Taken in no particular order, the first shortcoming we will consider is "WRATH". This includes the associated feelings of rage, anger, spite, and vengeance. While there are, of course, times when serious anger is justified, we have in our society made rage and vengeance a staple of our everyday life. Political differences resemble gang warfare, fist fights over the smallest of differences are becoming as common among women and sober men as they once were in rowdy taverns by the inebriated. Violence is not only viewed as a viable alternative, in many segments of our society it is seen as a virtue. "WRATH" is not a virtue. Peaceful self-control and non-violent dissent is the appropriate way to resolve differences. Using fists often comes when people aren't able to use words, and the inability to verbalize and reason points to our increasing failure to adequately educate our children.
"GREED" can be seen as the natural consequence of a capitalist society, but there is after all a difference between being profit driven, and being profit centered. In many ways we have moved from a society where profit is one of the things that we value in our business dealings, to where it is the the only thing that matters. I have seen companies that once cared about fairness, quality, and the welfare of their employees even at the cost of some potential profits, move to a corporate philosophy where all that matters is profit and meeting growth projection goals. When John D. Rockefeller was asked how much money was enough, his reply was "A little bit more." We seem incapable of being satisfied with moderation in our society, and "GREED" rules our corporations and our personal pursuits, and drives our debilitating debt.
"SLOTH" is perhaps a more descriptive word for what we currently refer to as laziness. Hunger is a powerful motivator, but in a civilized society we are unwilling to let people go hungry, or cold, or without medical care. Though some would paint with a broad brush and accuse all recipients of public assistance as lazy freeloaders, clearly this is not the case. But neither is it the case that all these recipients are good hard-working people anxious to pull their own weight. It is ever the challenge of such programs to provide for the needy without perpetuating their need by encouraging complacency. The virtue of being a hard worker has to some extent been replaced by "gaming the system", both inside and outside the workplace. A sloth is not a creature one thinks of as clever or ingenious, and the lazy among us are a drag to the rest of us; not to be envied, not to be emulated.
It has been said that "PRIDE" goes before a fall, and the very idea of American exceptionalism, if not tempered with humility and gratefulness can easily and quickly transform to American arrogance. Instead of looking for how we can serve the rest of the world, we look for how they can serve us. We begin to believe that they exist for our benefit instead of the more likely case that we have been blessed in order to benefit them.
We probably can no longer be referred to as a sexually repressed society. We go beyond winking at internet pornography, to legitimizing periodicals dedicated to the sexualized images of women, to inviting porn stars to speak on our college campuses as though they were participants in some form of high art. "LUST" is seen as the victimless sin, the sign of a society honestly embracing the reality of its sexuality. If you aren't afraid of a virtual slap in the face regarding how "victimless" it actually is, have a look at the website that maps the location of the sex offenders in your city. Little girls and boys are being taken from their own homes to satisfy the sick appetites of their abductors. Americans are going on sex-holidays to foreign countries to buy sex with children. Families are being destroyed by sexual addictions. We have our secret service neglecting their duty to the President to indulge with prostitutes, and presidential candidates themselves involved in all manner of scandals. "LUST" is a private shortcoming, and what we hear of is but the tip of the iceberg. We all have desires... we're built that way... but when those desires are allowed to diminish our goodness, that "LUST" diminishes America's greatness.
"ENVY" is the basis of class warfare. The prosperity of another causes us sorrow, and we see it as unfair. We desire that prosperity for ourselves, but failing that we would be almost as content to see him deprived of his. If the rich man has come by his riches by honest and ethical means, or even by dumb luck or inheritance, we should rejoice that we live in a land with such opportunities. If his wealth is ill-gotten, then he is perhaps deserving of our ire, but we ought not be deluded into thinking that depriving the wealthy will enrich the poor. Our energies would be better spent on how to create wealth for all, than ravening over the scraps that one man possesses.
It is more difficult to resist being envious when someone rubs your face in their wealth. There is nothing wrong with enjoying some of the prosperity you have been blessed with, if not what would be the benefit of being prosperous? There is a point, however, where we go past enjoying fine things in our prosperity and revel in the prosperity itself. "GLUTTONY" is going beyond normal appetites in indulgence, and is redirecting to utter waste what without sacrifice could have been used for charity to help others. Judging from our ever increasing waistlines, it is not a vice restricted to the rich! How big a house is big enough? How big a T.V.? How big a soda? There should come a place where one says we have enough for now, and that place should come before you require yet another credit card! If our citizenry or our government is gluttonous, it is charity that will suffer the consequences.
IMHO: This was likely too ambitious a subject to undertake in this format, and in the interest of brevity depth of discussion was sacrificed to merely sparking a direction of thought. Some will say that our system of government is leading us to decay. Others will insist that it is the abandonment of those principles of government that brings the decay. But government in America is an extension of the governed; ultimately we get the government we request, and the one we deserve. Great leadership seldom originates in government. Even when it is found there, it is first seen in the society that spawned it. The greatness of a Washington or a Lincoln was not independent of the society they lived in. Leaders in greatness most often arise outside the parameters of government. If the greatness and exceptionalism of America is to be restored it will not begin in the halls of Congress or the White House, but in the goodness of the hearts and souls of everyday Americans.