Oh, how we turn in on ourselves

Photo by Cherry Laithang on Unsplash

I’ll be writing a lot about sin this week. Sin is a word that makes many of us cringe, but it’s one that I believe we’ve greatly misunderstood and holds a key to our liberation as humans.


I love how my Lutheran friends describe the notion of sin. They liken it to a ‘turning in on oneself’ (I’ve also heard it framed as a ‘curling’ in on oneself).

When I cast organized religion away (or what small dose of it I had in my life) forever in my 20’s (you can see how that panned out), the notion of sin was the thing that acted as the nail in the coffin. I didn’t like the guilt and shame that religion seemed to espouse.

I knew I did some things that could be categorized as ‘sin’ — behavioral things like telling the occasional lie, cussing, sex, etc., but I never murdered anyone or raped anyone’s spouse. So why should I be lumped in with THEM?!

That’s why I liked secular spirituality so much. The narrative in that world is that we are perfect, whole, and unicorn-like beings. I mean, who CAN’T get behind that?

But then I’d put the book down, go out in my daily life and — yes — do something hurtful or self-defeating (as mild as it may have been). Something just didn’t add up, but it felt so good to turn a blind eye and find comfort in my so-called sinlessness.

In his book, Unapologetic, Frances Spufford wins the award for the world’s best-ever definition of sin (in my opinion — even better than the Lutherans) by calling it ‘our human propensity to fuck things up’.

If I’m gonna be honest, this is me. And just about everyone I know.

People more theologically trained than me attribute the tale of what happened in the garden to the moment when human consciousness became aware of itself. It seems to be a part of our evolutional design — for better or for worse. We reached a place of self-consciousness where we could judge, get jealous, prideful, slothful, (you know, all the seven deadlies).

Yeah, that would make sense.

It behooves us to realize and make peace with the glaring fact that sin — in this light — is real. And we all do it.

We have to remember, the words in the Lord’s Prayer are as follows…

“Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

Not…

“Forgive those other people who sin because they’re really messing things up for those of us who don’t.”

[Aside: Wait, does this mean that even Jesus was a self-acclaimed sinner?… Hmmmm??? *Bites pinkie fingernail*]

Yes, I have good days. Really good ones. Especially after I read a good self-help book. I’m sooooo blissed out — it’s amazing. But it’s temporary. Eventually, I go back to — yes — fucking something up. Sometimes in a big way, but more often in several small sins-of-omission type ways.

Now, please, let’s not be shameful about this. I mean, if everyone is ‘guilty’ of sin, is anyone really ‘guilty’ of it? We’re all in this sinning game together. Every. Single. One of us.

The way I’ve heard scripture translated is like this…

God doesn’t love us more or less because of our innately sinful nature. The God of the living is not a damning God, but a redeeming God.

God doesn’t wait for us to be ‘perfect’ (whatever that means) in order to love us. This God — the spiritual ground of our being — is right here in the middle of the mess we make for ourselves ready to love us back to life.

And so, we sin. May we know it and own it. Not to give us a pass but to bring our propensity to the light — not as a means to remove it, but as a way to have it healed time and time again.

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