The Annals of Sin

Rob Woutat


It was purely a matter of chance last Sunday morning that I tuned in to the live radio broadcast from the Church of Our Lady in Pain. A Reverend Erwin Elbow happened to be speaking about sin, specifically about the Seven Deadly Sins, which he alleged to be among the leading causes of spiritual death. It wouldn’t be too much to say that that radio broadcast changed my life.

Reverend Elbow helped me see that I hadn’t given much thought to sin for a very long time. I'd just been living mindlessly from moment to moment, too occupied with the humdrum daily-ness of life to give sin the attention it deserves. But by the end of the broadcast I resolved to change all that, to bring sin into the forefront of my life.

I started by writing out a list of the Seven Deadly Sins and rating myself on each one, using a scale of one to 10, with 10 high. My score card looked like this:

Sin Score
Pride 2.0
Lust 4.4
Anger 4.1
Gluttony 9.1
Envy 3.5
Sloth 8.4
Covetousness 3.2

It wasn’t surprising to me that I had my best marks in Guttony and Sloth. Sloth has always been one of my strengths, and skill in Sloth makes Gluttony a piece of cake. I did see some room for improvement here, but I was satisfied for the moment, knowing I shouldn’t expect perfection without hard work.

The next step was a systematic cultivation of the other five less-developed sins, beginning with an in-dept concentration on Covetousness, Envy, and Lust. It seemed to me that these three sins go hand in hand, like Gluttony and Sloth; if I could develop one, I’d automatically make gains in the other two. And improvements here would do wonders for my Pride.

So I began a program of heavy coveting. I coveted my neighbor and my neighbor’s wife and all that is my neighbor’s, including his power mower, his chain saw, and his baby sitter. Within two weeks my Covetousness had soared to 9.5, and with no extra effort I brought my Envy up to 8.6 and my Lust to 9.8. And these gains triggered a meteoric rise in Pride from 2.0 to a laudable 9.2

At that point my only glaring weakness was in Anger, and I knew that of all my former weaknesses, this one would be the toughest to surmount. From here on, there could be no more turning the other cheek, no more forgiving and forgetting. I’d have to nurture a vigorous hate.

I eased into the program with a low-level resentment of the filthy rich. (This, by the way, had a positive effect on my Envy, boosting it to an 8.9.) Next I tried a middling disaffection aimed at all amateur athletes, especially those making more money than I. From there I progressed systematically through estrangement, alienation, and animosity, eventually achieving abhorrence, repugnance, and an unrivalled, indiscriminate malevolence. I loathed not only the rich but the poor. I detested Lutherans and actuaries and members of 4-H groups. I execrated dogs and Camp Fire Girls. I despised flowers, vacations, fresh air, and joie de vivre. And I hated everyone with a higher score than mine on the Seven Deadly Sins.

When I next took stock, my Anger had shot up to a 9.7, and by attending a meeting of the local Nazi Party I was able to nudge it up to a perfect 10. I became one of the great haters of all time.

But while I was perfecting my Anger, my others sins suffered. I was aghast to see that my Gluttony had slipped to a 5.3 and my Sloth to 3.1, and there were marked declines in my Covetousness and Lust. These setbacks were devastating to my Pride, which had sunk to the low 2’s. I’d been so focused on Anger that I’d unwittingly neglected my other sins.

So at this point I’m disheartened and bewildered. Should I shoot for the top in two or three sins and let the rest take care of themselves? Or should I settle for a string of mediocre 5’s? I could do one or the other; but perfection across the board is a bigger challenge than I’d thought.

TheScreamOnline regular Rob Woutat has contributed a wide variety of pieces to newspapers and magazines and to the National Public Radio affiliate in Seattle/Tacoma. He has written two family histories and a memoir and is now working on a novel. Please check the Talent Index to see his other work.
He can be reached at rwoutat[AT]tscnet.com.
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