What Consumes Me

“Cute dress, love your shoes.” A friend compliments.

“Thanks”, I say leaning in a little to whisper, “They were such a steal, that I bought another in a different color. And, this dress, it was next to nothing on clearance. “

As I think about the purchase of those shoes, which are some of my favorites, I remember the rush of happiness that came over me. They were so cute and so affordable. Excitedly, I bought a pair in another color for another outfit I had in mind. Score! I am totally exhilarated, as if I have won some lovely prize.

But, as I looked at the direction of the conversation between me and my friend, I realized it is a bit disordered. I wondered, why couldn’t or didn’t I simply say, thank you, for the compliment? Why did I feel I should let her know what a bargain I found? I don’t think she particularly cared. And, isn’t it a little tacky? Qualifying my purchases wasn’t meant for her, but for me. But, why was I feeling so guilty?

Guilt is always a signal for examination.

I bought a good deal and I didn’t spend much. Seems like a good habit, being careful not to overspend on things. The problem, I have come to acknowledge after much reflection, is that I didn’t really need those shoes. And, I definitely didn’t need two similar shoes for two separate outfits. I was buying them without need and in excess, merely for my pleasure. I am a glutton. I’m guilty of the sin of gluttony. And, until recently, I hadn’t given the seven deadly sins much thought. That is until, I heard Fr. Bonaventure’s latest homily. The topic was confession and making a good examination of conscience.

Father talked us through the capital sins, as St. Gregory the Great called them. Gluttony, is one of those seven sins I can see active in my life. I am laying this down, putting it out there and I am not proud or happy about it. It hurts. All sin does. But illumination of the sin is the first step toward overcoming it.

Gluttony, as defined by Wikipedia, is to gulp down or swallow, over-indulgence and over consumption of food, drink and even material goods. The vice or the sin of gluttony is the irregular or unchecked desire for food, drink or material goods that consumes a person. We enter into gluttony when we demand more pleasure from a thing than what it was made for. Gluttony is the overconsumption of more than just food and drink. Material goods have become so abundant and attainable, it is quite easy to gulp down, snatch up, load up, stock up…swallowing up things mindlessly.

We become what we consume.

When I am busying myself with shopping sprees and aimless walks down the clearance aisle for things I do not need, I am not only filling my life with unnecessary distractions, but excess too. I have made consumption my idol. It feels so good to have so much. Over indulgence becomes my pleasure. If I am really honest with myself, this collection of pretty, useful things, I may have purchased for a bargain are filling my closets and drawers while taking up valuable space in my heart and in my soul. Eventually the feeling of exhilaration or happiness over finding and acquiring the latest and greatest new thing wears off. I find myself discontent with what I have and my bank account shows signs of thoughtless spending. My joy diminished. And yet, I continue searching for more, the next great sale. I am hungry, for something to fill this emptiness. I am yearning. My heart is restless.

“You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
-St. Augustine

Excess hasn’t filled me with what is good, but instead has allowed a terrible sense of emptiness to creep in. I have been filling myself with worldly things; my vice is separating me from my God. I have been over feeding my desire for consumption ignoring my need for God. Only God can fill the void. What is the cure for what ails me?

Temperance or moderation battles gluttony.

Recognizing my weaknesses while fasting from unnecessary trips to the mall or online is one way to encourage a healthy detachment from buying things for self-gratification. Finding and flexing my self-control muscles can prevent my tendency to over indulge myself. Just as food and drink are not bad, neither is shopping, but it is my overindulgence of these things that drags me down. Left unchecked it can lead to some more serious sin resulting in chaos in my life. Allowing things to become the source of my joy distracts me from my purpose of knowing, loving and serving God here in this world so that I may experience the joy of living with Him in eternity. It is with this in mind I turn, seeking Him in prayer and in the Sacraments so that I may receive the joy that is in Christ.

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