When your weakness isn’t sin

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I am slowly exploring the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius via the book “The Ignatian Adventure.” This week’s focus is spiritual freedom: the knowledge and acceptance of one’s gifts and weaknesses and, through that knowledge, the freedom from the tethers that bind you to the world.

It’s a very appropriate thing to do during Advent, really. But what I’m realizing is that I automatically associate “weakness” with “sin,” when sometimes it’s not actually sin, it’s just weakness. Sometimes you are trying to process too many things at once and trying to balance too many people’s needs and hurts, and you mess up and hurt someone’s feelings. You didn’t do it on purpose. You lie awake half the night worrying about it. You want like crazy to fix it. But the reality is, it was your weakness that caused it.

Weakness, but not sin.

I actually think those screwups are harder to deal with than outright sins. There’s a remedy in the Catholic tradition for sin. But those weaknesses that aren’t sins, just ordinary human messups–how do you make reparations for those? More importantly, how do you keep them from happening again?

It’s a good reflection to undertake during Advent: the knowledge that we are never actually going to get it all right. A wakeup call, a recognition of how deeply we need the grace that was given to us through the Incarnation.

If you can accept your own weakness instead of railing against it–if you could give yourself the grace to know that you are loved despite your weaknesses–now that would be spiritual freedom, indeed.

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One Reply to “When your weakness isn’t sin”

  1. That’s a very helpful observation–that sometimes we struggle with weaknesses that are not sin. This is something I’ve thought about a lot as well. Oftentimes, there is a bit of a blurry line between weakness and sin, particularly when it comes to the unpremeditated, quick actions and reactions we engage in in the course of an ordinary day.

    In my previous Presbyterian context, this is a distinction that is neglected in the theology, and I always felt a need for it. I’ve been grateful to have that in Catholic theology, although, perhaps in practice, it doesn’t always come out as clearly as it might. In particular, I’ve struggled with figuring out how to do confession in light of such distinctions. I often find that a lot of the things I struggle with regularly are in that gray border area between venial sin and weaknesses.

    I think it would be helpful to emphasize this more. Maybe it’s just me, but I get the sense that perhaps a lot of people tend to attribute to sin what is actually weakness and thus have a bit of a skewed view of themselves. Of course, it is also helpful to recognize that sin and weakness are close companions. It is our weaknesses that lead us to our sins. The former are often the foundation of the latter, and so, in the whole nexus of our behaviors, attitudes, and motives, the two are very closely related and often hard to distinguish. In confession, I often lump them all together in the category of “things I’m struggling with.” I find that it is not always the best practical approach for myself to get too hung up on obsessively figuring out which category to put everything in.

    Liked by 1 person

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