Smartphones and the Seven Deadly Sins
I was once asked the following question: Which is your favorite deadly sin? The very dusty juris doctor portion of my brain had about 1000 follow up lawyer questions... What do you mean by favorite? Favorite as in I find myself committing that one the most? I suppose that makes it my least favorite because as St. Paul would say, why do I do the things I hate? Favorite as in, it is my least often committed--one I've felt victory over? Where the struggle is no longer real? Or the one where I have best felt the Father's overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love and mercy? Because experiencing the Father's mercy is always my favorite. Or which word do I like best? Sloth always makes me laugh... because I picture a sloth. And sloths are one of my favorite animals. [NOTE: a great way to avoid answering a question is to ask 1000 questions in return. #lawyered] At this point the question asker (not me--though I won the "who can ask the most follow up questions in the course of a lunch" prize that day) says, "I mean, which is your favorite deadly sin?" SIGH.
All of that being said, the deadly sins have been on my mind lately, and as we have reached our Week One #SmartFreedom Challenge, it is important for us to take a theological time out and look at the relationship between our Smartphones and the Seven Deadly Sins.
P.S. Don't forget to set up an alarm clock that is NOT your phone for Monday AM! Morning Phone fasts are starting this week!!
P.P.S. You still can't use your phone in the car, during meals, or in the bathroom...
"Triple Threat" was originally post on AskAuntKatie.com on February 17, 2018. We hope you enjoy this updated version!
Phones + Our First Parents
After three days of fighting phone urges and white-knuckling through meals with the ones we love the most, it seems prudent to take a minute to reflect on why that bright and shiny rectangle in your hand can become such a near occasion of addiction.
The truth is our phone temptation is a tale as old as time. Not to blame everything on Eve (where was Adam by the way? Probably on his iPhone), but our struggles with temptation have their origin in that pesky thing we inherited from our first parents--Original Sin. One symptom of Original Sin is the triple concupiscence or threefold lust. Here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about it:
CCC 377: The “mastery” over the world that God offered man from the beginning was realized above all within man himself: mastery of self. The first man was unimpaired and ordered in his whole being because he was free from the triple concupiscence that subjugates him to the pleasures of the senses, covetousness for earthly goods, and self-assertion, contrary to the dictates of reason.
Wait now… subjugation? covetousness? acting contrary to the dictates of reason? Yep, that sounds like my relationship with my phone.
The First Letter of John explains the threefold lust like so (CCC 2514):
For all that is in the world,
the lust of the flesh
and the lust of the eyes
and the pride of life,
is not of the Father but is of the world.
1 John 2:16
So while our first parents were “free” from the threefold lust… their free will still allowed them to make a choice that was against the rules. [Akin to how some of you are definitely reading this post while driving your car--expressly against the #SmartFreedom rules.] We see Eve (quite literally) fall for this trick of the Father of Lies. When she takes a closer look at the fruit, here is what she sees:
The woman saw that the tree was good for food
and pleasing to the eyes,
and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom.
The Triple Concupiscence in Genesis 3:
Good for Food (Lust of the Flesh)
Pleasing to the Eyes (Lust of the Eyes)
Desirable for Gaining Wisdom (Pride of Life)
Now this may seem strange--Eve is lusting after an apple? Well sure, have you seen some of those nutella-based recipe videos on facebook? But let’s let a spiritual master explain. In The Spiritual Life, Adolphe Tanquerey notes the connection between the seven deadly sins and the triple lust.
The lust of the flesh refers to the passions and desires that have to do with pleasure. Thus, lust leads to gluttony, lust, and sloth.
The lust of the eyes leads us to greed--a disordered desire for material possessions.
Finally, pride of life, which to Americans may not sound negative, is arguably the worst of the disordered desires. From this springs forth pride, anger, and envy. This understanding of pride is present any time we prefer ourselves to God or his loving commands, or if we place ourselves above our neighbor.
Do we see where this is going? If Eve can find a disordered desire for a forbidden fruit, we definitely have our hands full of the near occasion of sin with a mobile device, Apple or otherwise.
The Triple Concupiscence (or the iConcupiscence 3) in your hand-held device:
Lust of the Flesh
What disordered pleasure am I seeking out of my mobile device?
Do I have a disordered attachment to food videos? This sounds like a joke, but in all seriousness, how many hours have I spent watching and saving videos about food I will never cook?
Do these videos, drink recipes, etc. lead me to be more gluttonous?
How often am I using my phone to order food delivery? How is this making me more gluttonous? Would I eat less if I just finished my leftovers from the last food delivery?
Speaking of gluttony… could I consider my media consumption overconsumption? We can be gluttonous on technology. How many hours am I spending scrolling, binging, or scrolling while binging?
How has my SmartPhone made me lazy… particularly in spiritual matters?
How many hours a day is my phone in hand?
How many minutes a day is the Word of God in hand?
How many seconds a day do I spend in silence?
How has my phone usage allowed me to objectify others?
Am I using my phone to facebook or instastalk my exes? The people that they are currently in photos with? That girl's dog's instagram? And suddenly you find yourself accidentally liking a photo from Halloween three years ago from a person you don't actually know? [I work with a lot of college women.]
Do apps like Tinder or Bumble cause me to see people as Swipes and not Children of God? Does swiping Right lead me to sinful situations?
What language am I using while texting? Am I being suggestive or inappropriate?
Have I sent adult photos? Have I requested photos be sent to me?
Or perhaps it’s even more basic:
Do I use my device for porn?
Whether I am searching adult content, or over-indulging in a Netflix binge on something that is not “technically” porn, how much is my device used to satisfy my lust or entertain my fantasies?
Lust of the Eyes
What disordered desire for material goods is encouraged by my phone?
With apps like Amazon Prime we can have almost anything in the world we want within two days. How addicted am I to online shopping through my phone?
What websites, online catalogs, flash/secret sales have me in chains?
What would happen to my credit card debt or bank account if I resisted the urge to spend money through my phone?
Pride of Life
How is my phone attachment an issue of pride?
How many selfies do I take a day?
What doctored image of myself am I portraying through social media, text messaging, or email?
How does my phone facilitate a disordered attachment to being prefered to others?
What percentage of my time is spent judging others through the things I say, do, post, or read on my phone?
Do I use my phone as a way of escaping my life, my responsibilities, my shortcomings, my weaknesses?
How many hours do I spend on meaningless games and competitions?
Do I have a false sense that somewhere in this little phone I will experience some freedom from myself?
What disordered conversations am I having on social media?
Do I get involved in comment wars? Do I let rage build up? Do I forget about the dignity of the person on the other side of that red-faced emoji?
How angry does social media make me? The news? Anything I am consuming through my phone?
How does my phone make me more envious of other people?
How could changing my phone habits help me to be more charitable and loving towards my neighbor?
Do I ever feel better about myself after spending a lot of time on my phone?
WHERE IS THE GOOD NEWS???
Shh, I’m getting there. The Good News is in the Good News. Jesus does not leave us alone in our sin, chained to our addictions, with an inability to fight temptation. Jesus is the Word made Flesh. He walked among us. He experienced suffering in order to turn it into good… He also experienced temptation so that we have a chance to fight and win over our own weakness.
In Luke 4, Jesus is approached by the Father of Lies. He is offered three temptations… do you see where this is going?
[You can stop here are read Luke 4 to refresh your memory!]
Temptation #1: Turn Stone into Bread. Remember, Jesus hasn’t eaten in 40 days and He’s pretty hungry!
Temptation #2: All the Power + Glory of All of the Kingdoms. That’s a lot of wealth and power for a carpenter to refuse!
Temptation #3: Throw Yourself Down. If the angels will truly lift Him up, lest He dash His foot against a stone… well, that sounds like an easier way to demonstrate you’re God than dying on Good Friday + rising Easter Sunday.
So in Luke 4, we see a temptation about hunger, physical pleasure, satisfaction… sounds a lot like Lust of the Flesh. Followed by a temptation for wealth and power… sounds a lot like the Lust of the Eyes. And a final temptation where Jesus can show off and deviate from the Father’s plan just for His own comfort, convenience, and pride? Must be Pride of Life.
Jesus says “Not today, Satan” where our First Parents couldn’t. When we face temptation through our phones we have to ask Jesus to give us the strength, the trust, the courage, to say “Nope.”
Lean into Him. Freedom is possible. We just tend to scroll for it in the wrong places.
HOW CAN I BETTER FIGHT TEMPTATION THIS LENT?
I'm so glad you asked. What three spiritual practices are we given by the Church as a suggestion for our Lent?
Fasting, Almsgiving, and Prayer (CCC 1434). Do you see it yet?? This stuff is so cool!
Fasting, or the practice of depriving oneself of small pleasures, helps us to develop a deeper sense of self-mastery. By giving up coffee, or screen time, or hot water in the shower (for example), we experience a privation that helps us build up our strength against disordered desires for the pleasures of the flesh. If I can say "No, thank you" to coffee (extreme example, I know) when I really reeally reeeeally want it, I become more likely to say "No, thank you" to disordered desires or attachments to other fleshly pleasures. Fasting directly affects our struggles with the lust of the flesh.
Almsgiving or willingly departing with more of our material goods can help us to overcome what? GREED! The more detached we become from things, money, excess, etc. the better prepared we are when we get tempted by the lust of the eyes.
Prayer is not only conversation with God, but the very substance of our relationship with Him. By being in a relationship with God we have to say... well, you are God. And I am not. When we pray, we acknowledge our needs, our praise, our thanks, our desires... we ask for help. We grow in humility--and that growth helps us to fight the pride of life.
Mind-blowing, no? THERE'S MORE!!
Our commitments to Fasting, Almsgiving, and Prayer directly affect our spiritual growth when it comes to fighting temptations everyday... but for those of us that are called in an extraordinary way, to leave everything behind and follow Jesus, something deeper than a commitment or even promise is required: a vow!
The Evangelical Counsels: Chastity, Poverty, and Obedience... the vows our religious make (and practices we should all be committed to in accord to our state in life) are vows against what??? The Threefold Lust! Chastity is a renunciation of the nuptial union (which when disordered is a result of the lust of the flesh). Poverty is a renunciation of material wealth (which when disordered is a result of the lust of the eyes). And Obedience, well... what better for your Pride than submitting your will totally to the Lord, and intermediately to a Superior!
Sigh. It's like it's all true.
So next time someone calls the Church antiquated, out of date, and out of touch with the modern human heart... beg them to reconsider. She claims to be an expert in humanity--and she sounds pretty smart to me.