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Personality Failure: My Signature Sin


Early in my childhood my family lived across the street from a church. We, like good little parishioners, attended on Sunday and were actively involved in many of the church events. When we moved, it became a little less convenient to make the trek to services and slowly our time spent in those hallowed halls dwindled until we became the family that tried to show up for religious holidays and then stopped coming all together. As my sister and I grew up it seemed that we grew away from the day-to-day standards of religion.

 

Even without religious intervention I try to maintain a lifestyle that I can be content and proud of. I know, that despite not spending my Sunday mornings listening to sermons and in confessional, who I am now has been shaped by the child I was, including the child that spent time in church. I know the perfection I strive for isn’t an achievable goal: I’m too human and too messy to achieve the kind of perfection I often wish I could.

 

I watched a TedTalk—something I do waaaay more often than I should—and in it, the speaker, David Brooks, makes a remark early in his talk that prefaces his discussion of our competing selves—one who strives for success and one who strives for wholeness— where he asks about our signature sin, that is the one we continue to commit. Well damn. I definitely have one of those.

 

As many of us have heard, whether through religious teaching or pop culture, in Christian belief systems there are seven vices, which are said to be the root of all sins people commit:

 

Wrath- An emotional response of anger resultant of a perceived threat.

Sloth- Laziness, inactivity, and apathy.

Lust- Overwhelming physical urge that must be satisfied.

Greed- Over-the-top desire to possess more than is necessary for comfort.

Gluttony- Unwarranted over-indulgence.

Envy- Jealousy of others.

Pride- An inflated sense of worth and status.

 

I’m self-aware enough to know that, in regards to my personality, I possess in some facet each of these sins, but more than all the others, I am plagued with envy: it is my signature sin.

 

There are two sides when looking at envy and the way in which it manifests. In one the envy is malicious: not only do they want to have everything, but they also want to take it from others to ensure that everyone else lacks what they possess and thus others become envious of their fortunes. That’s not me. I’m the other side of the coin: yes, I want it all and am jealous of those who have what I do not, but I don’t ever want to take away someone else’s success and fortunes just to ensure my own. I just want my own set of awesome qualities and possessions and skills and power and whatever other awesome thing I come up with.

 

And arrogantly, I often think: why shouldn’t I get it if they have it too?   What makes so-and-so so much more special than I am that they should get what I want? Did they work for it? Did they struggle to get there? Did Mommy and Daddy get it for them? Do they have this innate skill that I don’t possess—but, damn,I should possess them—that made them so infinitely successful in their lives?

 

I am envious of success of people who get what I want. I want what they have. And why shouldn’t I get it? Oh right, because I haven’t worked the way they have for it and don’t have the innate skill they do… but I waaaaaaaaaaaant it.

 

Sometimes, I don’t even want it. Sometimes, I just want things because I know they’re what others want. I fall into a self-fulfilling and self-perpetuating cycle of envy and, as a result, unhappiness because I feel like I’m not matching up to those around me who, in my arrogant brain, I can and should be matching up with.

 

When my friends and family are successful, I genuinely am overwhelmingly happy for them. I want them all to be whole and happy people. I wish, for each and every one of them, that their dreams and goals come to fruition.

 

Buuut, I would also like that for me. Right. Now. Thanks.


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