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Succeeding at Life: Virtue and Vice

George Grombacher May 13, 2022

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Succeeding at Life: Virtue and Vice

Yin and Yang is a Chinese philosophical concept that describes how opposites may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent on one another. 


The battle between good and evil is constant and complicated. In his book The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn tells us: 


“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”


The Bible teaches that we live in a fallen world, meaning we’re constantly struggling with sin, pain and challenge. It also teaches “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.” We’re all human. We’re all sinners. That’s the truth. That’s a fact. 


With that knowledge, it’s easy to see the dangers of tribalism, echo chambers and activism. So much of human history and conflict has been about in-groups and out-groups. When in actuality, we’re all in the same group. 


While flawed, we’re all capable of learning and growing. We’re all capable of redemption. 


I want to talk about virtue and vice. The more we can learn and understand, and put virtue into practice, the better our lives and our world will be.  


Here’s what we’ll talk about: 


  • The capital virtues

  • The capital vices

  • Good versus evil

  • Living virtuously 


Let’s get started.


The capital virtues


The seven heavenly virtues, also known as the capital virtues, are the opposite of the seven deadly sins. They are chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, kindness, patience and humility.




The literal definition is to abstain from sexual intercourse. It also means to be true and faithful to your partner. Further, it is to be honest and true in your conduct, behavior and intention. 




This means moderation. It means not overindulging in appetites or passions.




To be charitable is to be of service and generous to others. 




This speaks to the value of hard, focused and consistent effort. 




This is being friendly, generous and considerate to others. 




This is the ability to accept and deal with discomfort, displeasure and pain without getting angry or upset. 




This is the ability to not take oneself too seriously. 


The capital vices


The seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices, are pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth.




This is self-satisfaction with your achievements or position. 




This is a strong desire for more than you need. 




This is intense anger and a desire for revenge. 




This is wanting what someone else has. 




This is a strong sexual desire. 




This is an excessive and uncontrollable appetite. 




This is laziness and inactivity. 


Good versus evil


Now, let’s think about how virtue counters vice. 


Chastity versus lust


How faithful are you in your relationships? 


Temperance versus gluttony


How in control are you over your desires? What do you need to do a better job of controlling in your life? 

Charity versus greed


Are you of service to others? How are you giving, contributing and moving the conversation forward? 


Diligence versus sloth


Where are you wasting time, energy and attention? How can you better focus and be more productive? 


Kindness versus envy


Do you extend grace to yourself and others? Pay close attention to the next time you’re triggered by envy and explore the reasons why. 


Patience versus wrath


How well do you roll with life’s punches? Are you able to step back, take a deep breath, and sleep on things?


Humility versus pride


Odds are, you have a lot to be proud of. Are you a humble person? 


Living virtuously 


Perhaps it’s always been this way. 


That so many people feel they’re right, and others are wrong. Not only that those who think differently are wrong, but also immoral and a danger. 


It seems as though intolerance and anger reign supreme. What does our future hold? 


“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.”


It’s our responsibility to choose virtue over vice. Yours and mine. 


To recognize and embrace the reality that, while flawed, we’re all capable of learning and growing. We’re all capable of redemption. And armed with that knowledge, we treat others accordingly.  


The more we can learn and understand, and put virtue into practice, the better our lives and our world will be.  


The time for doing it is now


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