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Can Greed Be Good?

The Seven Deadly Sins have been around since early Christianity, and are supposed to guard us against behaviors that lead to destructive habits and, well, sinning. The Seven Deadly Sins are: wrath, sloth, pride, lust, envy, gluttony, and greed. We all know that wrath, rage, and other negative emotions can bring out the worst in human nature. Dante so eloquently described envy as “a desire to deprive other men of theirs.” That’s not such a good habit to get into. And pride, considered the most serious of the seven deadlies (“hubris” in Greek), is that dangerous desire to be more important than everyone else around you, to the point that you disregard their accomplishments and harbor excessive love for one person and one person alone: yourself.

This all sounds simple enough, right? But what if these deadly sins could be reworked in a less sinful way?

Greed is a sin of excess; it’s the desire to have more than you need. When you hear the word “greed,” you probably immediately think of money and other material things. A greedy person wants as much of something as possible and will be blinded by the pursuit of getting it! Sure, this is dangerous – maybe even deadly – when we’re talking about money, fame, or power, but take a step back and think of greed as it applies to something more positive.

What would it look like to be greedy about goodness? A person with a greed for good would feel the urge to fill his or her life with as much good as possible, not stopping until he or she was completely surrounded by good all the time. And because goodwill is something that intrinsically involves our interactions with other people, that person’s abundance of good would trickle down to the people in his or her life.

Say you’re excessive in your volunteering: you spend eight hours a day, seven days a week performing community service, and you want to log as many volunteer hours as possible. Who benefits from this? You (so long as your intention is actually to do good) and the people aided by your service hours. An act of good never benefits just the person doing the good deed. The worst part of greed is that, typically, the thing the person is craving goes to waste because it is so overly abundant in his or her life. But goodwill is never wasted. Even if the benefactors aren’t immediately obvious, that positive energy makes its way into the world and fuels even more good deeds. Goodwill is one act of abundance that we should all indulge in! When the currency is goodwill, there’s no harm in overabundance. Think of how the world would change if people applied their sinful behaviors to positive concepts such as goodwill, compassion, and happiness. Even a deadly sin can cause positive life-growth if you channel it in a productive, world-friendly way.


By Lisa Cypers Kamen
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