A Word on Wednesday: Sin

Sin, from Hebrew, to miss the mark. As a verb, sin is an action. It results from succumbing to temptation or enticement. Sometimes, though, it occurs with lack of intention.


Sin is to commit a transgression of divine law, to offend against a principle or standard. As a noun, it is thought to be willful or deliberate violation of moral principle.

How does one recover from sin? On her knees? In a confessional booth? With vows to not repeat?

I first learned of sin at a conscious level in the fifth grade while preparing for receiving the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation. I spent month’s preparing by drumming up memories of all sin and wrong doing I had committed. I was reminding of missing church, telling little white lies, coveting my neighbor — I wanted Carrie’s frosted jeans, not honoring my parents, and using the Lord’s name in vain — how many times had I said “Oh my God?” Of course, I hadn’t stolen or murdered or broken any marriage vows.

So, my limited understanding was that I was to write down my sins. Later years, I would sit in a confessional booth, but this first sacrament was different, special. We folded up our letters, placed them in a fire at the front of church in front of Mary, the Father, God, our teachers, our families, and everyone. Then, I was forgiven. I was given a penance, which I forgot — Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s I imagine. I vowed to never sin again silently, frightened.

At a Presbyterian sermon, I relearned the word sin with a Hebrew meaning of missing the mark. This sounds of an act worth forgiving. An event one can recover from rather than be stained by.

Sin, from Old English synn is a “moral wrongdoing, injury, mischief, enmity, feud, guilt, crime, offense against God, or misdeed.” This sounds more damaging. Almost, unforgivable static way of life, sinful.

I choose to believe sinning is a temporary stray from a life of hitting the mark. One needs to find acknowledgment of the falling short and accept responsibility for the damage the sinning has caused. From there, one can tell oneself they just missed the mark and it’s okay to draw back and aim again at a just and right path.

Sin doesn’t magically get erased from a magician in the sky, like my 10-year-old self believed. Sin happens, deliberately and not. I chose to correct the course, adjust the coordinates, and carry on.

*Note: I do not believe my elementary understanding of the Catholic sacrament is complete and I do not intend this post to poke fun or insult the faith traditions of the Catholic Church. I acknowledge the ritual has a place and in fact it was a sacrament I received many times before converting to a protestant faith at age 29. 



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