Personal sin seems to be a popular idea today. Take, for instance, the sin of homosexual acts. When discussing the sinfulness of homosexuality people want to just blow this uncomfortable issue off by saying something like, “Well, what people do in the privacy of their own bedrooms is their business. ”
It isn’t just homosexuality, either. Just about any topic will do. Masturbation is another popular topic to simply brush off. People are often uncomfortable with discussing masturbation-with good reason. This sory of disgusting act is usually done in private, and it generally involves only one individual. So masturbation would appear to be a private matter. In fact, while we’re at it, pornography is often viewed the same way. Such things are usually done in private, so they are private issues. These sins, it is reasoned, are between the individual(s) involved, and God. These sins do not affect other people.
Such reasoning is, in my opinion, very wrong. It is wrong because such reasoning forgets one important fact…man is primarily a social creature. Even people who tend to be loners are social at their core. Our beliefs, opionions, feelings, emotions, likes, dislikes, thoughts, actions, etc., no matter how private, inevitably affect how we interact with others.
I have written on this topic before on this blog, but I feel the need to address this issue again. The problem of the idea of “personal sin” does not seem to be getting any better. In fact, it is getting worse. Technology has made the world smaller. The communication explosion has resulted in far less privacy for the individual. So we tend to grab as much privacy whenever we can, and wherever we can.
The fact is, however, that there is no such thing as a purely personal or private sin. Even something as private as masturbation has a social element to it. One pleases himself in private, and this contributes to his degeneracy. Performing such a disgusting act poisons the mind. All of a sudden, not only is sexuality now primarily about pleasure, but it becomes an act of the individual. Masturbation removes the sexual act from its proper role (both for procreation and uniting a man and woman in an intimate way), and from its proper sphere (between a man and woman in marriage).
Because the conjugal act is such a basic, essential element of human existence and activity, distorting one’s view of the sex act inevitably has social consequences. It is ridiculous to expect that one can separate their feelings and beliefs about such an important part of human existence from the public realm. I’m not suggesting people blatantly advertise their sexuality, or their opinions regarding human sexuality. Yet, our opinions and actions on such an essential aspect of our existence will have at least a subtle effect on our private lives.
Further, our thoughts and actions on non-essential aspects of our lives will have sn effect on our public lives. This stems precisely from the fact that humans are naturally social creatures. We can not avoid allowing our private lives to affect our public lives.
I have never believed those people who claim that they can completely separate their home life from their work; and vice versa. The fact is, I have never known anyone who could do this. I have known plenty who have made the claim, but no one who could actually do it. If something serious happens at home, or at work, we will inevitably be effected by it. This will eventually result in our taking our home problems to work, or taking our work problems home.
One must keep in mind that our environment influences what we think, and how we feel. What we think and how we feel can effect how we relate and react to our environment. The human psyche does not allow us to always completely separate the two. Hence, there is no such thing as a personal sin. So let us be careful about our beliefs and actions in private. Eventually, they will effect our public lives.
Peace in Christ,
David J. Pollard
American Catholic Solidarity