In the November 1976 issue of Playboy magazine, an interview with Jimmy Carter caused a bit of a stir when the man who would soon become president revealed: “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.”
In the November 1976 issue of Playboy magazine, an interview with Jimmy Carter caused a bit of a stir when the man who would soon become president revealed:
“I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.”
Oh, for the days of imaginary indiscretions.
“Lust” is “a desire to gratify the senses” or “sexual desire,” even “excessive sexual desire.” As with most of the “seven deadly sins,” lust is a feeling, not an action.
In fact, sometimes lust has nothing to do with sexual desire. It can be “intense enthusiasm; zest,” which is closer to its earlier meanings of “pleasure,” “delight” and “inclination.”
Accordingly, the noun has inspired two adjectives. “Lustful” covers the sinful side, while “lusty” is for “full of vigor, strong, robust, hearty, etc.”
The latter aspect also is reflected in “wanderlust,” “an impulse, longing or urge to wander or travel.” There isn’t necessarily a sexual aspect to this, although there can be — as South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s recent revelations about his travel to Argentina demonstrate.
As far as I know, the noun “luster” has never meant “one who lusts.” Its origin is in the Latin “lustrare,” for “to light, illumine.”
“Luster,” among other things, can mean “gloss, sheen”; “brightness, radiance, brilliance”; “radiant beauty”; and “glory.”
As we have seen time and time again, public figures who succumb to lust usually lose their luster.
However, in today’s popular culture, we are constantly bombarded with references to gratification of sensual desires, summed up in the phrase “sex sells.” Too often the message is, “If you want it, you should have it.”
And when you can’t get it, you’re susceptible to another of the deadly sins, “envy.” Boiled down to its essence, envy is a mixture of the desire for something that someone else has and the discontent that results because that other person has it.
That second part was stressed in its earlier meaning, “ill will, spite,” reflecting its Latin inspiration, “invidus,” “having hatred or ill will.”
That monster envy can be turned on its green-eyed head, however. Sometimes we casually say “I envy you” when we really don’t, just to make the other person feel better.
Appropriately, the last of the deadly sins on my list is “sloth,” which used to mean “slowness” or “delay.”
These days it’s used mainly to convey “disinclination to work or exert oneself; indolence; laziness; idleness.” This is the context in which it is considered a sin, probably tied up in that whole work ethic thing.
The family of tree-dwelling mammals known as sloths were so named for an observed tendency to be slow-moving.
It’s not a sin to be slow and deliberate. On the contrary, there’s much more trouble to be found in the fast lane.
Contact Barry Wood at firstname.lastname@example.org or read his blog at blogs.e-rockford.com/woodonwords/.