There is only Good and Evil

In our secular society, people like to say there is no white or black, just shades of gray. While this makes sense when talking about complex issues, for which there is no solution that solves every problem, it definitely does not make sense when it comes to morality. There is no gray to God. Every single word, thought, or action is either good or evil. Liberal people like to think every action is gray, so they don’t have to worry about right and wrong. What’s wrong for one person, is right for someone else. This is just not true.

We Catholics have a sense of how good or evil a particular word, thought or action is. For evil actions, we have the doctrine on venial and mortal sin, which gives a clear dividing line between small sins and serious sins (CCC 1854-1855). Even without that doctrine we can get an understanding of a sin’s weight based on the damage it does to the victim. For good actions, how much sacrifice the person has to go through to do the good action gives us a rough idea of how good the action was. A polite thank you doesn’t involve much sacrifice, but a person donating one of their kidneys for a loved one to live is a pretty big sacrifice.

Because of our faith, we can kind of tell roughly how good or evil any word, thought, or action is. From there we can see that there is no gray. Every action is clearly good or evil (CCC 1470, 1732). Some actions might be only a small good, others might only be a small evil, but they are still one or the other. There is no gray. Knowing this means that even some things that seem irrelevant to morality, like watching TV, are either good or evil. If done to excess, watching TV would be evil. If done in moderation, it would be good. Watching TV may only be a very minor good or evil, but it is still one or the other in every instance.

Another thing many secular people believe in is “the end justifies the means”. I already wrote about this in another post, but this false belief states that an evil action is okay if it has a good end (CCC 1753). We Catholics are against this because we can never do evil ever, but secular people consider the overall effect of the action to be gray. They see the evil (black) combine with the good (white) to become gray. The truth is it is only gray when both the means and the end are combined. There was only one action done here though, and that action was evil. No matter what the end was, it was evil, a sin, to do that. The morality of an action must be judged individually. The consequences help determine how good or how evil the action is, but consequences can’t change the morality of the original action (CCC 1755-1756).

It is important for Catholics to analyze their sins and those of others for good and evil. A lot of times people will try to justify their actions by believing in the idea that a word, thought, or action could be gray. It makes them feel better about their sin. Instead, we should be honest with ourselves and others about our failings and admit them. As Bible said, sin should be exposed to the light (Eph 5:11-14). Rather than trying to cover it up with excuses, we should admit the sin and that we are not perfect (humility, CCC 2631). We are still trying to do better. It is much easier to correct ourselves if we are honest about what we need to work on. It’s like those 12 step programs. The first step is always admitting the existence of a problem. No correction can happen until this first step is completed.

This is a good lesson in general for doing well in life. When there is a problem, tackle it as early as possible. Don’t let it linger and fester. Like an infected wound, it will just continue to get worse. We’ve all read stories about a person’s lie getting them deeper and deeper in trouble. This is even more important for sin because sin always leads to more sin. The more the soul gets sin caked on it, the easier it is for the person to commit more sins. Before they know it they can be so covered in dirt, it’s a ton of work to clean up.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared

Being Humble in Our Achievements

It always annoys me when I hear some rich person or amazing athlete bragging about all their success. The reality is that much of their success depends on God. We commonly say “thank you” to people when they help us, but it’s not really the helping we are thanking. We are actually thanking them for making the choice to help us. After all, the action is dependent on the person’s body that God provided them (CCC 41). He picked all the unique genes that gave the person their talents and skills (CCC 814, 913). The person can’t take credit for their talents, only for the good choice they made to help (CCC 311).

When we look at our lives, we should always separate the action from the choice. Only then can we get a good idea of how much credit we deserve. Our whole lives we are constantly cooperating with God to use the body he gave us for good (CCC 323). God gave us the talents; we make the choice. We should never claim that we deserve all the credit for everything we’ve done. And this isn’t even considering other people that may have influenced us.

We may have had friends or family that gave us good advice or motivation. Those people influenced our decisions, so we can’t even take full credit for our decisions. I would guess that in most cases, we can only claim around 25% of the credit for our achievements in life. We owe the majority of what we do to others. Unfortunately, when thinking about achievements, it’s very easy to focus too much on the present. We see all our success and think, “Look at all I did!”. We forget about all the people that helped us along the way. Even worse, we forget that God gave us the capability to do all these things because of the body he gave us.

When thinking about all the progress we’ve made in life, I think it is good practice to force ourselves to acknowledge the others in our lives every step of the way. A huge part of the Catholic faith is focusing on others instead of ourselves. This is called sacrifice, which is part of charity, and charity is another name for love (CCC 2100, CCC 1822). We know that God is love, so we have to embody love too. Avoid having pride in your achievements (CCC 2481, 1 Jn 2:15-16). Always focus on how you were helped by others. Whenever you think about all you’ve done, don’t just think of the main bullet points. Think about all the people that were around you during those moments. When someone gives you credit for an action, be polite and thank them, but make sure to mention the others that helped you.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared