As part of our discussion of the 7 Heavenly Virtues I think it’s only appropriate to include the 7 Deadly Sins because you can’t fully understand good until you comprehend bad. So, without further ado, here comes Lust.
I like to start out with some background around this topic. The dictionary definition of lust is:
1. intense sexual desire or appetite
2. uncontrolled or illicit sexual desire or appetite; lecherousness
3. a passionate or overmastering desire or craving
or if used as a verb (because it is both an emotion, and an action):
4. to have intense sexual desire
5. to have a yearning or desire; have a strong or excessive craving
Now, as always we can’t stick with just one source definition, that wouldn’t be fair. Wikipedia defines lust as,
“an emotion or feeling of intense desire in the body. The lust can take any form such as the lust for knowledge, the lust for sex or the lust for power. It can take such mundane forms as the lust for food as distinct from the need for food. Lust is a powerful psychological force producing intense wanting for an object, or circumstance fulfilling the emotion.”
So obviously there are some discrepancies between these definitions. We can all probably agree that lust isn’t the best thing in the world. The problem with lust, at least in the Christian view, is that you’re putting whatever you’re lusting after ahead of God. If God is the true priority in your life, then lust shouldn’t be a part of your life because you’re so focused on Him. Unfortunately, very few people are saintly enough to completely overcome lust. To a certain extent I think that lust is natural. We all find people physically attractive, we all like power, and there are a myriad of experiences that we want and get that rush from. I don’t think that there is anything necessarily wrong with these feelings, as most of them are automatic reactions that can’t be controlled. The problem arises when we act (lust in the verb) directly on these feelings.
Let’s take the three examples provided by Wikipedia- sex, power, and food. With regards to sexual attraction, lust is wrong because it involves objectifying the person to whom you are attracted. When you experience lust for a person you don’t care if they can make you laugh, if they are kind, or if they are intelligent – you just care about what physical pleasure they can bring you. You’re not viewing them as a human being with goals, beliefs, and feelings, but as an object for your personal pleasure. I’m sure most of us have had the experience of being treated this way – and it sucks. So, if you wouldn’t want to feel lusted after, then you really shouldn’t act upon feelings of lust for someone else. Lust isn’t love, don’t lead someone on.
The second example is power. If you’ve ever experienced the rush that comes from holding and using power, you’ll realize just how addictive it is. If it wasn’t a powerful (ha!) force, then you wouldn’t have leaders abusing their people, managers taking advantage of their employees, or any other awful abuse of power. Once again, power isn’t bad in and of itself, but acting out of an excessive desire for more power – without regard to who you step over in the process – is where you get into trouble. Having power is fine, and even wanting to be powerful is fine, so long as it doesn’t become all consuming. Power can be extremely destructive if it holds too much sway over your life.
Finally, comes food. This is a tricky one because obviously everyone needs to eat in order to survive. I think that here the problem comes in when you become too obsessive about food. If your every moment is spent thinking about dinner, how you’ll get your next meal, or how you can convince someone to share their food with you, then it’s obvious there’s a problem. Your focus should be on doing good, not on filling yourself (this will be discussed more when we get to Gluttony). Consider eating disorder sufferers whose lives have literally been consumes by either lust for or fear of food. There’s no room in their lives for anything else because they are too preoccupied with food. So, once again, feelings of desire for a good meal aren’t bad, but acting in a negative manner due to these feelings is wrong – so no more getting cranky when you’re hungry! 🙂