This essay intends to help those who struggle with acting contrary to how they desire to by helping them focus and discern on that moment that propels us from bad thought to bad action.
Sin can simply be defined as deliberately acting through thought, word, or deed in a manner that is contrary to how God created us to act. When we deliberately act in a manner contrary to our created purpose we offend our Creator who endowed with natural abilities and powers to know, develop, and seek reason, truth, and right conscience.
Generally, in Catholic Christian theology we tend to frame our discussions about sin in three areas: (1) Humanity’s Original Sin; (2) The Three Sources of Temptation to Sin (the world, the flesh, and the Devil), and (3) The Seven Deadly Sins (pride/vainglory, avarice/greed, envy, wrath/anger, lust, gluttony, and sloth). In other words, we tend to only address the nature, the spark, and the outcome of sin but what we don’t often address is its facilitators.
What I mean by facilitators is simply our internal motivating ideology towards justification of action. The facilitators of sin are distinct from the conscience of the mind, but they are products of it. While the conscience deals with our awareness of what actions are morally right or wrong, the facilitators are those products of the conscience that work in conjunction with each other to propel us to deliberately act according to an illusion of right behavior.
I will create an image here to give some narration of the mechanics of how sin is facilitated. Imagine you are standing in front of an escalator; the material of which escalator was created would be its nature, the electricity that runs it would be its spark, and its end destination would be its outcome. Now you are staring at the escalator and trying to decide whether it’s good for you to step on it or not. You’re weighing all of your options and alternative means of travel (stairs or elevator). You’re measuring the advantages and disadvantages of this form of travel over the others. Now you have decided that you actually take the action to place your first foot on the moving step of the escalator. That energy that connects your final decision to you actually moving your foot is your facilitation.
Similarly, so it is with sin. That energy that actually propels us into a sinful deliberate thought, word, or deed that is offensive to God is the Three Facilitators of Sin, which are Pride, Advantage and Disordered Good. Depending upon how well the conscience is formed in union with the teaching of the Church, these Facilitators of Sin can be overwhelming and arduous to overcome. Even as Saint Paul wrote, “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand. For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Romans 7:19-23).
As may be the case, a Christian will often know exactly how they ought to act and want to act, irrespective of the force of temptation upon them, but pressing upon the members of their body will be this energy to act contrary to their creation. This energy presses and presses and will not relent until it is either overcome by the grace of God or it is satisfied. It is an uncompromising unchaste energy that demands more than we can ever give it. The names of these facilitators that work in conjunction to drive us against God are Pride, Advantage, and Disordered Good, which I will now elaborate upon further.
There are two aspects of Sin Facilitating and virtuous pride. In the first aspect, a disciple of Christ Jesus can absolutely be filled with pride, but it has to be a form of pride that is only happy to be doing what they were called or created to do. This virtuous expression of pride is grounded in serving God. Yet, running counter to it is another form of pride that works against serving God. All sin is facilitated by the idea that the life that I desire for myself is something greater than the life God created me to have. Without this ideology, sin is not possible. As with Eve in the garden, to deliberately act against God, we must have first arrived at the place where one believes that they know better for themselves than God knows for them.
A disciple of Christ Jesus can most certainly have a pride of respect for themselves and for others; and most especially for that which is Holy. This aspect of the virtuous expression of pride is grounded in giving God and His creation their due. Yet, running counter to it is another form of pride that works against giving God and His creation their due. All sin is facilitated by the idea my life is more valuable than the life of others; that more respect is due to my life than to the life of others. This expression of pride almost always results in wrath and murder.
All sin is grounded in the idea that by acting upon a temptation, I am getting an advantage over what I would have otherwise gotten. Sin is always covetous. Just as we saw with Eve desiring to disobey God so that she might be like God, sin always wants what it ought not to have. It is always seeking and importuning the next thing to get some sort of advantage over the next person. It’s always pressing to answer the questions, ‘How can I get over?’ and ‘How can I get one up?’ In this way, the Advantage Facilitator of Sin is gravely opposed to Christian patience and generosity.
In contrast, the only advantage that the disciple of Christ seeks is an advantage to offer greater service to God and neighbor, through prayers for more spiritual helps, fruits, gifts, and graces so that they might be enabled to be who they were created to be. The Christian seeks the advantage of becoming the least in the Kingdom of God. But, even with this, the Christian does not desire gifts and graces that are not for them. They only desire what God has for ordered them; not what He has ordered for someone else. Christian advantage is never covetous, impatient, or selfish.
Even though due the results of Humanity’s Original Sin, we are now inclined to sin, we are still the same creations of God who He found to be “very good” and made us in His image and likeness. Therefore, because we created by the Good and for the Good, we can’t help but to always desire good. The problem is that inasmuch as we can only desire to do good because we oftentimes fail to know true Good (God) we end up with a disordered understanding what is good and what is not good.
For example, a person can only rob a bank for subjectively good motives. What I mean by that is that bank robber will resolve in their mind all of the good things that can come from them robbing a bank; that is, all of the good things he can do with his new wealth. Again, the bank robber must justify his actions to be good, because he wouldn’t be able to act otherwise. We cannot go against our created nature to be good. It’s impossible for humans to not will the good before they act. We just can’t. From the prostitute to the pimp to the pedophile to greedy CEO, every one of our actions must be grounded in a subjectively reasoned good. The sooner the Christian understands that what he or she believes to be good, may not always be what God knows to be good, the more time they will begin to more carefully discern their actions and being to forget about how to behave contrary to God.
All sin is grounded in Disordered Good. We sin because we don’t always know or earnestly desire how to think, speak, and act only according to how our Creator desires us to think, speak, and act. Yet, because we can only desire the goodness of God, it forces us to do the right thing, but in completely the wrong way and even in the worst ways. You see this with homosexuals claiming ‘pride’ and a rainbow flag. God calls us to love one another, but not as a homosexual would intimately love a person of the same gender. God calls us to give away ourselves, but not as the prostitute does. God calls us to love children, but not as the pedophile does. God calls us to unity and solidarity, but not in the way Hitler sought it. All sin is facilitated by this same disordered understanding of what is good.
How Do We Respond to These Facilitators of Sin?
As I pointed out, each of these facilitators has a counter virtue, which must become natural to our discernment process. In regards to Pride and Advantage, we must learn to work only for the advantages of being the least servant of God by praying for those gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit to help us in our calling. Moreover, we must always align our life choices with whether they bring glory to God or not. This is our life, but to resist the Pride Facilitator we must avoid making this life all about us. Keep your life always all about God. The work of discerning what is good to God beings and ends with prayer, which is communication with God our Father. The new thing that Jesus Christ brought us was the ability to commune openly and freely with His Father. Take advantage of this open line of communication and seek the wisdom of God in all things.
How this concept has helped me the most is that I’ve become much more attentive during that moment when the Facilitators of Sin are most active; that moment when I am on the brink of sinning and I’m struggling not to. What I do now during that moment is pay attention to which Facilitator is trying to urge and push me to act contrary to my created purpose. Once I identify which one is active, I am more apt to fight a better fight. Essentially, I know my enemy and its name. This process of discernment has also helped me because now that I am more aware of what is going on inside of me, and I completely understand that if I accept the temptation, I will be deliberately offending God. This acknowledgment of the reality of that moment helps me fight even harder.
Lastly, these Facilitators of Sin are extremely powerful, especially if we feed them with deliberations to sin. Avoid delectation and deliberation of immorality so that these Facilitators will have less to work with you push you into acting contrary to your created purpose. Do as Paul wrote to the Church at Ephesus (4:8), “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”