Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Deadly Sin

-a meadow of exotic cacti on the desert floor-

I attended a Catholic grammar school, and so from very earliest days, I learned an awful lot about "sins"- the various types of  sins, the variety of classifications of sins. I learned about your average "garden variety" of sins ( like telling a lie); and I also learned how to identify those "top of the line" sins - the "deadly" sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, pride, envy). 

I learned that the thing that makes a sin "deadly" is that it is the kind of sin that is especially offensive to  God. When you commit a "deadly sin," you really make God mad, and unless you repent of a deadly sin, you are doomed - on the path to eternal damnation.

I have since come to totally re-think the business of what sin is all about; but I also believe there is such a thing as "deadly" sins that afflict and infect the human condition. 

I no longer believe that "sins" are offenses against God. I no longer imagine a judgmental "God" sitting someplace "up there" looking down at the various deeds of humankind, judging our "sins" and dishing out punishment.  

I have instead come to understand that "sin" is the breaking or the rupturing of a relationship. Sin is an act of the selfish ego. Sin is an act of "consuming" the world out there for my own personal gain. 

We  human beings are "wired" as a complex web of relationships, and we find peace and meaning in life when we are in "relationships." When we cut ourselves off from others, we suffer. In fact, sin can be "deadly" to the human spirit. 

Yesterday I had an experience of the destructive force of sin in the human condition when I was pulled down into an experience of "envy"- one of those "deadly sins."  

It started out innocently enough. I was having a conversation with a younger friend of mine who had just received word that he got a new job. He had been appointed to a rather important high-level position in the church. 

My first reaction to his news was "joy" over his good fortune.  However, as I spoke with him, I also realized that the demon of "envy" was nipping at my spirit.  A nagging sense of "resentment" surfaced in me, "Why didn't  I ever have a job like that. I am as talented as he is." However, my resentment wasn't only about me. I also had this flashing thought, "He's so young and inexperienced, he doesn't deserve it..if I can't have what he has, I don't want him to have it." 

I was being envious. 

And in that instant, I learned something about why envy is such a "deadly" sin. Envy is a purely selfish act of the ego.  The envious person not only says, "I deserve what you have," but goes further to say,   "because I don't have it, neither should you have it." -talk about cutting off relationships!

 Envy is a deadly sin, perhaps the deadliest of them all. 

Thankfully my moment of envy only lasted a few seconds, and I recognized what was going on within me and how it had the potential to quickly and profoundly cut off relationship and destroy a deeper peace.

I don't hear many, if any people, talk about "sin" nowadays -maybe that's a good thing, especially if sin is understood rather childishly as "offending God or making God mad."  However, I also don't want to lose the importance of recognizing and naming the ways in which we, human beings, can bring on so much suffering in others by feeding bloated egos and destroying or rupturing our connection with others.

I don't want to lose sight of "sin" in the human condition-especially deadly sins.

In his famous "Canticle  on Love" (1 Corinthians 13) Saint Paul says;

Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.

In the end, love is really all that matters in this life.

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