I won’t keep you in suspense for long… In no particular order, they are greed, pride, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, which usually refers to drunkenness, and sloth. I’ve called these seven enemies – though you may know them colloquially as the seven deadly sins. 

 Now I’m sure you’re thinking, “err, those seem like bad sins, but who was given the responsibility of deciding what’s sins made the cut? Of the hundreds of possible sins, what makes these seven sins deadlier than others?” Well, we can trace the classification of the seven deadly sins to the fourth century, when Evagrius Ponticus, an accomplished Christian monk, theologian, writer, and speaker from Asia Minor, penned down what he believed were the eight evil thoughts. His original list of bad thoughts comprised gluttony, lust, avarice, anger, sloth, sadness, vainglory, and pride. Evagrius Ponticus was a significant influence in those days, and it wasn’t long before his ideas spread beyond the Eastern church, where he resided, to the Western Christian church. He is often credited with creating a list of deadly vices. However, his “eight evil thoughts” underwent slight modifications over the next ten centuries. For example, Pope Gregory I added envy to the list in the sixth century while removing sloth. By the thirteenth century, there were even more changes when saint Thomas Aquinas, an Italian philosopher, and leading theologian, took sadness off the list. But guess what? He re-added sloth!

Thought you had escaped, huh?
Not so quick, Mr. Sloth. 

 Thomas Aquinas’ list has lasted the test of time. Soon after it was created, it was widely accepted by the Catholic Church and has become the foundation for the seven deadly sins, even today. But, as we all know, its usage has extended even beyond the four walls of the church; the evidence can be seen in mainstream media and literature. Several movies and books have been created around the subject of these seven sins. Notable examples include Se7en and Shazam.

Let’s look more closely at individual sins. Why are they so deadly? Let us take envy as an example. Why does it make a list? Remember that envy is basically a feeling of discontent or unhappiness about what belongs to another. Now you might be wondering, “why is THAT so bad”? Well, think about it: at the heart of envy is dissatisfaction with oneself. It’s a statement from you to the creator that “whatever you made me be isn’t good or enough.” That is, at the very least problematic. 

 How about gluttony or drunkenness? It suggests an inordinate desire for more food or drink than one requires. Clearly, we weren’t created to lack self-control. Greed follows the same theme…

How about lust? Like gluttony, lust stems from low self-control, but this time, it concerns one’s sexual appetites. This is potentially destructive to the body and mind. Empires have been destroyed, and wars have taken place because of lust. That’s without mentioning the possibility of contracting deadly sexually transmitted diseases. I don’t imagine that the creator smiles at such vices… 

 Sloth? This is better known as passivity or extreme laziness. No one wants that, simple! And thank you. The fact that you’ve followed this far suggests you’re not filled with sloth. Continue reading… 😬😉 

Now we go to wrath or extreme anger. I’m sure we all have mistakenly stepped on a stranger’s shoe and seen them react with excessive vitriol and hate. That’s never been your experience? How about a jealous lover burning their exes’ property? Aha! Now you recognize it. That’s wrath! Its mantra is “act before thinking” or “injure before soothing”; rage is always burning and abrasive. It is alien to love and grace, choosing instead to react with fury to every perceived slight. Yes, wrath is terrible and rightly a deadly sin. 

 However, as bad as the previous six sins are, there exists one that towers above any of them. It’s called pride. Pride is regarded as the deadliest, or more accurately, the root of all the other sins. It was thought to turn the soul away from God in a way others rarely manage to do.

Now, what is pride?

Pride is excessive belief in one’s abilities. It’s an exaggerated sense of one’s importance. Pride is so deadly that, according to the Christian faith, it is what led to the devil losing his office. The devil in Christianity was one of God’s most essential angels at the beginning, but when pride was found in him, he became God’s arch enemy. That’s some fall, right? The early church was very wary of the sin of pride. However, no sin is “small,” in this article, I’ve called them “enemies” for a reason… So, if you demonstrate one or more of them, it might be time to do some soul-searching! 

 And always remember, each situation you are in contains new possibilities for reaction. You have choices all the time, every second. You can be in a new situation and automatically fall into the old reflexes/behavior – your negative approach (or deadly sin?) – without paying attention to what you are doing. Perhaps you moan about the misery of life or judge other people because you never see the connection between your failures on the one hand and your one-sided, deadly attitude/reaction on the other. My advice, when you feel unhappy, jealous, or in some way hopeless, tell yourself: “Do I not have another way to react to this situation?” The choice is yours. Your anger, envy, greed, and complaints against the world are wasted, for all that energy could do SO MUCH more to build a new life, day, and mood for you if it were used properly.

Life offers its limitless possibilities for you! 

Next post – A Guide To Finding Beauty In The World