The 7 Sins – A Revisit

Gayatri Krishnamurthy  •  Jul 10, 2020  •  8 min read

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The 7 Sins – A Revisit

You may think of sin as an obvious act, such as murder, adultery, or theft. Although that is true, sin is also wrongdoing that is far subtler at times. Acts of sin include things you should not have done but did (sins of commission) and things you should have done but did not (sins of omission). Dr.Ed Friedlander, chairman of the Pathology department at the University of Health Sciences in Kansas City, has this to say, “It seems to me that sin mostly means behavior that actually hurts other people for no good reason”.

The seven Deadly sins are well documented and are attitudes that early Christians listed as the causes of human misbehavior and as actions that separate the devout from a right standing with the Lord. I will borrow the seven sins’ framework but will leave their religious interpretations out of this discussion. Instead, I will share the examples for what each of these seven sins could look like in the realm of a working person’s life, like mine.

Envy

Envy (Latin: invidia), like greed and lust, is characterized by an insatiable desire.  I got a call from a good friend of mine asking me to find him a suitable placement. He wanted a job paying at least 80 lacs per annum. He was happy about his pay and his job and his treatment until he heard that a classmate was earning way more than that. That is envy for you. Envy can also be a great motivator. However, it is commonly equated with jealousy which often leads to an unhealthy attempt at one-upmanship. A coach needs to be aware of the two sides of this coin.

Avarice

Greed (Latin: avaritia) is also known as covetousness. Greed is a feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by and in conjunction with desire for the possessions or qualities of another. I have seen corporations bloating because of a race to maximize their market share, and I have seen individuals in a rat race to maximize their pay package without much thought to their positive contributions. Being motivated to achieve is an inherent trait for effective professionals. Once again, an unbridled excess is unhealthy. Visiting and spending time with people less fortunate than us is a good antidote to avarice.

Generosity of heart can counter both Envy and Avarice. The winning thought here is “The more I give, the more I shall receive”.

Gluttony

The word derives from the Latin gluttire, meaning to gulp down or swallow. This is a special case of greed as applied tothe consumption of food and drink. I have constantly had fights with my well-meaning relatives who prided themselves on making a glutton out of me. The couple in my neighborhood that has 4 cars (For the arithmetically challenged, it works out to 2 per person) is practicing a modern form of gluttony. Addictions to alcohol etc. also are all some form of gluttony. Abstinence is an often-touted virtue to counter this and may be needed in some instances like addictions. In most cases, however, moderation will counter Gluttony but that will require a strong will or expert help.

Lust

The word derives from the Latin gluttire, meaning to gulp down or swallow. This is a special case of greed as applied tothe consumption of food and drink. I have constantly had fights with my well-meaning relatives who prided themselves on making a glutton out of me. The couple in my neighborhood that has 4 cars (For the arithmetically challenged, it works out to 2 per person) is practicing a modern form of gluttony. Addictions to alcohol etc. also are all some form of gluttony. Abstinence is an often-touted virtue to counter this and may be needed in some instances like addictions. In most cases, however, moderation will counter Gluttony but that will require a strong will or expert help.

Greed, avarice, and lust have a common theme of need turning into greed.

Wrath

Wrath (Latin: ira) or Ire can be defined as an uncontrolled feeling of anger or hatred often combined with revenge. These are emotional responses to a grievance; real or imagined; past, present, or future. We all get angry. We need to be able to do this to survive and to communicate. Forceful and vindictive anger can be termed as wrath. The famous cases of Jessica Lall and Nitish Katara are examples of the consequences of the actions taken because of Wrath and a feeling of power. As we speak, common, hard-working people worldwide are at the receiving end of dictatorial forces. The thought which seems to run through these oppressor’s minds is, “If you throw one rocket, we will carpet bomb your living quarters.” Anger can be a great motivator when contained. Composure and Contentment are the virtues required to balance anger.

Sloth

Sloth (Latin: tristitia or ’acedia’ (“without care”)) A traditional description of a sloth is a person who is lazy and does not do his/her job. This is more easily understood by common terms such as Laziness and Procrastination. About thirty years ago, PCs were new and rare. My boss was very reluctant to learn and edit online and would want a printout of every rough draft. This had two negative consequences. A lack of self-reliance and a slowing down of progress. In a team, a sloth can be a bottleneck for the whole team.

Pride

Pride (Latin: superbia) is considered, on almost every list, the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins. The sin here is excessive pride or arrogance and not a strong sense of self-respect. This is the attitude that prevents a project manager from seeking help when he does not have the knowledge or resources. Younger people may understand it better if we call it ego-tripping. To quote Dr Ed Friedlander once again, “We have a saying in medicine, “Mistakes don’t kill patients… egos do.”” 

Pride is again an attitude which can have an enormously positive effect, E.g., Pride in one’s culture, family, and the country has led to great progress. Extreme pride and the absence of virtues like respect, gratitude, etc., lead to failure.

I have seldom seen lasting fulfillment from goals that are achieved through unethical means. According to the global survey commissioned by the American Management Association and conducted by the Human Resource Institute, the leading cause of unethical behaviour is the pressure to meet unrealistic deadlines and business objectives. The desire to further one’s career is ranked as the second leading factor.  

Dr. Muel Kapten is Equity Partner at the international assurance and advisory firm KPMG and a professor in Business Ethics and Integrity Management at RSM Erasmus University. He has been active as an auditor, a consultant, a teacher, and a researcher in the field of ethics, integrity, sustainability, and soft controls since 1991. In his research paper called “Why good people do bad things”, he has made an analysis that triggers a lot of concerns in contemporary society. The research points out that the “acceptance of small theft” as an issue has emerged to be rather serious. This has implications for individuals, corporations, and society as a whole.  It shows that as soon as small thefts (which can include other indiscretions too) are overlooked, progressively larger ones have a high chance of being overlooked. This means that there is a greater need to reflect and monitor one’s own moral compass and recognize the shift and correct it if needed. 

One way coaches can help clients experience this is by making them aware of their own energy levels in different parts of the body. The emotions or attributes in play and their excesses can be felt as negative feelings. A fire in the belly is a great motivator. However, when it remains untamed, it can be all-consuming.

In Ayurveda, many of these are taken into consideration in a holistic manner. A very rough thumb rule matches body parts to the seven attributes.

Pride is related to the Heart.

Envy is related to Ears.

Greed is related to our Eyes.

Gluttony, not surprisingly, is related to the Mouth.

Sloth is mapped to our Gut (belly)

Lust is mapped to our Hands.

Wrath is felt in our Kidneys (Adrenal glands)

Wildcatters (or Oil diviners as I think of them) in the West and water diviners across the world had extra sensitivity and trusting that intuition made them special. They can feel the elements. Often, clients have described the feeling of being under stress in terms of a sinking feeling in the stomach, headaches,  muscle tension. Recognizing their emotional reactions and connecting them to the physical reactions can help clients make tremendous progress.

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Gayatri Krishnamurthy

Gayatri Krishnamurthy

Gayatri has over 30 years’ experience in Human Resources and organisation consulting. Her last corporate role was that of a profit centre head for the Bangalore centre of Mafoi management Consultants (Now known as Randstad). She set up the centre and turned it profitable in a short span of 3 months. Prior to that, she worked with CMC Limited for 5 years as a core member of their Learning and Development team and with John Brown Engineering India as a senior member of their Personnel team. Gayatri is a qualified and accredited as Professional Certified Coach (PCC) by International Coach Federation (ICF). Apart from her decades long coaching practice, she has authored white papers on Coaching and supervised coaches. The level of executives coached have ranged from CEOs, profit centre heads, senior managers including several women leaders and management fresh graduates. She is certified as Senior Practitioner (SP) European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC). She has mentored coaches and conducted sessions on coaching skills to aspiring coaches and practising managers.

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