So, a few months ago now, I was riding on the metro on the way back from one of my tutoring jobs, when I found that I was having terrible withdrawal symptoms. No, I haven't become a drug, alcohol, or caffeine addict since I moved here. My withdrawals were from a lack of water. I was so dehydrated. My head was throbbing. I felt weak. I felt irritable. I really could barely stand it.
As I was unable to hydrate until I alighted from the train, I tried to occupy my mind with other things. I was really only partially successful as mind pretty much stayed on the subject of water, dehydration, and addictions. A discussion was brought to mind that I had had with a friend a number of years ago. We were discussing and attempting to define what constitues an addiction, but we ran into a little trouble when it came to distinguishing between addictions and actual bodily needs. I don't really remember how that conversation ended up, but the connection between addictions and bodily needs, or rather the withdrawal from both, remains.
While I was sitting on the train, contemplating on my misery, it occurred to me that I was much like an addict going through withdrawals. The thought made me chuckle to myself, when an analogy plopped into my brain. Ready, here goes:
Christ is the Living Water. Without Him, we cannot have life. Satan seeks to replace the Christ in our hearts and our lives. One of his favorite methods for doing this is by causing us to become addicted. Through our fallen nature, we are addicted to sin. As with all addictions, sin feels necessary (I realize, by the way, that this is sort of a false distinction [between sin and addiction], but no analogy is perfect). Sometimes, sin feels as necessary as breathing. We feel that we don't have a choice because for us to deny ourselves this thing that sin promises seems wrong.
But let's look at an addiction more closely to see what's going on there. For convenience, I will be examining an addiction to alcohol. Alcohol, in spite of the beliefs of some, is not an evil things by itself. It is the same with any sin. If sinned looked as ugly and evil as it really is, no one would choose it. You've probably all heard that before, but it bears repeating.
Some philosophers argue that humans are not capable of choosing something they they believe is truly evil. I happen to agree with this thought. Let me be clear, people choose things that are evil, cruel, selfish, wrong, etc. but that, in my opinion, is only because they in some way perceive that as good. Perhaps they even know that it's not the greatest good, but they perceive as good or a means to some good in some way and have decided that "good" is sufficient to support the decisions that they make.
Sin is merely the distortion and/or the disorder of something good. Lust, gluttony, pride, sloth, envy, wrath, they all masquerade themselves quite convincingly as good things.
So, what's the point? The point is, due to the fallenness and frailty of our human nature, even knowing that these promised "goods" are a lie, we are not capable on our own of resisting that temptation. We are like full blown addicts. Our freedom to decide has been annihilated by that addiction. In order to regain that freedom, we require outside help. We require an intervention and then constant support from those who love us, mainly God, friends (both on Earth and in Heaven), and family. We are not capable of doing it on our own.
Many people say that Christianity takes away our freedoms and they point strongly to the "thou shalt nots". But it is no more a loss to be abstinent then it is a loss of freedom to abstain from killing or stealing. It is no more a loss of freedom to avoid letting righteous anger turn to wrath, then it is to follow traffic laws, or to obey your parents.
Once when I was out with some acquaintances to see a movie and grab some food after, I was given a great deal of greif because I wasn't drinking a lot. (I would like to be clear here, I was drinking, I just wasn't drinking enough to feel it.) The girls I was with gave me the argument that I couldn't really loosen up or have fun if I didn't get wasted. I held my ground in as laid back a manner as I could, trying to put them at ease.
Because of the circumstances, I was unable to explain to them that I liked being sober enough to have a clear choice in how I behaved and that I didn't need alcohol to enjoy myself. If a certain behavior doesn't sit right with me when I'm sober, then that will only worsen when I'm sober again and look back at how I did that very thing that I didn't want to do. I am not a disciplined person. It takes all of my effort to not let my passions, emotions, and desire for physical comfort completely dictate my actions. Knowing myself as I do, taking some of that effort away is not remotely an appealing idea to me.
To me, needing to remove your mind, your ability to reason from the equation, that is not freedom. I like to choose my path. Freedom is a choice that comes from letting yourself be set free from a prison that is inside of your head. Sin is not freedom because, as with any other addiction, our ability to decide, to choose is impaired.
So then, are we doomed? I mean, if we are addicted to sin and we, in our fallenness, have no choice but to choose it, then how can we prevail?
Fr. Jean C. J. d'Elbée wrote in one of my absolutely favorite spiritual works, I Believe in Love, that "we apply to the Heart of Jesus the measure of our own...hearts" that we "grow tired of pardoning" and this is why we have trouble contemplate a merciful God who would pull us through all of this even when we offend again and again. Fr. Jean continues by quoting St. Therese who says, "justice itself, perhaps even more than anything else, appears to me clothed in love. What a sweet joy to think that God is just, that is to say, that He takes out weakness into account, that He knows perfectly the frailty of our nature! Of what, therefore, should I be afraid?"
The Church supports this idea completely. Did you know that in order for a sin to be considered a Mortal, that is deadly, sin, you must have full consent. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders." (CCC 1860)
Anyway, it's nearly one in the morning here, I am quite sick (again), and there is teaching to be done in the morning, so I will end with this thought:
It is only when we recognize and accepts our frailty, then surrender it to God, that we begin to become truly free.