Eight Ways We Go Astray

From the earliest days of Christianity, men and women have gone out into the desert, seeking God and to “bear fruit worthy of repentance.” These Desert Fathers and Mothers are at the foundations of monastic life, and their wisdom and teachings were passed down from one monk and nun to the next. But one man systematized them into some very practical advice for those seeking God. Evagrius described for us “Eight Evil Thoughts” and stated that all our thoughts can be classified into one of these eight. And these thoughts, if left unchecked, keep us from true prayer, lead us away from God and take us down paths were we “do what we don’t want to do and don’t do what we want.” Evagrius and the Desert Fathers knew that the first step to real transformation is to know ourselves – our own thoughts and desires – and only then can we avoid the insanity of doing the same thing again and again, yet expecting different results.

These Eight Thoughts were picked up, further developed and refined by John Cassian, Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Thomas Aquinas and others to become the Capital (or Deadly) Sins many of us are familiar with today. So here’s a quick rundown of the Evagrius’ “Eight” and how to fight them.


Finally, some general remedies:

  • Suffer from a wandering mind? Regain focus by reading Scripture and spiritual books, spending time at night or in the early morning in silent waiting on God, and pray.

  • Ablaze with “flames of desire”? Quench earthly desires with fasting, regular manual labor (and/or exercise), and solitude.

  • Afflicted with irascibility (anger)? Calm the beast within by singing psalms (for example, the Divine Office), practicing patience, and almsgiving or works of mercy.

Of course, we can’t fight any of these without God’s help and grace, so we should always ask Him for it!