This is part three in my personal exploration of the 7 deadly sins and the 7 graces. (Part one, on Pride, and part two on reverence.) Also if you want to read the business version, Unchecked Pride in Business, and Reverence as a Business Practice, enjoy the different dimension they offer.
I have found the passion of greed/avarice difficult to grasp, mainly in distinguishing it from gluttony.
Both are about excess. Greed is an inordinate desire to possess more than one needs. More than one needs of wealth, of time, of status, of power, for example. Greed can motivate actions like bribery, betrayal, treason, all for personal gain. It also includes hoarding, theft, scavenging. Avarice is from lack, the Latin to crave. Craving and desire are the impulses behind greed and avarice.
For greed to exist, it must deny others of experiencing the same. For example, I may accumulate millions of grains of sand, but if my sand pile does not cause anyone else to experience lack of sand, or to suffer as a result, then my accumulation is not motivated by greed. In order for me to manifest greed I must be aware I have denied others. A young child takes her toy from her little brother because she wants to possess it and not allow him to. Raw as her emotional maturity might be, she knows that she denies him of her toy. Greed of wealth and or power means that I seek it knowing I will deny others of their own wealth and power. Greed is cunning, devious, manipulative. There is always a lack of….for greed to exist. Scarcity walks hand in hand with greed. The opposite of greed is generosity, a deep sense of abundance, plenty, charity.
Gluttony comes from the Latin, to gulp down or swallow and is about over indulgence or over consumption of anything to the point of waste.Too much, too expensively, too eagerly, to wildly. Gluttony is hedonistic, exuberant, and does not imply that there is a lack of… Its opposite is moderation or temperance.
When I was 11 years old I went to an all girls boarding school. In truth I literally went from one age of awareness to another, catapulted with violence from a gentle world of fantasy, beauty and flow, into a world of comparison, envy and image consciousness. Within that first year I developed a psychological eating disorder. While it never manifest as overt bulimia or anorexia, for the next 17 years the thought of what I would eat, when I would eat it, how many calories it would have, how much exercise I would need to do….on and on and on….occupied every minute of every hour of every waking day. Then one day, after struggling with this for so long, I just decided that enough was enough. (interesting choice of words) I had better things to think about, smarter things to occupy my time and energy. That spending my life on this obsession was a waste of the grandest proportions.
I have thought about what motivated this obsession. More than the body/image it was an obsession based on scarcity. On there not being enough. Not enough experiences of food, of eating food, of going to food places. The “not enough” has run my life in many more ways than food, and sadly, without realising I had done it, I replaced my not enough ‘experience of food’ with not enough time, books, knowledge, money, skill, smarts…on and on…not enough. Never enough. I am not enough. Until recently, this has been my mantra. No longer.
In writing this article the question I sat with was is this greed, or gluttony? Is ‘not enough’ greed, or is it gluttony? Or does it have pieces of both? In exploring the answer I have explored both greed and gluttony, seeking to understand their intrinsic motivators.
I am not an overtly greedy person. But the ‘not enough’ has ruled my life for 41 years. These last two years of internal re-calibration brought about through a series of exterior events has forced me to really sit in the ‘enough’ question.
What is enough, when will I know I have enough, when will I know I am enough?
These questions are very significant questions for all of us to ask. Our world is warped to breaking point because of our addiction to greed and more…
I would love to hear from you on your thoughts on greed, on the distinctions between greed and gluttony, and where you think the mantra of ‘not enough’ fits.