Seeing Yourself: How Sin Affects Us

snake, serpent, apple, deception

An ancient Navajo proverb says, “You can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep”.

Perhaps this proverb best describes a lukewarm Christian?

All of us need new and different perspectives to enable self-examination. I want to offer this article as a tool for introspection.

I am not offering a different teaching on original sin from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but attempting to make real its effects on our modern day lives. The theory offered may enable you to see yourself differently.

How Are We Designed?

Each of us possesses three aspects to our being which make us a composite whole. In a modern secular context, the words I would use to describe these three aspects are 1. Nature & Purpose 2. Choice & Free Will 3. Ability & Skills.

In the Christian sense, these three parts are 1. Spirit  2. Soul  3.Body.

As an analogy, and a weak one at that, but sufficient to gain a better idea of how this three-part design works, imagine that we have a tumbler, an empty glass, in our hands.

This glass represents our body.

Pour some water into this glass and the water signifies our soul.

Now pour some orange juice, or some whiskey, or some coffee into the glass. Whatever you pour will dictate what type of drink it becomes. Whatever you pour now will govern the nature of that drink. It becomes either a glass of whiskey, a glass of orange juice or a glass of coffee. The orange juice, whiskey or coffee signifies the spirit.

In the same way, we have a body with potential abilities and skills.

We have a soul, which is able to independently and freely choose what spirit (or nature) it desires to possess and is able to act according to its own will. In the analogy, the water would have the choice of what was further being poured into it.

Then we have the spirit, or our true nature and purpose.

Once the orange juice, whiskey, or coffee mixes with the water, it is near impossible to once again separate the two in the glass. They unite and become one.

To mankind alone has God given the freedom to choose what spirit, what nature, what purpose the man desires to possess. We were created in the image of God but we could choose a spirit and a nature that was not God.

In the analogy, regardless of what the drink was, if it were poisoned then it becomes a poisoned glass of whiskey, orange juice or coffee. This is what sin did to us. It poisoned our nature with the lack of God.

The basic orange juice still exists but it is now tainted with poison. You can taste the orange, but instead of providing the refreshment that was intended it will kill you.

Each of us is thus wounded, our desires, will and our body, suffering corruption and death because of original sin.

Nobody needs to teach this wounded nature to lie, be greedy, lustful, possess false pride, or be cowardly and indisciplined. These come preloaded with the tainted nature at our birth itself. Each of us comes preloaded with a certain amount of lack.

God Proactively Creates

What exists in the absence of this creation is simply the lack of creativity. Thus darkness does not need to be created. It is the default state when and if the light does not exist. Similarly, therefore, the ‘lie’ is simply the absence of truth. Cowardice is the lack of courage.

In fact, the lack cannot exist on its own. The lie needs truth to exist. There is nothing that is a 100% lie.  However, there exists only 100% truth.

The lie feeds of Truth. The best lies possess 99.99% truth. Anything, which is a 100% lie, is an absurdity like this example: ‘ I sprouted wings and flew to Mars and back yesterday, and found the elixir of life.’

We can, and do, use the lack of God for our own purposes and benefit. We use the darkness to do in secret, what we know we ought not to do. We use the lie and everything else that comes from a lack of God, in so many different things and ways.

Perhaps it will be accurate to say that the unrepentant man does not know how to act without sin. Without being able to threaten, without violence, without rage, without deceit, without tit-for-tat he is helpless.

This is what makes man sinful: our desire to choose, and will, the lack of God.

We are taught by our parents and the Church to be clean, to be truthful, honest, courageous etc. This is demanded from us because we possess the capability and ability to be so. Our wounded natures, on the other hand, compel us to lie, be greedy, and remain lustful, cowardly and vain.

Faith in Christ enables us to receive freely the healing and once again the outpouring of God’s own Spirit in our beings.  Faith in Christ removes the ‘poison’ as it were from our beings. The redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the analogy above, is the antidote of the poison.

Without Christ, it is impossible to overcome this lack, to recreate or regenerate our true selves.

This is available to the whole world and those who accept it in faith, repentance and holiness are Christian. Being born into a Catholic family is a gift but often produces only the lukewarm person.

How Sin Affects Us Internally

I want to offer now a perspective of how sin works in us, and firstly corrupts our calling and then gaining boldness perverts our nature. The Man God created is unique in so many different ways, and today I choose only two differences to display our calling its corruption and perversion.

(A) Only man is able to sacrifice a present moment and a present good, for a future moment and greater good.

Only man is able to sacrifice his life for a reward he will get after his death. This ability has produced terrorists, soldiers and martyrs.

This ability has also produced individuals who have committed suicide so that their families may benefit financially after their death, and this benefit for the family they see as a greater reward for self than living. Their utter lack of hope is even appreciated and glorified by those who remember them.

In these ways, we see how the intrinsic nature created by God is able to malfunction when wounded, and at the same time how when healed and restored can return to the taste of its former glory.

Isn’t the martyr saint so very different from the violent terrorist, or the suicide-committing father?

Sin also inverts what was intrinsically good, and perverts it, enabling sinful man to now borrow from the future for the present. As a result, man is seduced to sacrifice a future good, for a present pleasure, and s/he exults in it.

I, me, myself, my comfort, my way, my pleasure, my revenge, this is the result of that inversion.

(B) Only man possesses a brain with the function of doing the right thing when it is the tough thing to do. This is taught well by Robert Sapolski in his book “Behave” where he explains the function of the Prefrontal Cortex.

What is the right thing, however, is blurred by original sin, and for the unrepentant doing the right thing usually means violently asserting yourself and fighting for your rights.

However, isn’t the cross for the Christian always the right and a tough thing to do?

Wasn’t it the right and tough thing for Adam to take ownership of his action and rather than blame Eve, be able to cover for her?  Is not the lukewarm Christian therefore still in Adam?

To find the significance of things, to seek out the greater realities, this is our calling. To be our genuine selves, to be head over heels in love with this true self and exert everything we’ve got to be this self, is the purpose of our existence.

This purpose and calling has been perverted due to original sin and now masquerades under the guise of free expression and just being you.

We need to be our genuine selves without a doubt. This is our calling and our purpose. Yet our genuine self-needs Christ, needs faith, needs repentance, needs daily mortification and sacrifice.

This calling to be our genuine self, by exercising our ability to do the tough thing when it is the right thing to do and in this way go against our own natural selves, has been perverted by sin to now mean giving free rein to our wounded, sinful nature without shame.

The mantra for the lukewarm Christian and the non-believer is the same: Be practical. What you experience today, only that is real. Who knows about tomorrow?

How Sin Pressurises Us Externally

Sin works in two ways. One it corrupts and perverts what is intrinsically good in us. Secondly, it externally continues to offer us seductive hollow philosophies and practices.

One real example of this external influence, which has been a major obstacle to being our genuine godly selves, is the overarching demand to be nice.

An inner desire to be acknowledged and appreciated causes us to hesitate to be our better selves.

In this desire to be “nice” we refuse to confront others and even our own selves.

King Herod wanted to be nice to Herodias so he beheaded the truth. Herodias wanted only that John the Baptist say nice things about her and King Herod.

It wasn’t nice to be cast out of Paradise. It isn’t nice to struggle through this existence. The cross was not, is not nice.

It is important to be nice, but it is more important to be good. In todays world original sin manifests itself by the urgent need to be nice and retain the social comfort and social standings by being easy going and non-demanding. To avoid saying, or doing things, that may lead another, or even oneself, to introspection and repentance.

To avoid saying anything which may lead the other to his or her better good but be either confrontational and or hurtful. The mantra is ‘Flatter me and get what you want; all I want is a nice time.’

Isn’t it clear therefore that perhaps the only real way to be nice in this worldly fashion is by choosing to remain lukewarm?

Perhaps the really nicest thing someone can do is to point out our flaw, that which we ourselves were blind to. Perhaps the nicest thing we could do in turn is to receive this criticism well.

My work as a Family Business Facilitator really is to engage family business owners in meaningful conversations, guiding them to discuss topics and behaviours that they have avoided, but the avoidance of which has weakened their own relationships and abilities to function together as efficiently as they once did. The real problem is only that they wanted to be ‘nice’ to each other all the time.

Being ‘professional’, being smart, being sophisticated and welcomed into social groups means mastering the ability to avoid to touch another in a ‘wrong’ spot.

Herod, Herodias, or John the Baptist; the choice really is always ours.

May we love ourselves. May those who say they love us, love our ideal, godly future self, and not permit us to live in delusion. May we rejoice in all types of affliction until our Lord completes His work in us.

May we see clearly and choose the Cross-when it is the tougher, but the right thing to do. May we relentlessly and unceasingly work at our inner selves perfecting ourselves as led by the Holy Spirit.

May we choose not to be lukewarm or half-believing. May we live as our original selves, and no longer under the influence of original sin.

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