Martin Luther once said that we should sin boldly and honestly. The good theologian is not asking us to sin with tassels and streamers so that the whole town will come to know about it. Sin is not to be celebrated but confronted. He is pleading for transparency after the act. He is asking us to be honest about it - to come clean. And in coming clean, we are to bear the full consequences of it.
While some of us sin due to a moment's folly - as a result of personal weakness - all of us are given a choice after the act. And Martin Luther is appealing to us to confront it bravely, with moral courage and remorse. Let me illustrate this with the tale of two lapses.
Both of them are my clients some years back. One of them admitted to me that he had slept with his subordinate and she was many years his junior. Till today, I can clearly remember his words to me, "Don't tell my wife." I asked him if she were to approach me one day and ask me about it out of suspicion, what should I tell her? With a deadpan look, he replied, "Lie to her. Or say I don't know." That was it. That was how he dealt with sin. He wanted to have the cake and eat it or the bed and sleep on it (both beds). Although the last time I checked, he had already broken off with his mistress, his wife knew nothing about it. She was blissfully unaware. To her, he is still his faithful husband.
My second client fell the same way my first client fell. But it was a one-off affair. It claimed he was led astray because he was neglected by his wife. He said his wife had been so busy with the kids that she had no time for him. And he felt so lonely and unwanted until someone gave him the attention he longed after. It was the hook (of attraction) that hid the bait (of marital indiscretion) and he bit into it. He took the bait. Hook, line and sinker. And it was down south from there.
Unlike my first client, who kept his infidelity from his wife, my second client told his wife. He had to let her know out of a sense of obligation. But this was the twist. He also blamed her. Whenever they argued, and she raised the issue, he kept reminding her that she had a part to play for his unfaithfulness. He blamed her for not giving him the attention he wanted.
From that day onwards, he did nothing to save the marriage. He didn't want to admit that he was fully responsible for his actions. His passivity soon estranged their relationship and it degenerated into a point of emotional divorce.
That’s the two tales I wanted to share and here comes some personal narrative to flesh them out.
I read Martin Luther's admonishment to sin boldly and honestly with much reflection about my own life, my marriage, and my role as a father. This reflection led me to this: I find in me a greater sin than the sin of failing as a person, as a husband or as a father in a moment’s lapse of judgment or a sudden want of personal control (like in my two clients' case). I find that the greater sin is the sin of being invulnerable (or of keeping up with unyielding appearances). While all sins aim to break me, and to reform me if I come before the throne of mercy with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, the sin of invulnerability is sadly unbreakable. It is immune to remorse, self-reproach. It sees repentance as a sign of weakness. It feeds on the pride of the flesh.
And while the kindness of God leads us to salvation, the unkindness of one's heart (hardened by the egotism of invulnerability) leads one to rebellion. Where there is no open, full and unconditional acceptance of our fallibility, I believe there is no enduring repentance of our humanity.
With that, I return to my two clients and their follies. One of them covered it up and the other rationalized it away. One hid the truth and the other denied it completely. While we are all fallible at so many levels, nothing makes us even more irrevocably so than to feed a heart of invulnerability, that is, a heart that refuses to accept the wrong we have committed against another.
For our fallibility is not beyond redemption unless of course we see no need for redemption in the first place. Indeed, to sin boldly and honestly is no easy feat. We struggle with it most notoriously. It is in fact the longest journey we will ever take from our head to our heart. And it takes nothing less than a mature spirit to accept full responsibility for what we have done with courage, honesty and integrity. Nothing less will do. Cheerz.