The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

“It’s not a sin”

Feeling guilty about backsliding this Lent?

It’s not as bad as you may think:

chocolates.jpgMaybe you gave up chocolate, but no one was watching when you passed the candy dish. Maybe you gave up taking the elevator, but your legs hurt from the stairs.


You swore off TV, except for that one episode of Lost.

Relax, priests say. Sinned, you have not.

A Lenten sacrifice, or “giving something up,” is intended to draw a believer closer to God, with the idea that self-denial can enhance spirituality. Catholics and Protestants often give up something they enjoy to reflect the sacrifice they believe Jesus Christ made for them.

Nonreligious people sometimes get in on the tradition for self-improvement purposes.

For those who do sacrifice to get closer to God, what matters is effort, not perfection, said the Rev. Michael Watson of St. Andrew Parish, a Catholic church in Upper Arlington.

“Because we’re prone to human weakness from time to time, it doesn’t mean the end of the world,” he said.


Slipping up is not a sin unless the action you committed is itself a sin, he said.

So if you swore off alcohol and had one cocktail, that’s not a sin. But if you had five and got drunk, you probably committed the sin of immoderation, whether it’s Lent or not.

People who slip sometimes tell the Rev. Jerry Rodenfels of the Church of the Resurrection in New Albany, as if they have to confess their misdeeds.

He tells them “not to worry. It’s not a sin,” he said. But they still feel bad.

“For those of us who are older, there’s something instilled in us called Catholic guilt,” Rodenfels said, laughing.

There’s more about this at the link.

Meantime, here’s an idea worth considering: a fast from Facebook.

Comments read comments(1)
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Sr. Fran

posted March 12, 2010 at 9:23 am

Does everything have to come down to a sin to feel some guilt? I think it’s actually spiritually/morally healthy that people feel bad when they slip up. What’s bothering them is the lack of integrity between word and deed. They still feel there should be honor to their own word. It also speaks highly of their relationship with God. Does it not show that He is real to them? This is especially good in an age where people sign contracts, promise commitments and then flippantly dismiss them and the people involved. Maybe the implications were not sinful, but there is the integrity of character is not even considered. That is not only bad, but dangerous. I think such things lead one more easily into sin because it dulls the conscience. Now I ask, what is worse, an older person who feels a little guilt for slipping up on their word or a younger person who feels no remorse at all for not holding true to their word? Although scruples can cause one to lose sight of God’s mercy, an easily accepted disparity between word and deed can leave God out of the picture altogether. A person with scruples can be led to refocus on God’s love and mercy. That’s one step closer to Him than the one with no remorse who needs to see how they left God out of the picture totally. Look at our society, look at our government. Oh, how much better life would be if we felt more obligated to honor pledges and promises.

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