Secrecy is the enemy of love. Secrecy drives us to lie, obscure facts, and not be true to ourselves. In fact, it’s one of the greatest tools of the Devil. I’ve been really encouraged lately with the outpouring of publications and discourse on the true nature of pornography in our culture. Pornography feeds on secrecy. It’s a private act that has very public effects. The fact that we’re able to start bringing it to the light is extremely encouraging. While my intention today isn’t to discuss pornography, I do want to tackle the issues that can easily lead to it.
As a man, I have an idea of the type of man that I want to be. I know what kind of husband that I want to be to Alison and I know the steps that I need to take in order to get there. Admittedly, I do a poor job reaching the standards that I set for myself. Sure, on paper it looks easy, but when baby Benedict is insisting that we hold him at 1:30 in the morning, too many times I’ve let Alison take the lead on that one.
A major barrier to me becoming the husband that I want to be is integration. Our culture pushes us into living segmented lives. We’re one person at work, a different person at home, and still another when out with our friends. You can really tell just how segmented you are when you notice how differently you respond to situations in each of these environments. It’s not healthily and it’s really quite tiring. We need to be the integrated men that Atticus Finch models to his children in “To Kill A Mockingbird."
Sin is terribly destructive. There’s no private sin. There is no victimless sin. That’s because sin attacks who we are and our capacity for love. Sin makes us self-centered. So, when I sin, I hurt Alison because I’ve allowed evil to take a little more hold in my life.
Pope Benedict, in his fantastic 2nd Volume of “Jesus of Nazareth,” discusses sin as allowing evil to have power over us. He more specifically lays out this principle in discussing the betrayal of Judas. Bishop Paul Loverade, the Bishop of Arlington, VA, in his pastoral letter “Bought with a Price” talks about how each moral decision either brings us closer to integrity or closer to moral corruption.
Sin is like a chain. On the far right, the first link, is the venial sin. The more you sin, the more severe the sins become. You reach the last link when you commit a mortal sin. Flirting with a coworker might be the first link in the chain: wrong, but venial. As time goes on, and the flirting leads to more, without direct intervention, the chain ends in marital infidelity.
The thing about a chain though, is that it can be broken at any time. We know sin escalates. We know that we should avoid sin. But how?
Stop a mortal sin before it starts.
Sounds simple enough, yet practicing Catholics commit mortal sins every day.
In order to become the men we want to be, we’ve got to break the chain at the first possible point. The way we can do that is by cleaning up our lives. The movies we watch, the music we listen to, the books we read, and the conversations we partake in all have a direct effect on us. Again, as Bishop Loverade says, each choice is getting us closer to Heaven or closer to Hell.
By taking a look at the man we want to be (St. Joseph would be a great example), we can figure out what changes need to be made. It’s going to be hard, believe me. When I did this exercise, I determined that I should stop watching "Family Guy.” There are some parts of “Family Guy” that really disgust me, but by and large, I find the satire to be hilarious. Yet, I know that it’s pushing me in the opposite direction that I want to be going. When I want to watch the show, I ask this simple question, “Would I rather be the husband to Alison that she deserves or watch ‘Family Guy'?”
If you’ve fallen into mortal sin, remember the words of Jesus: “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Mk 2:14)