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Q.What are the seven deadly sins? Conversely, what are the seven contrary virtues?


According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Catholic theology lists the seven deadly sins as behaviors that inspire other sins. They are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, anger (anger) and laziness. The seven heavenly virtues are those that combat these sins and are generally listed as humility, kindness, abstinence, chastity, patience, liberality, and diligence.

The Seven Deadly Sins, also known as the Deadly Vices or Cardinal Sins, began with “Eight Bad Thoughts.” One of the earliest (written) records of sins came from a fourth-century Eastern Christian monk, Evagrius Ponticus, who wrote to other monks about how these thoughts could interfere with their spiritual well-being (Little). Later in the history of the Catholic Church these sins were reduced to seven, and after several iterations they are as I have noted them, above. They are said to be “deadly” because they can lead to the death of your soul. (Shannon) The seven contrary virtues are humility, kindness, abstinence, chastity, patience, liberality and diligence. (DeYoung) They are derived from Psychomachy (“Battle for the Soul”), an epic poem written by Prodentius (c. 410). It is believed that the practice of these virtues protects against the temptation of the seven deadly sins. Here are the sins and their “remedies”: Humility — pride Kindness — envy Abstinence (temperance) — gluttony Chastity — lust Patience — anger Liberality (charity) — greed Diligence — laziness.

Initially, the Catholic Church had four cardinal virtues governing the necessary character traits of a good. They were temperance, justice, prudence and courage. These were eventually combined with the three theological virtues, faith, hope and love. The traditional understanding of the difference between cardinal and theological virtues is that the latter are not fully available to humans in their natural state without the help of God. However, over time the Seven Virtues have changed name and connotation slightly, to more directly parallel and counter the Seven Deadly Sins. (DeYoung)

• DeYoung, RK (2020). “Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies.” Brazos Press, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

• Little, B. (2021, March 25). “How the Seven Deadly Sins Began as ‘Eight Bad Thoughts.'” History.com. Extracted on September 28 from the history. com/news/seven-deadly-sin-origins

• Shannon, AR (nd). “Virtues. Seven Deadly Sins.” Retrieved October 3 from deadlysins.com/virtues

• Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. (2006). The New Encyclopedia Britannica.

Suzanne Sanders is the library’s columnist. She is the Community Services Manager for the San Marcos Public Library and joined the Austin Public Library in 2015 after serving as a librarian there for more than 20 years. She gratefully accepts your questions for this column.

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