Have you ever watched the TV show Fixer Upper? If not, no worries. It’s a home improvement show featuring a husband and wife team. It’s also really well done and my entire family could easily binge watch multiple episodes on a lazy afternoon. But, with this said, the show is also quite predictable.
Once the renovations begin Chip, the husband, usually discovers some “hidden” issue like a rotting floor, mold in the bathroom, or some dangerous electrical wiring. A call goes out to the homeowners letting them know. Chip goes on to fix these “hidden” issues and the show continues.
Meanwhile, Joanna is busy figuring out how to design what the eye will see which always includes decorating the house with amazing little trinkets she discovers at some local antique shop.
Twenty five minutes later the big reveal occurs. The homeowners get to see their amazing house. Lots of before and after shots are shown and the owners, and viewers of the show, are blown away.
But, guess what gets all of the attention? No, let me ask it this way. Guess what DOESN’T get any attention during the big reveal? I’ll tell you. The new subfloor Chip installed and the moldy drywall he ripped out of the shower. It’s never talked about.
Instead, the shots all focus on the new layout, the amazing furniture, and that cute little vignette Joanna designed for the end table. In other words, the focus is always on the things we can see. You might say all of the attention is on the FRUIT while none of the attention focuses on the ROOT.
Our physical and spiritual lives are quite similar. We desperately want the fruit but we normally fail to address the root.
Interestingly enough my Exodus brothers and I have been exploring this very topic the last few weeks after listening to another amazing Fr. Mike Schmitz homily. Specifically, we’ve explored what spiritual writers refer to as the 3 root sins – pride, vanity, and sensuality. The basic premise is pretty much all sin finds its root in one of these 3 root sins.
Pride is the inordinate attachment to our own excellence. Think perfectionism. The need to win. The need to control. The prideful person often believes “everyone else is an idiot” which can lead to anger and lots of criticism.
Some potential countermeasures to pride are gratitude and humility. We should be grateful to God for all that we have and realize all of our success and any blessing ultimately comes from God. And, it goes without saying that those struggling with pride need to practice humility.
Vanity is the inordinate attachment to the approval of others. Yes, the vain person places too much emphasis on their physical appearance… but vanity is so much more! In fact, shyness can be the result of vanity since we’re so concerned about what others think of us that we do our best to avoid people. And, believe it or not, purity issues often stem from the root sin of vanity since the vain desperately want others to see them as attractive.
A powerful countermeasure to vanity is hidden acts of charity. In other words, the vain person may very well volunteer at the local soup kitchen only to turn around and brag about their “good works” to their 3,910 Facebook friends! So, yes, go to that soup kitchen… just leave the Facebook bragging part out. In other words… do HIDDEN acts of charity.
And, as with any sin, bringing vanity issues to confession and our Lord in prayer is always wise. We should ask God to help us know the only opinion of us that truly matters is His.
Sensuality is the inordinate attachment to comfort, ease, or pleasure. So for those that like beer… more beer is better. For those of us who like to sleep in… more sleep is better. And for those who like to waste the day away binging on TV or social media… more TV and social media is better.
The two primary countermeasures to the root sin of sensuality are temperance and fortitude.
Temperance can be understood as using good things in the right way at the right time. So, yes, enjoy that glass of wine with your dinner. Just don’t kill a bottle by yourself 7 nights a week. And, no, you don’t need an 18 pack of beer to cut the grass. A 12 pack is more than sufficient. I kid! I kid!
And fortitude can be understood as having courage and strength. Of course, it’s easy to have fortitude when things are going well and when you’re hanging out with your faith filled friends. But what happens the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed with the temptation to sin? This is when fortitude is hard. But, of course, this is also when fortitude is most needed.
What about you?
Now, we all likely struggle with all of these root sins from time to time. But, one of these 3 root causes is likely your biggest issue. Perhaps it’s pride. Perhaps it’s vanity. Perhaps it’s sensuality. Whatever it is I’d encourage you to reflect on it before bringing it to confession (even if it’s not lead to mortal sin). You can then begin to formulate a plan for how to remove this “rot” from your soul. If needed, seeking out spiritual guidance may also add incredible value.
More help identifying your Root Sin
Finally, I’ve spent some time researching these 3 root sins. During this research I discovered this excellent list from Fr. John Bartunek. Give it a read to see if it helps you identify your primary root sin.
COMMON MANIFESTATIONS OF PRIDE
- too high an opinion of myself
- annoyance with those who contradict me, brooking no contradictions
- anger if I don’t get my way or am not taken into account
- easily judgmental, putting others down, gossiping about them
- slow to recognize my own mistakes, or to see when I hurt others, and inability to seek and give forgiveness
- rage when others don’t thank me for favors
- unwillingness to serve, rebellion against what I don’t like
- impatience, distance, brusqueness in my daily contact with others
- thinking I am the only one who knows how to do things right, unwillingness to let others help
- inflated idea of my own intelligence and understanding, dismissing what I do not understand or what others see differently
- not feeling a need for God, even though I do say prayers
- nursing grudges, even in small matters
- never taking orders
- inflexible in preferences
- always putting myself and my things first, indifference towards others and their needs,
- never putting myself out for them
- centering everything (conversation, choices..) on myself and my likes
- calculating in my relations with God and with others
COMMON MANIFESTATIONS OF VANITY
- always seeking admiration and praise, worrying about not getting it
- excessive concern about physical appearance
- being guided by the opinions of others rather than principle (this is sometimes called “human respect”)
- some types of shyness
- sacrificing principles in order to fit in
- placing too much a premium on popularity and acceptance
- easily discouraged at my failures
- taking pleasure in listening to gossip and hearing about others’ failures
- always wanting to be the center of attention, at times stretching the truth, or lying
- outright, or being uncharitable in my words in order to achieve this
COMMON MANIFESTATIONS OF SENSUALITY
- always the most comfortable, what requires least effort
- not going the extra mile for others
- procrastination, last-minute in everything
- shoddiness, complaining, excessively affected by minor discomforts
- inability to sacrifice
- not doing my part at home
- expecting everyone else to serve me always
- behavior and decisions ruled by my feelings and moods instead of my principles
- daydreaming a lot with self at center
- unable to control my thoughts when they attract me, even if they are not good
- doing only what I enjoy (choice of food, work, etc)
- uncontrolled and overpowering curiosity, wanting to see and experience everything and every pleasure
- my senses and impulses overrule what I know is right and wrong
- acting out my feelings (frustrations, desires…) with no regard for my conscience, God or others
- only working with those I like, being easily hurt
- fickleness and inconstancy
- can never finish what I start
Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!