A great struggle in the single life is the lack of permanence. When casually dating, playing the field, or even when you’re in a serious relationship, there’s a tentative bond that can be severed at any time, for any reason. This is extremely healthy because it would be ill-advised to enter into a permanent relationship without really knowing a person. Yet, this wavering state of affairs can also cause much angst as two people continue to move in different directions while trying to maintain a relationship. Therein lies the beauty of marriage; namely permanence.
I’ve shared in the past the great aspects of permanence. It’s a baseline and, no matter how big or small Alison and I’s disagreements may be, we always end up safely at permanence. Like a golden parachute, it brings us back to the reality that our marital relationship is so much bigger than any one fight; that together we’re doing something amazing and we're sharing that with our children. In our minds, we’ve eliminated the possibility of breaking up, and so in every quarrel, we’re brought back to the table. This is a great lesson that can be applied to our lives.
I believe that most of our sins are a result of inaction as opposed to being ingrained. We commit the same sin over and over again because we haven’t applied enough force or focus to stop doing it. When you’ve committed the same sin repeatedly, you know your triggers and warning signs.
Gossip always feels the same and you always get that feeling of, well, excitement as you’re about to dazzle the group with some really juicy information. If you gossip often enough, you can see the chain of events. You learn new information, you want to share, your stomach tightens as you wait your turn in a conversation, and you feel that sense of excitement as you spill the beans. In that sequence alone, there are four stages, four links in the chain. At any point, you could’ve jumped off the train, but you didn’t. If instead you had been focused and committed, you could have recognized the progression from the first stage, learning the new information, and the second stage, a desire to share, and ended the whole process, simply keeping everything to yourself.
Real change, mercy combined with conversion, happens when you eliminate the possibility of a particular sin from your life. You make yourself aware of when you’re in danger of falling into gossip and you break the chain. You stop putting yourself in social situations where you’re tempted to share. You stand up for those who are being talked about, you empathize with their situation, or you offer support and encouragement.
We have the ability to make better choices if we take the principle of permanence and apply it to our spiritual lives. By accepting that there is a baseline and eliminating the possibility of committing a particular sin, we can move beyond our own pettiness and experience a richer, happier life.