Alcoholics tend to be extremists. Something can’t just be bad, it has to be horrible, the worst. And it can’t just be good, it has to be “God-given”. Now, you wouldn’t want to change something that was God Given, would you? If God wanted it different He would have made it different. Nothing can be added, subtracted, or changed without pissing God off.
The 7 deadly sins are mentioned in the 12×12. Here’s a little history about them, verifiable through Wikipedia.
In the 4th century monk Evagrius Ponticus listed eight evil thoughts:
In 590 Pope Gregory modified it “by folding sorrow/despair into acedia, vainglory into pride, and adding extravagance and envy, while removing fornication from the list”. Guess Pope Greg liked getting a little, and didn’t want Fornication used against him in the Hereafter. Now we have:
Still later, Extravagance was changed to Lust and Discouragement into Laziness (sloth). And so we have the 7 deadly sins as we know them today. Pride, Envy, Anger, Lust, Greed, Gluttony and Sloth.
Now that we have seen how religious doctrine changes over time, maybe I’ll get a little leeway if I make some suggestions to improve the 12×12. I’m not a pope or a monk, though, so flame away. God is on your side.
- (The first time I saw the list was when my sponsor wrote them down for me. He was always giving me lists, and I figured this was my “To Do” list for the week. My first thought was: “Shit! I can knock this out by noon!”)
When the 12×12 mentions the 7 deadly sins they fail to mention the 7 heavenly virtues that correspond. You can’t just take something away. Life doesn’t work like that. You have to replace it with something else. For instance, you can’t stop practicing Pride, but you can start practicing Humility. Following are the tendencies, behaviours, and actions I need to curtail, followed by the ones I need to replace them with:
Pride –> Humility
Envy –> Kindness
Anger –> Patience
Lust –> Chastity
Greed –> Charity
Gluttony –> Temperance
Sloth –> Diligence
The 4th step, as written in the Big Book, has three parts: 1) Resentment list, 2) the Fears list, and the 3) Harms Done list, commonly refered to as the sex inventory. They’re great, insofar as they go. What I found helpful after I finished those, was to take a look at the 7 deadlies, and see where I had practiced those in the past. It was amazing how many things showed up that hadn’t appeared on my previous lists. That’s why I believe it was effective: more defects of character were revealed.
The solution was built-in, too. Now all I had to do — with the help of my Sponsor — was to see how I could have practiced a virtue in place of my sin, or character defect. Concrete examples of how I behaved in the past gave me specific circumstances that would bring out these defects in the future, and how to contain my base desires.
It’s interesting to see how time has changed not just the words, but even the meaning of some of the words. When Dante wrote The Inferno, he showed a man in 3rd circle of Hell for Gluttony, yet the man was essentially a Body Builder, keeping his body in perfect shape. His point was that the Fat man — our general image of the Glutton — was concerned only with matters of the Flesh, as was the one with the perfect physique. Possible point being that emphasis of any aspect of my Physical being over that of my Mental or Spiritual is in fact a lapse. Interesting.
Those were the views of Evagrius Ponticus, Pope Gregory, Dante and others. My view is merely that I am never in a state Grace. I probably need to continue looking for failings. To this end I first follow the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, because that is what started me on the road to sanity. Then, according to the book, I must find all other sources which can help me.
” If not members of religious bodies, we sometimes select and memorize a few set prayers which emphasize the principles we have been discussing. There are many helpful books also. Suggestions about these may be obtained from one’s priest, minister, or rabbi. Be quick to see where religious people are right. Make use of what they offer.”
A.A. Pg 87
“But this does not mean that we disregard human health measures. God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners of various kinds. Do not hesitate to take your health problems to such persons. Most of them give freely of themselves, that their fellows may enjoy sound minds and bodies. Try to remember that though God has wrought miracles among us, we should never belittle a good doctor or psychiatrist. Their services are often indispensable in treating a newcomer and in following his case afterward.”
A.A. Pg 133