The biggest lie I ever bought into was that sin was just between me and God. It was so much easier to look at sin as a private affair, something no one had to know about. It wasn’t like I was a murderer or anything. My sins were small, secret affairs. No one had to know except God and God already knew. How can something so seemingly small possibly affect other people? What someone doesn’t know can’t hurt them. Except that it can. A lot.
We all want to believe that we are good people who do good things. We want to believe that the bad things we do aren’t that bad, or that they are justified, or that they won’t affect others. To examine our conscious and admit that we have done wrong is difficult and often it’s tempting to try to soften the blow. For me that softening was telling myself that I was the only person who would ever be harmed by my sin and that my sin was just between me and God.
The truth is that my sin doesn’t just affect me. It affects everyone around me, everyone I come in contact with.
The harder truth is that it affects everyone else because it affects me.
I remember very clearly waiting in line for Confession. It was obligatory, the one confession I had to do per year. I usually avoided Confession because it was awkward and I didn’t like it. Besides, God knew my sins and they were just between me and Him, right? Suddenly I was struck with a question: Why was I here? Did I really want to be forgiven of my sins?
The obvious answer should be yes, but it wasn’t. I didn’t want to be forgiven of my sins, because that would mean admitting that what I had done was wrong in the first place. And, in admitting it was wrong, I would have to stop doing it. The anger I had let settle, I would have to let it go. The lust I had allowed, I would have to fight against. The lies I had told, I would have to make up for.
And I didn’t want to.
I didn’t want to let go of my anger- even though it hurt not just the person that I was angry at, but her entire family.
I didn’t want to fight the lust- even though I was objectifying the people around me.
I didn’t want to apologize for the lies- even if I had intentionally mislead some of my good friends into making bad decisions.
My sin not only affected others, it reflected on them as well. Because I am Catholic, everything I do, good and bad, reflects on the Church as a whole, and how others perceive it. If I am treating them poorly, if I am hypocritical, if I am cruel to them in any way, that will change how they view my faith and pull them away.
I didn’t want to be forgiven because I didn’t want to change. And to be forgiven, I had to change. Christ never lets forgiveness stand alone. He said “Your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more.” (John 8:11 is a good example, but He said it a lot.)
We have, in my experience, a tendency to downplay sin and its effects. We tend to let little sins slide. Sure we’ll go to hell if we commit a BIG sin, but those little sins, left alone, can be just as damaging as those big sins.
Sin changes you.
Sin controls you.
Sin becomes your identity.
Your sin is your behavior. It shapes how you act, how you think about and treat others. Every single person you encounter is affected by your sin whether you realize it or not. I didn’t want to go to admit my sins because that meant that I had to change who I was. I was my sin and it was hurting the people around me.
Sin is selfish. It will always be selfish and it makes you selfish.
Sin is a sickness that shuts you away from the people in your life. It makes you selfish and self-absorbed while it eats away at your soul. Your soul was made to love, just as God loves, but sin will poison it. By telling you to think about yourself, it weakens your soul until it is an invalid struggling to breathe, to love, as it was meant to. The weaker your soul becomes, the harder it becomes for your soul to receive the love of God. It will destroy the beauty of Mass, cut you off from the life of your community, and eventually make it impossible for you to receive the Grace of God in the sacraments, not because the Grace isn’t there, but because sin has taken over and forced the soul to lie, shivering and paralyzed, in the depths of your heart with all the windows and doors barred.
Telling myself that my sin was just between me and God was like taking two aspirin for a cancerous tumor. It’s not enough.
We cannot fight sin alone. We need help. We need medicine. We need God. Pope Francis is very fond of saying that the Church is “A hospital for sinners.” And so it is and our ER is confession. Going there, admitting your sins, opens the doors to for your soul to receive the Grace it so desperately needs. It is a desperate call to God, a cry of “heal me. Take away my paralysis, make me whole.”
God will always hear the cry of our hearts, but we have to cry first. We have to open ourselves to Him, and to the community of people we have so wronged. Our actions reflect on our Church, both in how we treat each other and in how people perceive us. The Church is a body, when one of us is sick, we are all sick. But it is in admitting we are sick that we receive medicine. It is in calling out to God that we are heard. It is in humility that we can be healed.
Do not be afraid to search for healing. Be afraid to become complacent in your sickness. Be afraid of the sin that will enslave you to yourself and pull not only you, but others away from God.
About Regina Czupinski
Regina Czupinski is a nanny and writer living in Michigan. Born and raised in a loving and passionately Catholic home,Regina developed a love for her faith at a young age. That love pushed her to seek out the answers to deeper questions and eventually to study theology both in school and on her own. She earned the status as the Catholic go-to person among her friends and sees no reason why she shouldn’t own it. When not studying theology and answering questions, she works with kids and writes fiction.