The Seven Deadly Sins of Highly Effective People: Gluttony/Avarice

April 30, 2006

[Previous Posts – Part 1, Part 2, Lust]

The next stop on our tour of the seven deadly sins and their impact on “highly effective people” (a phrase which I am using in the popular sense – that is, “effective” at commercial success) involves the twin evils of avarice and gluttony.

For those who haven’t brushed up on their deadly sins in a while, “avarice” is the strong desire to gain, especially in terms of money or power. Gluttony, on the other hand, involves waste and overindulgence – the consumption of more resources than are necessary, to the exclusion of others. I put them together not only because they are evils that “feed” off of each other, but because gluttony, I think, reflects the ultimate adverse consequence of avarice: those who have end up consuming more and more to the exclusion of those who don’t have.

We live in the ultimate consumer economy, so I suppose there is a sense in which avarice and gluttony define our enture culture. However, I think that effective people are particularly susceptible to being seduced into that culture. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Their earning potential is usually much higher than others. The potential for over-indulgence in food, stuff, clothes, shoes, cars, etc. is therefore much higher.
  • The addiction/lust for approval from others that can become the driving force in the effective person’s life (see prior post) can very easily end up manifesting itself in this area – after all, the most obvious manifestations of success (if you don’t want to endlessly talk about yourself) are expensive cars, watches, homes, clothes, and country club memberships.
  • The business world is full of nice “perks” already: ritzy hotels, expense-account funded lunches at nice restaurants, plush company cars, opulent offices, first class airline upgrades. Its very easy to get to a point where you naturally begin to want the same experiences when you’re away from work as well.

As I mentioned above, the tradgedy of succumbing to avarice and gluttony is not only the fact that they are spiritually poisonous addictions, but that resources that could be shared are suddenly hoarded instead. To the extent we become slaves of these sins, we lose our ability to become the presence of Jesus in the world by sharing what we have with others.

So what is the answer here? Anyone have any ideas? How can people who have “made it” in the commercial world avoid the destructive forces of these twin evils?

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Hello world!

April 29, 2006

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!


WordPress?

April 28, 2006

Any WordPress bloggers out there this weekend? How do you like it? How does it compare to Blogger?

I tried setting up a test blog on WordPress tonight. It seems to be a little faster and a little more tightly integrated (I especially like the ability to tag my posts without having to generate my own HTML), but I could NOT figure out how to edit templates. I don’t know – maybe the ability to edit a template doesn’t come with the (free) basic package.

What advantages would there be to a switch? What disadvantages?

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Speakin’ Postmodern

April 28, 2006

Aly Hawkins from Addison Road gets the credit for spotting this very, um, helpful article on learning the language of postmodernity. Enjoy.

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Thursday Miscellany

April 27, 2006
  • Greg Kendall-Ball asked an intriguing question about the future of churches of Christ on his blog yesterday, and it has generated a terrific conversation. You can check it out here.
  • My 13 year-old daughter has her first real-world dancing gig! She is part of the cast in Die Fledermaus, an Abilene Collegiate Opera production. Some of the dancers in her studio were asked to perform in a small scene at the end of Act I. I saw a dress rehearsal last night – and it was fantastic. (More to come on this subject in a later post…)
  • Its Thursday! You know what that means? A half hour of Joy, followed by a half hour of Dwight. I honestly can’t decide which character I think is funnier. And when it comes time to fire up the TiVo late tonight, it will be a tough call deciding which one to watch first…

The Seven Deadly Sins of Highly Effective People: Lust

April 25, 2006

In the traditional formulation of the seven deadly sins, lust is at the top of the list. It is, according to tradition, the least severe of all of the deadly sins. However, it is also a great place to start if you want to talk about the temptations that are faced by highly effective people.

In the traditional sense, lust is not solely about sex, though sex is certainly part of the picture. Instead, Dante characterized lust as any form of “excessive love for others” that detracts from the love of God. Ultimately, it reflects an addiction to approval and affection from others. This makes sense to me. Our starvation for affirmation and attention is not limited to sex any more than the alcoholic’s habits are limited to beer. Lust, therefore, occurs when we pursue the affections of people rather than directing our own affections toward God.

The addiction to approval lies at the heart of why it is so tempting to make the achievement of success a religion. The attention that comes from making it “big” in the business world is pretty heady stuff, second only to the sports or media celebrity. People start telling you how great you are. They start offering to pay you lots of money. Suddenly, you are someone in demand. And people won’t stop talking about you.

Or will they?

Here is the sad truth: Successful people will not be successful forever. Their empires will crumble. Someone else will come along and build a better business. A younger guy will eventually move in to take your office. You will eventually lose a case. Or a patient. Or a supplier. Or a client. The next lawsuit could ruin you. Everything always hangs on a thread.

Worse yet, you will spend the rest of your days of “effectiveness” looking over your shoulder, wondering when your craving for attention and approval will no longer be satisfied. When will the end come? Who is after me now? What are my competitors up to? Will the next lawsuit undo me? An addiction to success quickly leads to paranoia and fear which (in my experience) usually comes out in anger. I’ve deposed a lot of people who think of themselves as wildly successful (and want me to know about it). They tend to be angry and hostile folks. But it often becomes clear very quickly that the anger is only masking a fear that they will somehow “lose” in the success game.

For Christians who are (or aspire to be) “effective people”, then, Challenge #1 is to tune out the addictive, alluring attention that comes from their admirers, and instead to hear the soft voice of God, gently telling him that they are of immeasurable value, not mater how “effective” they are.

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Reflections from and in the General Vicinity of my Bathroom

April 24, 2006

I have been (violently) ill today with a stomach bug. Among other things, this means that I won’t be attending the Casting Crowns concert tonight at Moody. Thats okay. I like Casting Crowns, but last time I went to one of their performances, Deyo opened for them, so it was going to be hard to beat that experience anyway. (My favorite moment from the evening, by the way, was right after Deyo’s set – there was this palpable sense that about 3000 Casting Crowns fans were asking themselves – “Jeff who?” “Does he have an album?” “That was incredible!” I loved listening to and watching the buzz in the audience as Casting Crowns got set up!)

In my sick stupor, I had a chance to reflect a little on a conversation on Mike’s blog that simply will not end. The conversation is attached to a post from last week called Adding by Subtracting. In it, Mike talks about the way that Highland’s attendance and budget may well shrink because of the leadership’s new-found focus on being a missional church.

I’m learning a lot from following this conversation:

  • Many people still don’t “get” the idea of being missional. Its just another buzz word to them.
  • When people hear phrases like “consumer Christians” and talk about people who seek “goods and services” – a shorthand some of us are famliar with – they begin to fear that they are being judged by these new phrases.
  • People perceive that being “missional” – and all of the buzz around it – is just the latest religious fad. It will eventually fade, and then we can go back to church as usual.
  • A more viral form of this argument will probably attempt to marginalize those who characterize themselves as “missional.” I’m not hearing it yet, but side-by-side with the marginalization arguments will be an appeal to the effect that we are “missional” already, and have been for a long time. If that message becomes widely accepted, the whole thing is going to bog down very quickly.
  • People fear that the missional approach will be divisive. They want to understand how it will interact with principles of Christian unity. Given some of the more unfortunate events in the history of my heritage, sensitivity to these fears is particularly important.
  • People still aren’t sure what “church” will “look like” as it becomes more missional. A more concrete vision will ultimately need to be articulated.
  • Overall, I am struck by how much of this is a leadership issue. It has much to do with finding language that will help leaders “get over” certain fears about how some people. That may be why some people just haven’t heard or adopted much of the language yet.

Update: I’ve discovered that I feel equally crummy regardless of whether I am lying in bed or sitting at the computer. Thus, I’ve had a chance to continue to follow the Adding by Subtracting conversation. This remark from “John”, who has chosen not to identify himself further, has really helped to summarize a lot of the emotion, I think, and its been good to watch he and Steve, from harvestboston, engage in a conversation that is healthier than I am at the moment:

I don’t necessarily disagree with the move to become more missional (which I think is bad terminology, but we’re stuck with it). My problem is that there seems to be a common thread in the more progressive end of thinking that comes across as, “You poor misguided soul, you’ve done church wrong for so many years. Let me lead you toward the light. If you’re unwilling to move in this direction, you can go find a new church.” Change is very necessary, but should be handled very carefully (and preferably without words like ecclesiologically). I have lived in several communities where a church has undergone a major personality and mission change. Each of them handled it poorly, and there were a lot of hard feelings for a long time. Some of that is unavoidable, but a good bit of it could be avoided by more understanding and better explanation of reasoning.

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