On Our Best Behavior

The Seven Deadly Sins and the Price Women Pay to Be Good

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Pub Date 23 May 2023 | Archive Date 30 Sep 2023

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A groundbreaking exploration of the ancient rules women unwittingly follow in order to be considered “good,” revealing how the Seven Deadly Sins still control and distort our lives and illuminating a path toward a more balanced, spiritually complete way to live

Why do women equate self-denial with being good?

We congratulate ourselves when we resist the donut in the office breakroom. We celebrate our restraint when we hold back from sending an email in anger. We feel virtuous when we wake up at dawn to get a jump on the day. We put others’ needs ahead of our own and believe this makes us exemplary. In On Our Best Behavior, journalist Elise Loehnen explains that these impulses – often lauded as unselfish, distinctly feminine instincts – are actually ingrained in us by a culture that reaps the benefits, via an extraordinarily effective collection of mores known as the Seven Deadly Sins.  

Since being codified by the Christian church in the fourth century, the Seven Deadly Sins—pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth—have exerted insidious power. Even today, in our largely secular, patriarchal society, they continue to circumscribe women’s behavior. For example, seeing sloth as sinful leads women to deny themselves rest; a fear of gluttony drives them to ignore their appetites; and an aversion to greed prevents them from negotiating for themselves and contributes to the 55 percent gender wealth gap.  

In On Our Best Behavior, Loehnen reveals how we’ve been programmed to obey the rules represented by these sins and how doing so qualifies us as “good.” This probing analysis of contemporary culture and thoroughly researched history explains how women have internalized the patriarchy, and how they unwittingly reinforce it. By sharing her own story and the spiritual wisdom of other traditions, Loehnen shows how we can break free and discover the integrity and wholeness we seek.
A groundbreaking exploration of the ancient rules women unwittingly follow in order to be considered “good,” revealing how the Seven Deadly Sins still control and distort our lives and illuminating a...

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ISBN 9780593243039
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Featured Reviews

On Our Best Behavior explores the societal pressures of modern-day womanhood through the lens of the Seven Deadly Sins. The author analyzes the deadly sins through historical perspectives, mythology, religion, and folklore. She also provides her own experiences as a working mother and the struggles of what it means to be a woman in this day in age.

As a woman with a career and a family, I related to Loehnen's experiences so much. It's hard to not internalize everything we have been taught from a young age to be the woman that has it all but be it in a certain way. This idea that in order to be good, we have to meet all of these standards is harmful to our physical, mental, and emotional health. The topics discussed in this book are valuable in understanding the female experience today and how we need to learn to accept ourselves to live an authentic life.

Thanks to NetGalley and Dial Press for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for a review

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Elise Loehnen was previously the chief content officer of goop and has co-written twelve books including five New York Times bestsellers. I was so excited to learn about her upcoming release.

In On Our Best Behavior: The Seven Deadly Sins and The Price Women Pay to Be Good, Loehnen provides her readers with a thorough history lesson on what the seven deadly sins are and where they originated from. She provides us with an understanding of the ways human beings are socialized and the cultural conditioning that informs the customs we live by. She reminds us that everything we've been taught and every belief we internalize as truth must be challenged and critically analyzed lest we perpetuate further harm towards ourselves and others. The seven deadly sins place unrealistic and violent cultural expectations on women that have negative outcomes for our mental health and ability to live life on our own terms. Loehnen points out how the narratives of the seven deadly sins (sloth; envy; pride; gluttony; greed; lust; and anger) actually separate us as human beings from our true nature and have taught us to deny ourselves and our impulses. She doesn't argue that we should be led by these impulses but that we should be aware of them and not deny them. That in order to live an authentic life we must integrate these needs and understand them as a part of who we are and what they have to teach us.

In Loehnen's words: "We need to process the ways in which the legacy of "goodness," defined as purity and abnegation, continues to both limit and torment us."

While analyzing history, fairy tales, myths, folklore, religion, and much more, Loehnen provides us with an important argument around how owning our desire leads to wholeness and a rich human experience not a sinful one.

Thank you to the author and publisher for the e-arc copy!

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"On Our Best Behavior" was a good but painful read. It is painful to realize the ways we as women. have been programmed to drive ourselves in order to be what society deems "good," and deny ourselves everything from rest to refusing to nourish ourselves. I love also how this book ties in to the Seven Deadly Sins. Highly recommended. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC. #OnOurBestBehavior #NetGalley

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A great historical account of the patriarchy and how the 7 deadly sins are pressed primarily upon women. Great read for everyone who has an interest in religion and feminism. Wanting to deconstruct but still have understanding.

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What an interesting concept for a book. My close friend recently shared some of these thoughts that Loehnen writes about. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC for the purpose of this review. I thought the book was eye opening and fascinating. I never considered how the seven deadly sins related to how I grew up hoping to be a good girl that would make her parents proud - and how that continued into adulthood. These are just some of the themes the author writes about. Five stars!

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