Go beyond giving up chocolate this Lent. The capital or deadly sins were not named for being unforgivable or because of their gravity; but, rather, because they are the sins that give rise to other sins.
This Lent, we invite you to examine your life and ask yourself what is driving you away from Jesus. Once you have found your top one or two sins, make a resolution to practice its opposing virtue. The following ideas are meant to accompany the recommended practices of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, confession and communion.
We can describe pride as a disordered appreciation of ourselves. This sin can become evident in acts of vanity or boasting about our looks, intelligence, possessions, etc., to claim superiority over others.
Its opposing virtue is humility. Humility is not about having low self-esteem or disregarding our gifts and abilities. It’s about truth, acknowledging who God is and who we are, and putting him at the center of our lives. Here are a few resolutions from Mother Teresa:
- Speak as little as possible about yourself.
- Accept small inconveniences with good humor.
- Don’t speak to be admired or loved.
- Don’t dwell on the faults of others.
- Give in, in discussions, even if you’re right.
In a society that has heavily sexualized marketing and made access to explicit content easy, disordered actions of sexuality abound. Chastity is its opposing virtue, and it’s defined as “the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his body and spiritual being.” How do we reach that integration and unity? Here are a few resolutions that can help in the painstaking process:
- Be faithful to prayer: Set up a specific time every day and consider it a priority.
- Acquire self-mastery by fasting from something you really like.
- Write down the occasions that have led you to sin and work to avoid them.
- Never be idle, pick up a go-to hobby: a sport, instrument, writing — something hands-on.
- Only use your phone when necessary, limit social media significantly (to 15 min. a day?)
Also known as greed and covetousness, this sin is a disordered desire for material possessions, including power. Its opposite virtues are liberality and generosity; in other words, giving of ourselves. So how can we do more of that this Lent? Here are a few no-brainers. And who knows? You might be surprised by how doing these will make a profoundly positive impact on your overall state of being:
- Give to a parish/charity “until it hurts,” as Mother Teresa used to say.
- Do not cut corners in your work, responsibilities.
- Fill your heart with Jesus — go to adoration at least one hour a week.
- Be hospitable with your visitors — find joy in giving.
The Catechism defines anger as “a desire for revenge,” that is, desiring vengeance to do evil to someone. There is of course righteous anger, which is not bad, but we often struggle with the not-so-righteous one. Its opposing virtue is meekness, which is not the same as weakness; rather, it is the virtue that helps us keep possession of ourselves during adversities. Here are a few ways to increase our own meekness this Lent:
- Don’t get caught up in other people’s own anger — focus on yourself and how you can respond.
- Use your anger to better yourself and strengthen your resolve to grow in virtue.
- Try to avoid social media and other occasions that give rise to unhealthy anger.
- If you do get angry, take a minute; don’t react right away. Ask the Lord for patience and visualize yourself responding the way you would like to.
Envy is the sin of being saddened or distressed at another’s well-being because we think it takes away from our own excellence or makes us less lovable. This, of course, is a lie — and it’s defeated by love and gratitude:
- Enter into the presence of God and remember that that he loves you uniquely and unconditionally. This alone is where your worth lies
- Open your eyes to the abundance of blessings in your own life — make a list and revisit it daily.
- Count the blessings you encounter every day and thank God for each one.
- Work on pointing out, congratulating and rejoicing in others’ accomplishments and efforts.
- Pray for the person you feel envy towards, that God may lead both them and you to holiness.
Although it’s not bad to find pleasure in a delicious meal, “it is a defect to eat like beasts,” as St. Alphonsus Liguori put it. This, of course, includes overindulging in food or drink, but also doing it too soon, too expensively, too eagerly or too daintily, according to St. Thomas Aquinas. This vice is defeated by the virtue of temperance, which allows us to control our natural appetite for pleasure and enjoy whatever we do in accord with reason. A few ideas to acquire it:
- Practice fasting twice a week, eating one full meal and two smaller meals that don’t equal the big meal.
- Moderate your food consumption — don’t eat between meals.
- Abstain from the ingredient/food you like the most.
- Get used to saying “no” to things you don’t really need, especially at the store.
- Eat slowly and pray before and after your meals.
This sin — often referred to as acedia, laziness or boredom — is a type of sadness or unwillingness to do something that is physically or spiritually good because of the work it requires. A few things that can help us overcome this vice are finding love (which, ultimately, is the remedy to all these sins), practicing leisure and working on consistency. A youngster in love does anything for his beloved — and fast. The saints accomplished what they did because they loved.
- We imagine often what we desire, and desire what we imagine often. So, work on letting Jesus become the center of your imaginations and the sweetness of your life. Imagine him calling you by your name.
- Plan your leisure time, especially Sundays. It’s not idleness or laziness, but rather enjoying an activity that nurtures your humanity and is not meant for utility: learn to play an instrument, read a book you actually enjoy, practice a sport, do a family activity, go to the museum, etc.
- Offer up your suffering for an intention, especially when you feel like you have to drag yourself to accomplish anything.
- Wake up as soon as your alarm goes off. If you give yourself time to think about it, you’ve already lost.