When we are in the grip of the really dangerous sins, we want to think that the other person is the one with the problem. When you lie, or lust, or steal, these things are of course bad, but you usually know that they are. But when you are bitter, or envious, or competitive, or angry, or prideful, it is perilously easy to think that the problem lies elsewhere.
When you are bitter, you think of the sin they committed that embittered you. When you are envious, you think of how they provoked you with that swagger. When you are competitive, all you can think about is how they dared to get out ahead of you. When you are angry, they started it. When you are prideful, those others are obviously not motivated the way they ought to be.
These are the really dangerous sins for us—for two reasons. One is already mentioned—they are sins that operate by distraction. In the midst of them, it is easy to think about the sins of the other. But the second reason is that these are the sins that take root in churches and religious communities.
At the prayer meeting, not many people ask for prayer so that they might taper off in their adulteries, or their thefts, or all the lies they are spreading around town. But these other sins are respectable—we have a delicate way of acknowledging them without really dealing with them. And one of the reasons we get away with touching on them lightly is that the main problem is clearly . . . the other guy’s. When we are evasive, we might even be credited with being very charitable, not wanting to drag the other fellow’s name through the mud.
But we need to keep in mind—because we are part of this community—that with this entire class of sins, it is important to learn how to confess as though we were the only one at fault in any way. And to learn to do so heartily and without reserve or qualification.