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Wednesday, May 04, 2005 

Omit This!

I'm going to come right out and say it. Writing about "Sins of Omission" this week was all my idea and I don't think anyone else is really going to want to write about it... but since they let me make the chart... they got it. ( And for the record, I think Sarah Marinara is just trying to be ironic by not posting.)

Why would I want to talk about "Sins of Omission," which are quite possibly the most daunting sins of all? Because I don't think they're fair.

In the final episode of Seinfeld, the cast was found guilty of NOT helping someone in need in a court of law.

I could have been found guilty of this yesterday. I was approached by a woman who told me that she was "stuck" and needed money for a motel. I told her I had no cash on me and apologized.

But I've been reading How to be Good by Nick Hornby, and I couldn't help but think of what I COULD have done. It would have been simple to drive her to a cheap hotel and pay the $35 for the night. I could start carrying the cards of agencies who help those in similar situations... shelters, soup kitchens, etc... but I don't. I could have gone to the ATM, given her $20, and asked if she needed more.

The point is that I didn't. I did nothing at all. I had alternatives available to me, that were inconvenient, expensive, possibly dangerous, ...but they would have helped her. So... why didn't I overcome my issues and just help this person?

The same reasons why most "Sins of Omission" are committed: Fear. Selfishness. Greed. Unrighteous Judgment. But also out of self preservation. Is "Self Preservation" a sin when it results in you becoming those who passed by before the Good Samaritan came along?

Maybe. But where's the line?

At what point do you go from being "charitable" and "caring" to "crazy" and "destitute"? It's a slippery slope, this "charity" thing. When is it enough?

I like the example of helping the homeless because it's something that anyone in an urban area sees daily. And if you see it, you have guilt over it. Most of us have nothing more to offer than spare change to the average homeless person.

But this is just one example of a "Sin of Omission." There are actual checklists out there set up to make you feel like you haven't done enough... there are even hymns about it. Where does it end?

It doesn't end. There is literally no end to the number of "sins of omission" you could commit each and every day. If your eternal salvation is dependent on what sins you have and have not committed/repented of... well... I guess you had better start praying now.

Maybe that's the real reason why you're supposed to always have a prayer in your heart.

Neal Maxwell said (I think quoting Anne Lindberg) (and I won't get it exact): "My hands cannot fill the needs of all those to whom my heart responds." I think your point about having a prayer in your heart is a good one.

I love that your thought about sins of omission are ones of giving and kindness, rather than the "to-do" list of things like canning. That is good prioritizing. In my opinion.

Charity is always a tough one. When I used to live in Portland, OR, I would frequently walk to work through downtown, so I came into contact with a lot of people asking for handouts. Usually non-homeless high school ages kids were just trying to bum cigarettes off me, which I always found rather odd since I was never smoking.

But, occasionally I got hit up for money. I always said "No". Why? Because there are lots of services in place for homeless people in Portland, and I had no idea what that person was going to do with the money.

But, I felt like I was being a callous jerk by constantly denying people, who might be in need. So, I decided to ask the people what they wanted it for, and if it was legitimate, I offered to buy it for them.

So thats what I did, and only once did anyone take me up on it. Most of them refused my offer to buy them whatever it was they were asking for money for, they wanted the money. The one time the offer was accepted, it was a group of 4 runaway kids. I bought them McDogfood for breakfast and then stodd there and talked to them for awhile, asking them why they were on the street, and pretty much lecturing them on why they should get off the street. I figured it was a fair trade, they had to eat crap and listen to it too.

Anyway, I don't run into people in need anymore, so I assuage my lingering guilt via the Christian Children's Fund. Innexpensive, amazingly productive, with great feedback. No worries there on whether the money is going to good use or not. Its impossible to feed the world, but I do what I can.

Does this get me off the hook for all sins of omission? No, but maybe some.

Well - helping homeless is such a sensitive topic. Perhaps that should be one of its very own. Many stories do I have about it but I will save them for another day. The important thing about sins of omission would be this: if you omit something it's because of personality flaw. Oh no, you're not perfect. So get over it and do better next time around. If you're always focused on the things you miss, you'll never have the time to focus on the things you can hit. Just my 2 cents on that.

I noticed you posted the fact that Sarah hasn't posted a response. Sarah hasn't posted lately because of her time is spent at school, work, therapy, fiancee, wedding planning, gym, recovering her items lost from her recently stolen purse, writing, doctor appointments, food, travel, and many other things that she has in her priorities at this time - I suppose it's prideful of me to say that I'm glad that she is spending so much time with me, but I honestly am thankful for every moment that we share. I am sure - I realize the world doesn't spin around our upcoming marriage and would love to see her comment and post here if time permits. Then again, everyone can put a pretext here and there, but I suppose it all comes down to priorities.

Dustin... did you just rank us at the bottom?

Rebecca... I'm pretty sure he just did. At least he put the gym (also known as Kaycee's time to hang out with Sarah) a little higher.

Sarah can take the teasing (I hope).

The problem with "Sins of Omission" is they ARE all about what you miss. Is it really a personality flaw to do everything you can to all of the time?

I just have to believe that that kind of perfection is unattainable, and therefore, perfection doesn't exist, and therefore "Sins of Omission" are not really sins because doing everything just isn't possible. You can't be sinning if it's impossible for you to do otherwise, right?

No I didn't intend to leave you at the bottom of the rankings - I am still learning some of Sarah's priorities, and can't exactly place them in order because priorities change as time goes by and I'm not Sarah so I can't say what her priorities are. I was just rambling at how Sarah is busy and doesn't have the time that she wants to get everything done. I guess you can't make a mountain out of a handful of dirt, just as you can't make an hour out of a minute.

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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