I just finished reading Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung‘s Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies. Although it’s been on my shelf for a couple years, this book is so widely referenced that I decided to make time and give it a read. And I’m glad that I did. There is wisdom on every page; a wisdom that is not only needed but timeless. That makes it exceedingly relevant and altogether necessary.

Chapters 3-9 dedicate one chapter each to what is known as the seven deadly sins: vainglory, envy, sloth, avarice, wrath, gluttony, lust. Chapters 1-2 are introductory providing a helpful take on the origins and history of these vices.

The final chapter shows the importance of spiritual formation for keeping these vices at bay. Here is a snippet of some rather keen remarks on the connection between fear, a failure of faith, and moral failure:

We should also be aware, however, of the way fear can drive us into vice. When we don’t trust God’s provision or control, we might be tempted to seek happiness in safer, more secure and self-sufficient ways, or we might anxiously protect ourselves when we feel our lack of power … each vice can therefore also show us compensating for our perceived vulnerabilities with an attempt to take control.

When we are afraid we won’t get what we need, or when we worry that we won’t have enough, we clutch our things tightly and keep wanting more. This is the vice of avarice at work. When we are afraid that justice won’t be served or that we won’t get our just deserts [sic] unless we take charge of making things right, the vice of wrath seeths [sic] within. When we are afraid that we will not be accepted by others or be able to live up to their expectations, and hide behind a false reputation, the vice of vainglory has captivated us. When we are afraid we are not worth anything unless we are better than others, and our insecurities lead us to eye their downfall with relief, the vice of envy has marked us with its malice. When we are afraid we will always feel empty and so choose to fill ourselves with pleasures that satisty only for a moment, our hungry hearts have swallowed the vice of gluttony’s deceptively sweet promises. When we are afraid we are unlovable and compensate by using people to gratify ourselves without the risk of giving ourselves in return, this is lust’s haunting handiwork. When we are afraid that commitments of love will cost us too much—and thus we hold everyone, even God, at arm’s length in indifference the vice of acedia has closed off our hearts.

In the mirror of such reflections, we can see the sad, dark truth about ourselves: the tree of vices, rooted in pride, continues to live and grow and thrive in human nature in many malignant forms. The more we understand the dynamics of sin, and the deep network of its combined forces in us, however, the more amazing we will find the grace and power God promises to help us change. The Christian tradition bears centuries-long witness to the hope and promise of a transformation from vice to virtue. It further proves a venerable guide to the ways and means of engaging in this difficult but fruitful process. (pp 238-239, emphases mine)

I strongly recommend this book to small discussion groups, one-on-one conversation partners, pastors, congregants, and everyone seeking to learn how to form a life of habits that promote human flourishing. That recommendation covers just about everyone!


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