Sin. It’s strangely akin to our love for crappy television: we don’t talk about it until we know we are in company that understands why we do it. Sin is our flaw; sin is a failure to align with the perfection of our nature in the cosmic order. It’s something that we hide and work on until we can someday get rid of it, and talk about it with the zeal of the one who was bad but is now good, just like everyone else in the Church, right?
Or, like, not. I’ve been reading The Habit of Being, a collection of my girl Flannery’s letter’s. Recently, I came across a claim of her’s that was, like much of her writing, rather shocking.
I think sin occasionally brings one closer to God, but not habitual sin and not this petty kind that blocks every small good.
Flannery O’Connor to “A,” August 2, 1955
As one who suffers from a rather unfortunate dose of pride, I’m not a huge fan of sin. In fact, I generally hate it, but less so because I love God very much, and more so because I hate to appear to have failed. This is not a virtue, but it is true. So, I hate having to confess sins. I hate letting people see my less than MPDG faults. This leads me to say my confessions with a wpm rate that would stun stenographers, and to spend a lot of time after Confession ignoring my own faults until I simply can’t any more. So O’Connor’s claim that sin, this thing I hate because I fear God, because I want to love God, and because I’m rather prideful, could in some way bring me closer to God was striking. And I began wondering, well what about the other kinds? Can they become anything more than a secret shame? Is there a way of approaching all my sins that would help me view them holistically within my own living out of the universal call to holiness?
The human situation, generally, is that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Unless you are Christ or Mary, you have the stain of original sin because you are human. But most of us, despite our baptism, set out running after that sin. Or at least, I know that I have, as has St. Lord-Make-Me-Chaste-But-Not-Yet Augustine, to name one of the Church’s more notable converts. We have all, preceding or proceeding our Baptism and Confirmation, sinned. Though I hope we might be preserved from sin, odds are that many of us will likely sin again. And that absolutely sucks. Yet, we all continue to live, and the moral life requires we live each Now not dwelling on what we should’ve-would’ve-could’ve done, but that we live each Now given all of our life’s immense particularity. In the words of fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss
It’s not over if you’re still here. It’s not a tragedy if you’re still alive.