I've been trying to figure out sin lately; specifically, how guilty I should allow myself to feel over the sins I commit. I've been wondering what the proper attitude is toward my sin. I don't want to treat the acts I do in opposition to the will of God lightly, at the same time I don't want to wallow in self-absorption, disregarding that Christ has freed me from the bondage of sin.
There have been several times over the last year or so that I have wanted to go to confession multiple times in a row, but I've had a niggling feeling that I shouldn't. That if I go, I'll be wasting the priest's time by confessing just one or two major sins of the week, or that it's proof I'm too hung up on guilt. Moreover, it's embarrassing to show up two weekends in a row! Or even worse, to call and make an appointment for confession -I've not worked up the nerve to do this yet. I've found that after I go to confession, during the following week I will commit a sin serious enough to make me want to go running back to the confessional the next weekend, but I hang back because I just went. I don't want to admit to myself or anyone that I might need to go to confession every week. Now that I'm a person who is required to go to confession, it's Really, Really Annoying to not be able to grow up spiritually as I desire and stop sinning. Popping into the confessional and saying "guilty!" is no fun.
Sorrow over my sin, at least regular sorrow, feels like a new element in my life, but I don't know exactly what to do with it. Forgive yourself! Move on! seems to be a popular attitude, but the problem is that I sin again, and am back to where I started almost instantly. There are so many virtues I'd love to have, and have constantly, but they always seem to be slipping through my fingers whenever I manage to get a hold of one for an instant. Unfortunately, as a human I am destined to forever sin, and thus it also seems a realistic expectation to constantly be in a state of anguish over my sinfulness. I'm not sure I'm okay with this.
I've been trying to read more about the saints lately, and some of their acts of penance are quite disturbing; many inflicted much hardship on their bodies. My husband mentioned the other day that St. Birgitta of Sweden was known to have dropped hot wax from candles onto herself so that she always bore scars on her body. I cringed and said "why would someone do something like that? It seems so pointless!" He responded that Peter Kreeft says we shouldn't be appalled at the sorrow of saints over their sin, but rather we should be appalled at how lightly we take God's forgiveness (wish I had a citation for this). And I'm still a bit disturbed, but that statement shed a lot of light for me. If I don't disdain my sin, the very acts that separate me from God, then how can I claim to love him with all my heart? I may have confidence that the eternal consequence of my sin, hell, has been lifted from me, but I still have to suffer the immediate consequence; a damaged relationship with God. More and more, I do not want a damaged relationship with God.
So I guess it's okay to mourn the losses in my relationship with God by 'wallowing' a bit in anguish over my sin, because really, what I want most in life, or what I aspire to want most in life, is fellowship with God. If the saints felt the need to self-impose suffering on themselves with the same idea, okay then. I think I'm starting to understand--separation from God is a sorrowful thing. And really, I shouldn't be ashamed to admit this by being a regular at confession. Or by doing the dreaded deed, calling and making an appointment. Not fun, but appropriate.