Dangerous Delight of Sin: The Pears
The dangerous delight of sin. Why do I sin? Even when we decide to sin, it can be the case that I know it is a bad idea even as I sin. These chapters from Saint Augustine provide a reflection on a sin of his youth, namely the stealing of pears.
The question for Augustine is one of trying to figure out why it was that he stole pears that were not tasty and that he did not want. He admits he had much better pears at home. He had tastier pears at home. He even recognizes that were he alone he would not have stolen the pears. And each of these considerations make sense to me.
Why do I sin?
So why did Augustine participate in the stealing of the pears? Because he was not supposed to be stealing pears, and he desired to be doing something with his friends. As an adolescent he recognizes that it can be the case that we do things wrong because they are wrong.
For Augustine this becomes an opportunity to think about why it is we do anything. When we sin, it is because we find ourselves desiring something quite inferior. What is clear is that we can have two types of desire. We can desire the good, which God tells us is good, or we can desire the bad, which we seem some benefit in despite the harm it causes us.
This is true for Augustine even in the most brutal of cases. There is some pleasure or good that we perceive. We have some desire for what we do. Yet, it is the case that our desire can be misplaced. For many of us, it can be the case because we experience regret after a wrong action, which was true eventually for Augustine.
And, of course, it is true for us. We can be easily misguided in desiring something that is bad for us. Our desire is faulty. How often is it the case that something that is not terrible good becomes something we desire.
The People We Spend Time With Matter
Be careful how you choose your friends. I heard this from my parents when I was a kid. Because what my parents knew from experience was that I could be influenced by those around me. And such is the case for Augustine. He made the decision to steal the pears under the influence of his friends.
I think the fact others can influence us for good or bad was the reason that Jesus chose a community of apostles. The collective faith of the apostles became the way in which each of them was made stronger in their faith. Conversely when Judas collaborated with those religious leaders opposed to Jesus he was made worse.
The same is true for each one of us. We are called to gather for Mass each Sunday because we can pray for each other, we can support each other. By seeing the good examples of others in our parish, we can realize that we too can have good desires and pray for one another.
Thoughts to Ponder
In what ways have you thought about why you are tempted to sin?
What is the impact of other people on your actions?
How is it that you can inspire others to respond to God’s grace?