An anonymous coward called "foesoftheignorant" scolded me for one of my posts from over a year ago, in which I pointed out that certain types of poor choices we make can have lasting, life-changing negative consequences. For example, we might have sexual intercourse with someone we've just met in a bar. We might then contract a sexually-transmitted disease. If it's HIV, it could mean a death sentence. Or, ignoring the advice of our friends, we might choose to drive after consuming alcohol, and cause an accident that kills or maims us and others. One careless moment can lead to a lifetime of profound regret.
What would be a constructive thing to do in this situation? A person of integrity might use their own sad experiences to warn others about the perils of making poor life choices. When I was a child, our grade school brought former drug addicts to speak to the class about the living hell they'd gone through. I resolved then and there to not become a substance abuser.
We often engage in rationalizing that our sins affect only ourselves, but this, like so many other lies we tell ourselves and others, is ultimately the result of a prideful, selfish delusion. Sin affects people around us as well, including our family and friends. Sin is corrosive, and it weakens our ability to discern and do what is good. Sin leads us away from God.
Tonight I listened to the deeply moving testimony of a former heroin user and alcoholic who was several times given up for dead. It's a miracle that his marriage has lasted thirty years! It was only his faith in God's love and mercy that brought him back from the dark night of the soul into which he had descended. He accepted the consequences of his actions, repented of his sins, and asked for forgiveness.
We may not have undergone such dramatic, harrowing life experiences, but we should still think about those occasions when we've ignored the "still, small voice" within that is calling us to do what's right, instead of what just "feels good" at the moment. Indeed, our spiritual immaturity can lead us to do some incredibly foolish things. To guard against this, we should examine our conscience frequently — and as soon as possible, avail ourselves of sacramental reconciliation.
The truth can certainly set us free, but first we must face it honestly.