Sunday, February 21, 2021

Sins Of Omission

In my times of confession, I will sometimes use a composed prayer or a checklist to remind myself of what does usually go wrong in the human condition.  I figure I'm not likely to be exempt from much in the general humanity. When I was growing up, the church I was going to took it into its head to stress "sins of omission" for a couple of years. New England Congregationalists were pretty respectable in those days, and one of the pastoral staff was very much on the social action side of things, so it was a bit of a natural. It's not unfair. In my case, omission may now be much more an issue than commission.We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, but what we have done, and by what we have left undone goes back a long way and seems to have answered a need in every generation of penitents.

So I started putting that up against the Seven Deadly Sins and checking what was up.  My usual pattern is to try and get rid of the nonproblems or minor problems first and focus on larger issues of sin.  I cam to that backwards, because I used to do the opposite: I used to go straight for what I knew to be the big issues of the last few days or weeks to confess those and see what actions God might be pushing me to.  Yet I found that when I did that, I got stuck on those first few, whether for long-term or short-term intervention, and could go weeks or maybe even months neglecting the "smaller" problems.  One of my rereadings of Screwtape suggested to me that this might just be one more subtle evasion.  And as with the debt strategy of paying off the smaller credit cards first, maybe there is something to clearing out the hyenas before attacking the lions.

So first up was greed, which is usually just a shrug for me.  I want for little.  Sometimes I do worry that I should want for even less. I never did pursue money that much, whether because of humility or the sour grapes of just not being very good at it anyway. But "sins of omission," or any other kind of reversal applied to greed would mean not only getting new things,  but also holding on to what you've got too tightly. I was not imagining things.  A quick lookup on Aquinas and greed revealed that Hoarding is one of the first things mentioned. A quick introspection suggests that is a long-neglected area of spiritual focus for me.

I never even got to the other six Deadlies.


james said...

Hoarding doesn't count with books, right? And I'll probably need those tools again someday.

Texan99 said...

I remember the bit about how most men can go a long time without giving half the trouble that an average woman causes thoughtlessly every day, but also can go a long time without taking the trouble to do half the good that an average woman does every day without thinking a thing about it.

I don't it to be true of myself; I'm more likely to fail by not bothering. I think the generalization applies, though there are lots of ways men do good without noticing much, along the lines of using their strength and protectiveness, and perhaps a lot of ways women do good by restraining the impulse to leap in and be active in some contexts. Women don't personally start a lot of fistfights, for instance, but they probably also don't instinctively place their bodies between a vulnerable stranger and harm as automatically as a man might.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Good distinction. It's a CS Lewis observation, BTW, which is doubly gratifying to me.