I write this article thinking about a friend. This friend is Catholic and recently got into a situation which is obviously not very good for her, involving renting a room and a single, older man.
Instinctively, I am sure she knows deep down this was a bad decision, although she tried to play it off as normal when she told me. However, what most saddened me was that she didn’t come to a dinner with common friends of ours a few weeks later. I am almost sure that this was because she was possibly embarrassed about explaining this to the group.
It occurred to me that this is exactly the pattern of sin. There is a rationalization, there are excuses and there is defensiveness. Most of all, however, there is isolation.
“I can fix it myself”
Another friend recently shared with me how in his late adolescence and early adulthood he would close in on himself when he was stressed and be aggressive toward others. He thought he was old enough and “man” enough to resolve his own problems.
It is precisely the opposite. Christ made himself completely vulnerable in His suffering. He opened himself up to God the Father and asked for His help every step of the way. Jesus even accepted human help. Simon of Cyrene helped Him carry His cross. Veronica wiped his face. Our Lady accompanied His every step. Sts. Mary and John stayed at the foot of the cross.
If the Lord Himself asks for and accepts help in his tribulation, why shouldn’t we? Perhaps we are prideful creatures who sometimes get drunk on our own self-sufficiency. This mind frame of not needing help and not asking for it is a step to isolation.
“They don’t understand”
It is of course necessary to protect your intimacy from others. You can only reveal certain things to your spouse and your spiritual director, other things to your family members or close friends. There are certain things that you might feel a need to protect from others who criticize and judge. Even Jesus was not accepted by the world.
However, when someone makes a negative comment about my option to stay at home as a mother, or to have closely-spaced kids, I pity them. I don’t get angry or feel I have to prove them wrong. I just feel sad that they don’t have as much joy as I do (probably).
This is quite different from the pattern of sin in which you retract from society, friends and even family members. You are so misunderstood. Your communion with others doesn’t get bigger and bigger as it should, but instead gets smaller and smaller. You are on a high horse about an option or several options you took in your life and others can do nothing but judge you. Especially those “religious” people.
It is the shame of Adam and Eve as they hide. It is the shame of Cain as Adam’s blood cried out to God. Even my two-year-old daughter hides to do things she knows I won’t approve of, such as playing with my camera or smashing my lipstick with her chubby little fingers.
My friend who didn’t come to our dinner with friends probably thought that we weren’t “open-minded” enough to accept her living situation. (I am assuming my friend’s feeling here because of past experiences of my own.) Really, she was scared of being judged. This is exactly what the devil wants.
The devil wants you isolated. Any sin is isolation from God, whether it is venial or mortal. A jealous thought is a thought that turns you away from God, who is all love. An act of adultery is more serious, but also turns you away from God in a more dramatic way.
Sin also has social consequences. It isolates you from people. It isolates you from people that can help you, that are set in your path to be God’s instruments. It isolates you from your community, like the lepers that Jesus healed. God wants us in communion, intertwined with one another.
If you are in a state of Grace, like Mary, love impels you toward helping your neighbor, as with the Visitation. If you are in a state of sin, not only are you unable to help anyone else, but you progressively take yourself out of situations which make you insecure or uncomfortable, and isolate yourself from any help.
What is hell but eternal isolation from God? Many people live in “little hells” here on Earth already. Let’s not let that happen to ourselves nor to the ones around us. Let us be people of communion, of friendship, of vulnerability, of self-sacrifice and of love.