US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Embrace your sinfulness

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Think you're a good person? You might want to think again and say a few Hail Mary's.

A Northwestern University study, “Sinning Saints and Saintly Sinners: The Paradox of Moral Self-Regulation,” explains that people who think they're good, moral people in one part of their lives often slip in another part of their lives. Meanwhile, people who know they are sinful try to make up for it with acts of generosity.

Former New York governor, Eliot Spitzer, this news release explains, went from taking down Wall Street crooks to hiring prostitutes.

I've always been curious of why so many Catholic prayers--the Hail Mary, the Jesus prayer--involve calling ourselves "sinners." It's one thing to say, "forgive us our trespasses," which is more focused on the act of sinning, but it's another to say, "forgive me, a sinner," which is really a comment on who I am as a person. It seems to run counter to the self-esteem-boosting mental health education I've grown up with.

It seems the Catholic Church has understood all along what these researchers just learned: Saints are saints because they know that they are sinners.

The challenge, I suppose, is to have healthy levels of self-esteem and humility. How do you develop both at the same time?