Learning to Heal From Past Sins

If you’re like me, perhaps you’ve come to the conclusion that you’re a sinner. You’ve examined your conscience. You confessed your sins. You’ve asked to be forgiven.

But, those sins just seem to be hanging around and they appear to affect you, your family and your life.

You and I might say, “What’s the deal? I thought God was forgiving. Jesus paid the price for my sins. Why does it feel like I’m still being punished?”

Some bad news before the Good News

First, if you’re reading this because you want to find out how those “sinners” have to deal with their lives, I’ve got a news flash: This is for you because you’re a sinner. Just like me and everyone else you know. Even saints, popes, priests and those among us who seem to be the most virtuous are ugly sinners.

If you’ve been trying to ignore this reality or realize you make a few “mistakes”, but your conscience doesn’t seem to be waking you up… well, you’ve got a big problem. You’re not in touch with your conscience. Or it has been so warped by the dung you’ve fed it all these years. Now your conscience isn’t able to discern right and wrong for you.

The second piece of bad news relates to what you might say about my assertion that there is right and wrong. But, who’s to judge? Each of us has our own moral compass and “I’m good with where I am”. Yes, maybe there are some things that I don’t agree with from my Church, but that’s OK. God and I are really cool.

As Catholics, we know that God and His truth don’t adapt to the progressive culture. Truth is eternal.

God has woken me up to some of this over the last few years and I’ve joined many of you in realizing that I’m the sinner I didn’t want to admit. I’m no saint and I didn’t necessarily get here because I wanted to. God slapped me pretty hard to wake me up. Now I realize a whole host of sins I thought I’d swept under the carpet or done under darkness so no one else knew about them. And, of course, some of the stuff I was doing was just “me being me” and woe to those around me who had to deal with that selfish man.

Now I’m trying to clean up my act. Admit the sins. Confess them to God in prayer and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Eliminate as many as I can. Repent. Keep a watchful eye and examine my conscience. Understand what the Church teaches and why.

And, the last piece of bad news that I’ve had to confront? My sins still seem to be haunting me and my life.

It just doesn’t seem fair sometimes. Gosh Jesus, can’t you make all this go away? After all, I’ve become a much better guy and I told you about my sins. Can’t we just “move on” with a better, happier life and put these sins behind me?

If God is so merciful, why isn’t He taking care of me now?

Let’s just say that you and I have done some things that maybe we shouldn’t have done. Some stuff you wouldn’t want your Mom or anybody else to know about. You might even want to call some of these things “sins”.

Perhaps you went someplace you shouldn’t, watched something you shouldn’t, drank too much, took drugs, screamed at your spouse/children, or were with a person you shouldn’t have been with.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve done a lot of these things, hundreds of times. And, most of those hundreds of times, I didn’t see an immediate consequence. I’ve done some things that were pretty irresponsible and I could have hurt myself or others. God could have made me pay the piper right then. He’s let me “off the hook” so many times.

Or has He?

There’s a price for all of this sin. We’re paying it all the time

We like to think we’ve gotten away with something or it just evaporates and it doesn’t. I’m a financial guy by training and I’ve come to think of every one of these sins like a transaction. For every purchase, there’s a sale. For every debit of sin, there’s a credit of consequence.

We don’t sin in a vacuum and the sins don’t evaporate when the priest gives us absolution in the Confessional. We often forget or hope we won’t have to deal with those nasty consequences.

Let’s take one very real example of a man who watches just one clip of pornography on a web site. He realizes it’s wrong right away, feels bad, confesses it to God in his prayers and goes to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The priest, standing in for God, forgives the sin.

Some possible consequences that don’t mysteriously go away:

  • Guilt for his relationship with his wife since he betrayed her. He may think of her sexually or emotionally in a different way.
  • Guilt for his children because he’s a hypocrite and has told them not to do this.
  • Disordered view of other women or men he meets daily because he’s got this image in his head.
  • Temptation to do it again.
  • The effects on the people who made the movie. Maybe there was a woman who gets a disease from the partner in the movie. Or she does drugs to forget what she did. Or she gets pregnant and aborts a baby. Or has a baby when she’s taking drugs. Or has a baby and has so much guilt about her past that she’s not a good mom or wife.

It’s like a whole economy of sin and evil that reverberates over all the world and through all of time.

Another example perhaps even closer to home… A dad loses his temper at a family meal because of something his wife and kids said or did. He screams at his wife, criticizes her cooking, berates some of the children, stalks out of the house and comes back hours later. He realizes he’s wrong. Sheepishly he asks his wife’s forgiveness and confesses the sin a few months later to a priest. Some possible consequences:

  • The wife forgives, but can’t forget how humiliated she felt.
  • She hates how it made her children feel.
  • The children think their dad is horrible for how he treated their mom.
  • Some of the kids felt under attack and wonder if there is something wrong with them.
  • The kids have their concept of a loving father smashed. They even question God since He’s supposed to be Our Father, too.
  • One of the sons does the same thing to his family 20 years later.
  • The father can’t forgive himself and thinks he’s not a good dad anymore.

You see every sin has a consequence, a side effect, another side to the transaction, a hurt that just keeps hurting…

Truthfully, the worst consequence is what it does to the soul. These sins just pile up on the soul. It gets dirtier and dirtier. We get separated from God by our sins and that affects us deeply in our hearts. We wonder why we just don’t feel right or the joy that should be there isn’t. And, it’s because we’ve damaged the most important relationship with our God.

Since we’re meant to long for God and be with Him we have this illness, depression, desolation and unrest deep in our souls. Then that affects how we go about our daily business. We aren’t as loving or patient as we should be. We say and do things we wish we hadn’t. We sin against others, ourselves and God. And, we feel even worse.

We want it all to go away and it just can’t. We have to live with the fruit we bear, some hopefully good. And, some bad.

Another revelation. Let’s say somehow you clean up everything you’ve done and do your best to make it all right by repenting, apologizing, eliminating sin and receiving forgiveness from God and others. Even if you do all of that, life probably won’t be just the way you want it.

Because we live with other humans on this earth. And, we’re all sinners. So, they will sin against you, your family and your community. That might bring pain and suffering you “don’t deserve”. You will get the credit for their debit, whether you like it or not.

Did Jesus pay the price for your sins? You bet He did. It is why we have the opportunity to be with Him eternally in Heaven. That’s the only free gift we get. The sins on this earth have to be paid here or when our souls are cleansed in Purgatory. At times we pay for other’s sins and sometimes we make others pay for ours.

For me, this realization is playing out in my life right now. I’ve flooded this economy of evil with too many of my sins to count.

I just pray that God gives me the chance to buy some of them back in this life.

What can we do about consequences of our own sins? First you need to own up to them and not be upset with God because of how they naturally play out. Obviously we want to confess the sins and maybe ask the priest what you can do to soften them. Possibly, you need to acknowledge a sin to someone or apologize. Maybe there are reparations such as money to be paid back or a broken heart you can start to heal with humble and consoling love.

Finally, let’s pray for each other that we will sin less and work hard to lessen the effect of our sins on others.

image: Frog Dares / Shutterstock.com

John S. Cohoat

By

John is a Midwesterner, born and raised in the great Hoosier State of Indiana. He jokes that he has a “checkered past” in that he didn’t choose the path that many thought he might when he left Notre Dame and rose quickly through the ranks at a large public accounting firm. He’s been the Chief Financial Officer at a medical laboratory and CEO of a small hospital. John has owned an ice cream company, operated restaurants, worked for large Catholic Health Care organizations, did real estate business development, wrote a book and owned a bed & breakfast. The last several years John led a membership and consulting strategy organization for small business owners.  For over a dozen years, John has mastered the art of copywriting for several small business clients and Catholic organizations. His true passion now is personal spiritual development including copywriting/fundraising for Catholic organizations and spiritual writing. You can find out more about John and his work at www.cohoatbusinessgrowth.com including samples of his writing.

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  • Jacqueline Vick

    How fortuitous. I was just thinking about my sins and how the consequences are a debt I owe God. Thank you for your words. They brought me clarity.

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