Beliefnet
The Deacon's Bench

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.

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