We were all born with a strong tendency toward pride, the mother of all sins. Because of our fallen human nature, we were also born with a tendency toward each of the other root passions of lust, anger, avarice, envy, gluttony, and sloth; furthermore, as a result of the individual unique traits that each of us were born with, combined with the environment we grew up in and our life experiences, we each entered adolescence, and later adulthood, with a predominant tendency toward one of the other six root passions.
A predominant tendency toward anger, envy, or sloth can oftentimes be recognized in a child, while a predominant tendency toward lust, avarice, or gluttony does not ordinarily manifest itself until later in life, when an individual becomes a teenager or adult.
If there is no active intervention that takes place to manage and control a predominant tendency, it eventually turns into a primary fault. While a predominant tendency represents a proneness to a particular root passion, a primary fault represents a learned and developed ability to make use of the predominant tendency to serve the self-interests of the individual.
For example, when a child who has a predominant tendency toward anger is not taught to appropriately manage and control his anger, he learns to use his anger to get what he wants, serve his own self-interests, and satisfy his own pride. Over time, he becomes adept at manipulating others through the use of intimidation, shame, bullying, and at times, physical abuse. At that point, the predominant tendency toward anger has matured into a primary fault.
Another example would be a child who has a predominant tendency toward sloth. If he is not taught to manage and control his slothfulness, he learns to use it to get what he wants, serve his own self-interests, and satisfy his pride. Over time, he becomes adept at getting out of doing things, making excuses for his failure to follow through on tasks, and manipulating others to do things for him. At that point, the predominant tendency toward sloth has matured into a primary fault.
Regardless of the primary fault – lust, anger, avarice, envy, gluttony, or sloth – the failure to manage and control the fault always causes harm to the relationships of the person who is guilty of the fault. The harm that can be caused by lust and anger is obvious, while the harm caused by avarice, envy, gluttony, and sloth is more subtle.
Oftentimes, predominant tendencies are passed down from generation to generation. It’s not uncommon for a child to have the same predominant tendency as one of his parents.
Since it is pride that provides the foundation for the six other root passions, the virtue of humility must be practiced in order to manage and control the other passions. In addition to humility, there are other virtues and remedies that can be utilized to manage and control each of the passions.
Over the next six weeks, I’ll discuss how to identify and manage the six other root passions of lust, anger, avarice, envy, gluttony, and sloth.