(Reposted to restore missing link from other published posts.)
People today hate the word “sin”. It is seen as a type of judgement upon our actions.
But sin isn’t something. It is an evil. And evil is an absence; an absence of good.
It is an absence of good intent and good works. An evil action is an act reflecting rebellion against good that we determine is for our betterment. Even at great cost to others or ourselves.
But what about those things we do without control?
Saint Paul said:
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do wat I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. [not the body, but the being that makes Paul Paul – his humanness, his weakness as a human being…] I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil that I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me….when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self [deep in his soul], but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind…Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
Romans 7:15-25, RSVCE
There is a distinction between the will and the “flesh”, or our fallen human nature. Paul makes this very clear in the passage above.
He overcomes his fleshly, human nature by following the law laid down by Christ. In his will, he chooses to do right according to that law. But he falls many times. His human nature fights his will every step of the way, as it does within us. Neither he nor we can overcome our flesh except through the Grace of God.
By allowing God to work in our lives and strip us of ourselves (the frailty of our human nature), we will be able to overcome our flesh.
It is a choice…
Either we determine that we can perfect ourselves, or we allow God to perfect us. Either way, we make a choice of which teacher we follow.
We will only achieve perfection of actions, attitudes, our humanness if we follow that which is outside ourselves and is perfect. For, in our weakness, we are blinded to our own faults.
And if blinded, our teaching of ourselves will be a cyclical process that leads to no increase in virtuous acts or improvements.
But what if our actions are outside this simple understanding?
In some cases, physiological disabilities prevent us from doing good things. It isn’t to be used as an excuse, but it something to recognize and deal with.
If we are shown that we have a defect in our character or physical being that can be corrected by implementing game changing actions, we need to take responsibilities and care to implement those actionable items. Recognizing those weaknesses give us the opportunity to allow us to control that which is within our realm of control
If a person with uncontrollable anger from a brain injury is given an effective drug to help temper that problem, then it is that individual’s responsibility to find a way to take that medication. If someone becomes overwhelmed easily, learning the triggers that cause the reactions to that form of stress must be implemented to overcome that problem.
The same is true for any recognized weaknesses that are within our control.
Outside our control…
But if we try to do what we can and get overpowered by a series of circumstances that we do not control, we must not be unforgiving for our reactions. It isn’t necessarily sinful that the reactions occur. Being gentle with self and understand that the God Who created us also understands those specific weaknesses we posses will help us embrace what we have done and allow us to reset our mindset.
But one thing to remember is what we can control and where the delineation lies. When we practice the virtue of obedience to the moral law in small things, for example, it will be much easier to automatically practice such a virtue in bigger trials. If you have triggers that you are unable to control, at least you can practice the surrender of those circumstances during that trial.
Control what you can control…
Learn your limitations from a physiological viewpoint. Conquer those. Be kind to yourself so that you can be kind to others. What you do to take care of self is for their sake as well as your own. Nothing we do will be done in isolation, as many want to think. Our actions always touch the lives of someone else. So self-care is important as long as it isn’t done for altruistic reasons.
But for those things which are beyond our ability to control, we must learn to surrender our weaknesses to God daily. There are many things our psychological and physiological science doesn’t yet understand. In those things, we must continue to do what we can to let go of the flawed physiological and human nature side of ourselves, and surrender ourselves totally to God. In that way, we will be better able to conform to His Will.
Meditation and silence…
And if we practice proper meditation before His throne in the stillness of a silent mind, especially before the Eucharist, we will be able to recognize and hear His voice. And He will be able to guide us through those rough waters.
But only if we want to get ever closer to perfection. If we do, we must do as much as we can in this life for ourselves and our bodies. Accept what comes at you in this life, surrender self to God in all things, and leave it up to Him to take care of the rest. He will direct your ways into the paths of forgiveness, charity, healing, and peace.
He only asks for our cooperation.
The sin comes when we take back the reigns and tell Him we can do it by ourselves. And we will never bring about good to ourselves or others when we think we know better than God.