Dear Friends in Christ:
One of the great things about Lent for me is that I unplug my TV. Among the other Lenten practices that I usually take up, going on a fast from television gives me more time to read, to pray, to sit and to be quiet. Most years, it takes several weeks after Easter before I am even tempted to turn it back on. Having the TV off reminds me of how much our world is filled with noise and distraction. It also reminds me of how much nicer things are when the negativity that spews forth from the TV is silenced. If you have never gone on a fast from TV, I highly recommend it. Life is much more peaceful and tranquil. But for many, if not most of us, TV is just but one instrument in the orchestra of media and devices we have at our disposal. We have our phones, notebooks, PCs, laptops, Siri and Alexa and so much more. The amount of time and attention that is taken up by media is mindboggling. It is estimated that some people spend up to 18 hours per day using media! When do they work or even eat? Much of this digital time is spent on social media. It is now part of most people’s everyday lives.
In 2011, Reid Hoffman, one of the founders of LinkedIn, offered a theory concerning the success of social networks that was published in The Wall Street Journal and again some years later in The Atlantic. Mr. Hoffman stated, “Social networks do best when they tap into one of the Seven Deadly Sins.” He then went on to give examples: Lust – Tinder, Envy – Pinterest, Greed – LinkedIn, Gluttony – Instagram, Sloth – Netflix, Wrath – Twitter, Pride (Vanity) – Facebook. There is now a mountain of studies that have shown that the high use of social media is clinically addictive, leads to depression, weight gain and a whole hosts of other negative consequences! That in itself is depressing! While it may be surprising to see Mr. Hoffman’s blatant admission, it is not surprising that these social networks do in fact find their popularity and attractiveness in these sinful tendencies. Sin is after all, alluring and attractive. Were the true horror and ugliness of sin immediately apparent, no one would be tempted to sin! This has been so since Eve encountered the serpent in the garden! So besides cutting off or limiting our social media exposure what is one to do? How can we fight the Seven Deadly Sins of Lust, Envy, Greed, Gluttony, Sloth (laziness), Wrath (anger) and Pride?
The answer is simple. We overcome sin and evil by following the gospel and living a life of virtue and holiness. For each of these deadly sins (which all pre-date the internet!), we must practice and live the heavenly virtues. Each of the Seven Deadly sins has a corresponding Heavenly Virtue. To fight Lust, we must practice Chastity in thought, word and action. To overcome Envy, we should increase our Gratitude for all that we are blessed with. To diminish Greed, we should practice Generosity. To fight Gluttony, practice Temperance (moderation). To eradicate Sloth (laziness), Diligence (Discipline) is required. To fight Wrath (Anger), practice Patience and Meekness. To conquer Pride, we must practice Humility. The character, Lord Darlington, in Oscar Wilde’s comedy, Lady Windermere’s Fan, has the famous line, “I can resist everything except temptation!” That is probably true for most us. It is precisely for this reason that in addition to our own wills God gives us his grace! We can avail ourselves to the grace of the Sacraments, most especially the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. But the Lord also graces us whenever we call upon him in prayer and turn to him with sincere and repentant hearts. It is God’s grace which he freely offers us that enables us to practice these heavenly virtues. The challenge of course, is that we must not only desire, but must actually cooperate with God’s grace to practice these virtues. When we will do the good and cooperate with God’s grace, we can overcome these sinful temptations.
The practice of the virtues, aided by grace, liberates us from the slavery and pain of the Seven Deadly Sins. So, be good! Be virtuous! Be holy! Be happy in the Lord!
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately