All evil and all sin comes from pursuing a good in an inappropriate way. When we do this, we hurt ourselves and others.
Let’s look at some of the good, and see how it can become evil.
Physical good — gluttony is the pursuit of food until it damages our health. Fornication is to pursue sexual gratification at the expense of the proper relationship between a man and a woman.
Good of knowledge — the desire to listen to gossip, or scandal. Having a mania for knowing things that are degrading or none of our business.
Good of beauty — looking at pornography or immodesty in dress. Listening to music or watching movies with evil messages, foul images and sacrilegious themes. This pursuit of beauty involves an attack on truth, personal relationships and religious piety.
Good of achievement — stepping on others who get in the way of our ladder of success. This attacks the good of personal relationships and focuses on achievement.
Good of inner peace — sometimes we do only what we feel like doing to avoid feeling conflicted. This keeps us from striving for those goods which are more challenging to obtain.
Good of self-identity — we refuse to do what is right because “that’s just not who I am” or “that’s not me.” We use this excuse for ignoring the goods toward which we should
Good of personal relationships — at times we will do sinful things to “fit in,” or “to get somebody to like us.” We might also criticize others, spread gossip and use foul language.
Good of religion — certain forms of religion directly attack other goods. Puritanism rejected many forms of art and beauty. Some religions advocate hatred for those who are not members. Other ancient religions practiced human sacrifice.
Every decision we make and every course of action we pursue is for the sake of some good. We pursue these goods because we know they will make us happy. However, sometimes the way in which we pursue them hinders our own happiness and fulfillment. This is what causes us to experience misery and degradation.
We need a strategy for pursuing goods in an integrated way without causing damage. If we can do this, we can become happy.
Next issue: Grace, virtue and balance.