Fonticulus Fides

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

I was talking to this woman yesterday and today, and our conversation made me think about how many times I persist in sin because I think I'm entitled.

What I mean is, I use various circumstances in my life as "excuses" to sin. I blame my short temper on pregnancy hormones. I laze around all day because I was up with a feverish/teething baby at 4 a.m. I bop around the internet instead of doing what I'm supposed to be doing in the interests of "stimulating my mind." I convince my husband to let us indulge in a restaurant meal we really can't afford because I "deserve" a night off from cooking and he "deserves" a special dinner.

Okay, it's not murder or stealing or anything like that. But the problem is allowing the attitude to exist. It enables me to cultivate an attitude of self-indulgence, when what I should be doing is following the example of our dear Lord and His mother Mary and all the saints, and cultivate an attitude of self-sacrifice. And I know darn well that the more time I indulge myself, the less time there is to train myself to go without for a little while, for the good of others or simply because I accepted such an obligation.

This woman I speak of was asking how she could find self-forgiveness for a serious sin. She's not Catholic, she's Protestant, so instead of going to confession, she relies on the means available to her -- asking for the advice of other believers, whether they are trained to understand such things or not.

She felt that God had forgiven her for this transgression (which from my understanding is indeed a mortal sin) but she couldn't forgive herself. As our conversation progressed, I realized that she was hanging on to her sin. She felt that she was entitled to it, that she deserved to indulge herself after years of personal unrest and dissatisfaction. I did my best to encourage her to a more complete repentance -- not settling for, "I know it was wrong, but..."

She wasn't ready to hear that. She wondered why I was angry with her, and I told her truthfully that I'm not. I'm more sorry for her than anything. She suggested that God would be more forgiving than I am, and I wondered aloud how she could be so confident, when she refused to give up the idea that her sin was justified. Repentance is, after all, total repentance, whether you are Catholic or Protestant. I don't think any of us can stand before Christ crucified and dying for our sake and say, "Gee, I know I broke one of the Commandments, but after everything I've been through, you can't blame me!"

Our conversation is over. She is seeking the support of more liberally minded folks who agree that she can't be blamed for making the choices she made. And she's getting it.

I understand. I do it, too. Maybe I haven't stepped into the arena of mortal sin since I came to know Christ 15 years ago, but I indulge myself in venial sins all the time. And I know the attitude of self-indulgence can grow and take over to the point where a person can even justify a mortal sin. I have to watch myself.

"Take care of the little things," my grandma used to say, "and you won't have as many big things to deal with."



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