As I was driving to visit a friend today, I was listening to Tapestry on CBC Radio. And the discussion came up about the journals which Isaac Newton wrote when he was 17– journals in which he would think back over his day and generate a numbered list of his daily sins like taking food from his mother’s basket or speaking harshly to someone. Those sorts of things. Nothing earth-shatteringly major: just the list from the mind of a pious youth. At the end of the piece, the show’s host wondered what a modern day 17 year old male would write on his list of ‘sins’ or what would be on the list of a modern day 17 year old female?
And I wondered what I would put on my list of ‘sins’. I don’t think I would be able to create a daily list of sins. And I do know that I would be able to generate my own list of sins. Any list which I would generate would cover my life and not just one day. So what would I write down on my list of sins?
Well, there are the 7 deadly sins: wrath, greed, sloth, envy, pride, lust and gluttony. How many of those have I committed? Wrath – definitely. I have a prodigious temper and have given it free reign many times in my life. Greed – most likely. I think it would more likely be expressed as being a miser. Definitely haven’t liked spending money and I’ve always been happier if someone else has paid for things. Sloth – yup. There are times when I would be happiest if I could live out the day in my jammmies and have everything I’ve wanted brought to me so that I would not have had to move a muscle. Envy – well sure! I mean we all have believed that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence and that everyone else’s life is so much easier and fuller and richer than ours could ever be. And I know that there have been times when I’ve believed that my life would be immeasurably better if I had what they have. Pride – even though I’m Canadian and we’re not supposed to toot our own horns, I know that I feel a great deal of pride for my intelligence and my career and my renaissance interests. And in that pride has been a sense that I’m better than others and in that pride has been a sense of justification of the choices I’ve made. And I know that, no matter what anyone else might think, I know that I am usually right! Lust – not really. While I know that I can enjoy a well put together body as much as the next woman, I just have never felt overwhelmed with lust for anyone. Maybe I’ve never met the right person. Maybe. And I can definitely own gluttony. It’s not that I would never stop eating but that I really enjoy food – especially if it is sweet and chewy. And let’s not even get into mashed potatoes and ice cream and chocolate!
So I can put almost all the 7 deadly sins on my list. And I know that they are only venal sins in my case – they only create a sense of minor guilt in me and are not so profound as to destroy my sense of grace and charity with the world and lead to my eternal damnation. And they have not given rise to a plethora of other sins.
And then there are the sins of ‘commission’ and the sins of ‘omission’. I think the 7 deadly sins pretty much cover all the bases for the sins of ‘commission’: being supremely lazy; living a life feeling a sense of entitlement and living a life of inaction rather than action; inflicting hurt on another; coveting what someone else has; taking what someone else has; making others small so that I might be bigger than they are; filling life with lots and lots of stuff à la the Hammacher Schlemmer Catalogue where ‘he who has the most toys wins’. Think The 10 Commandments kinds of things – adultery, robbery, lying, inflicting bodily harm – those kinds of things to any degree.
But what about the sins of omission which I have committed? Or is it not committed? And it doesn’t matter. What have I not done that I should have done? I know that I could come up with an extensive list: things I should have said to support others in their life’s journey; things I could have done to make their daily lives easier: helping because I could and I knew that my actions would have been helpful; standing up for what I have believed in even if doing that would have not been easy or I would have felt isolated; going along to get along as the saying goes. I’ve lived for over 63 years now and I know that my list of these kinds of omissions would be long. I think that that is probably true for most people—probably even Mother Teresa and the Pope and the Dalai Lama.
And when I think of the sins of omission which are mine to own, I know that the greatest sins of omission are those which I have perpetrated on myself. I have chosen from fear and not from my truth. I have ignored what I know is right for me mainly because I believed that it was easier to choose what others wanted rather than to deal with any possible arguments or the like aimed at trying to ‘guilt’ me into accepting others’ decrees. It just seemed simpler to agree in the first place rather than eventually giving in – which I have almost always done. I have believed what others told me about mySelf and who I am and what is possible for me to try. And I have colluded with others to accept what they have held me to be. I have acted to make their reality of me my own. Even when I knew at my core that it was not my truth. Essentially, I have not chosen mySelf nor trusted mySelf nor listened to my inner truth. To me, as I think about it, these are the greatest sins of omission. Not only have they been directed against mySelf but they have impacted the way in which I have interacted with the world.
And, to me, that has made them mortal sins as they have torn down my sense of Self and led me to living a life lacking real, honest truth.
And what I know is that it’s important that, as we choose how we will live each cay, we all remember the sins of omission which we commit against ourselves. In righting those sins, our connection to the world will change ‘for good’. As we honour ourselves and our inner truth, as we are ourSelves and speak our truth, both we and the world will become more.