This weekend I sinned, strayed, fell, whatever the name - I messed up. It was the kind of sin I feel more responsible for than any other. It was the kind I had been working on for months, making sacrifices for, and had been pleading for the grace to overcome. But, when the moment came to choose against the sin, all that preparation vanished from my mind and I chose what I knew was wrong. Later, I felt dumb, dumb, dumb.
I told myself that I had failed. In desperation, I went to the one I had offended and sat in sorrow. The weird thing is I wasn’t there to apologize for hurting Him. Instead, I went to tell Jesus what a horrible person I was. I wanted Him to know that I had failed. I sat there for a long while, beating myself up, asking how I could have allowed myself to fall again.
Eventually, I knew I needed to get back home, so I began to leave. As I neared the exit, a woman in the adoration chapel handed me a book. I faked a smile and thanked her. When I walked out into the fresh air and looked at her gift, my smile was no longer faux. The book was called How to Profit From Your Faults by Joseph Tissot, based on the writings of St. Francis de Sales.
I had recently had a conversation with a close friend about my struggle, and he had told me that I need to look at each fall as a stepping stone to success. In other words: I can learn from my mistakes. During my time in the chapel I had recalled this conversation and brushed it off as poor advice. It later seemed like God was giving me the same advice that I had unwisely deemed poor.
We all make mistakes. That’s not an excuse, just a post-fall human condition. It’s not our best attribute, but it is something we need to humbly accept. It is prideful and unrealistic to believe we should not struggle. This weekend my sorrow was in the wrong place. It is good to have contrition for our sins; however, we need not get frustrated with ourselves. If God accepts us as sinners, why are we so scandalized by our own failures? The only answer I can find to this question is pride.
We often think we have reached perfection in regard to a certain type of struggle. We may view sins that deal with a lack of purity, moderation, control, or patience as distant troubles only typical, worldly college students struggle with. I sometimes even believed it was their own fault for not surrounding themselves with the truth like I believed I had. It is good to have submerged ourselves into a mindset or even a community where these sorts of sins are unattractive, but it is a mistake to think we have reached a state of perfection where we will never struggle like our brothers and sisters. In fact, such a belief is prideful and unrealistic and it will impair us in our journey from sin to sainthood.
We are young concupiscible souls striving for excellence. Let us not allow ourselves to be scandalized by our own short-comings, rather let us recognize our sins in order to overcome them, and be real examples of victory in our culture. These examples will be spotted with failures, but they will be no less victories because of this.
As you stumble towards heaven, consider the words from a book which spoke so strongly to me a few nights ago:
"When your heart sinks, raise it gently, humbling yourself quietly in God's presence with the knowledge of your misery, without surprise at your fall, for it is no cause for marveling that sickness may make us ill, that weakness tends to diminish our strength, and that misery will cause us to be wretched. But hate with all your heart the offense you have committed against God, and, filled with courage and confidence in his mercy, get back on board to resume the voyage to Virtue, which you had abandoned."
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.