Do you ever awaken in the middle of the night and feel guilty about something – either something you have done, or something you have neglected to do, or maybe nothing at all, just an overweening guilt covering all categories of your lifetime?
There are sins of commission that are guilt inducing, like speeding through a school zone without seatbelts on and even though you didn’t get caught you were still kind of giving the finger to the universe; or undressing with another and the other person does the same with hanky-panky in mind even though neither of you are free to do that stuff. The latter one is bigger than the school zone one, in case you were wondering. Anyway, those are sins of commission and they are big, big guilt inducers.
Sins of omission are basically ones of, for example, feeling guilty about not having sent a thank-you note for a gift from your aunt Helga she has now been dead for five years; or not having filed your income tax for those same five years. They will want to talk to you about that sin of omission. “Oh, gee. I meant to, Really I did. Just didn’t get around to it. Or, letting 10 or 20 parking tickets pile up in your glove box. Be forewarned, the bastards will get you for that sin of omission.
But, as I said, it’s the sins of commission that can send you up the river or to the divorce court. And yes, like Jimmy Swaggart, I too have sinned – praise Jaysus, but ah have sinned! And, while I sinned, I didn’t commit crimes, nothing indictable other than in the court of domesticity. Sometimes I think prison might have been preferable to that bit of humble-pie eating. But, time moves on, and if we’re lucky, we merely get to fully appreciate our transgressions – over and over again. Oh, and to set matters straight, I am talking about the ‘past’ here. I am a slow-learn at times and concede to weaknesses of the flesh – but trust me, I do learn – ultimately about sins of commission and guilt.
Yet, even when my slate is clean, I can awaken and feel guilty – about something. Force-of-habit? Porn surfing? No, that couldn’t be me. I never do that. But, I will awaken with that kind of sick feeling in the gut. Maybe it’s just God saying, “If you are thinking about doing something bad, remember, you are under surveillance at all times. Perhaps that is. Or perhaps just force of habit as in ‘feeling guilty’ is my default mood.
Whatever the case, I think dear old Ogden Nash said it best many years ago:
|Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man
It is common knowledge to every schoolboy and even every Bachelor of Arts, That all sin is divided into two parts. One kind of sin is called a sin of commission, and that is very important, And it is what you are doing when you are doing something you ortant, And the other kind of sin is just the opposite and is called a sin of omission and is equally bad in the eyes of all right-thinking people, from Billy Sunday to Buddha, And it consists of not having done something you shuddha. I might as well give you my opinion of these two kinds of sin as long as, in a way, against each other we are pitting them, And that is, don't bother your head about the sins of commission because however sinful, they must at least be fun or else you wouldn't be committing them. It is the sin of omission, the second kind of sin, That lays eggs under your skin. The way you really get painfully bitten Is by the insurance you haven't taken out and the checks you haven't added up the stubs of and the appointments you haven't kept and the bills you haven't paid and the letters you haven't written. Also, about sins of omission there is one particularly painful lack of beauty, Namely, it isn't as though it had been a riotous red-letter day or night every time you neglected to do your duty; You didn't get a wicked forbidden thrill Every time you let a policy lapse or forget to pay a bill; You didn't slap the lads in the tavern on the back and loudly cry Whee, Let's all fail to write just one more letter before we go home, and this round of unwritten letters is on me. No, you never get any fun Out of things you haven't done, But they are the things that I do not like to be amid, Because the suitable things you didn't do give you a lot more trouble than the unsuitable things you did. The moral is that it is probably better not to sin at all, but if some kind of sin you must be pursuing, Well, remember to do it by doing rather than by not doing.