How should we define sin?
Whenever we say the word “sin”, people today have various kinds of misconceptions.
Some may immediately think about being judged. Others may even cringe at the very word and think about others who are being self-righteous, people who think that they are holier and better than most people are.
But forgetting about sin or refusing to call something as a sin doesn’t make things any better. It doesn’t lessen the harm that sin does. On the other hand, not recognizing sin where there is sin often results in greater evils and sufferings for all concerned.
What Is Sin?
When I was in high school, our religion teacher taught us one definition I could never forget. To illustrate sin, she made us think about something like trying to play darts or archery. In those games, there is a target that you have to hit with precision and the closer you hit the bullseye, the higher your score would be. Sin, my teacher said, is failing to hit that target. In other words, sin is missing the mark. It is falling short of whatever good you’re trying to do.
For instance, if we are in a relationship, sin is when we fail to take care of our loved ones as we should. It is when we say words that hurt instead of words that uplift our loved ones. It is when we fail to remain faithful to them. And it is when we become the source of their sorrows instead of being the reason for their joy.
Sin Is Something That Harms Us
When we talk about sin, we talk about something that truly harms us and other people. While we may not immediately see such negative effects, there will always be a destructive outcome for every sin.
One example is being addicted to drugs. While at first, no harm seems apparent and all that a person feels is a good mood from taking it, the long-term harm it does cannot be refuted. Eventually, that person’s world would crumble and one would feel the evil effect of the drugs not only in one’s body but in one’s life and relationships.
Another example is the sin of murder. It is something that takes the life of another person, something that definitely harms another. At the same time, it also harms the one committing the sin. How? By damaging the soul of the one who kills.
By taking someone’s life, a person burdens himself or herself with guilt. One fails to hit the mark of loving another person by doing what is good. Instead of willing what is good for the other person, one has willed for what is bad. Instead of love, there was hatred. And that hatred poisons and consumes the heart.
“The revelation of Fatima is a reminder that we live in a moral universe, that evil is self-defeating, that good is self-preserving; that the basic trouble of the world are not in politics or economics but in our hearts and our souls...” - Fulton Sheen
Sin Destroys Your Happiness and Peace
A heart that is filled with hatred can never find happiness or peace. That is the price one pays for sin.
I have read somewhere that the souls in hell can do nothing but hate. If they could only love for a single moment, they wouldn’t be in hell anymore. But the souls there chose to hate without end, and that had been their self-imposed punishment.
“There is no peace”, says the LORD, “for the wicked.” - Isaiah 48:22, WEB
When We Justify Sin
We can justify sin all we want, but that would never take away the consequences of our evil actions. In the end, we all suffer for the evil that we do.
Of course we can always seek excuses. We can explain that something isn’t that bad because of this or that. And while there are indeed factors that could lessen our guilt, there is always the temptation to lie to ourselves and to excuse ourselves in cases when we couldn’t be excused.
The more neglect and cover up our sins, the more we let our conscience die. And the more it dies, the more our soul dies also. When our soul dies, we die also to everything that is eternally good, beautiful and true.
God’s commandments aren’t given on a whim. They were given because God wanted us to know clearly what actions are sinful and harmful for us.
Sometimes, our conscience becomes weak and we could no longer discern what is sinful and what is not. That’s when God’s laws, as preserved and conveyed through the Church can help us. They can guide us before we take a step into something that would eventually do us harm.
The way we look at sin can make a significant impact upon our lives. This isn’t about a set of religious rituals and ordinances made just to impose burdensome obligations to its members. This is about the salvation and eternal good of our souls.
To sin is to miss the mark. And that mark is God Himself—His Love, Wisdom and Truth. Whenever we sin, we step backwards and we walk away from God, who alone is our greatest good and happiness. Let us pray so that we may not miss the mark of salvation in our lives. At the end of it all, our goal should be to reach heaven. To miss the mark is to fail to go where we can be happy without end.
Jocelyn Soriano is a Catholic writer, book reviewer and beta reader. You can download her free e-book "Defending My Catholic Faith" on Amazon - click here. You may also want to read her devotional book "366 Days of Compassion".