I just finish watching the movie ‘The Switch’. It’s about a man and a woman who are friends, and are very honest with one another. She decides she can’t wait to find the right guy and is going to be artificially inseminated. He objects, both because he knows that it’s just not the right way to go and because deep down inside he loves her. Long story short (too late!), he switches his semen for the donors while in a very drunk state and doesn’t remember that he did it. Flash forward 7 years and he’s reunited with his friend and the child that is his son and he pieces it back together because the boy is so like him. There’s a key scene where he tells the son that he is proud of him and it really got to me.
Part of it was that longing that every boy has for his father to be proud of him. Having a relationship that is strained by differences in faith makes that hard. Part of it was wanting to make sure my boys knew how proud I am of them. I’m a pretty demanding father, so I worry that I don’t tell them enough how proud I am.
And it got me to thinking, why do we crave that approval?
I think it’s because we desire to overcome our weaknesses and our failures, and our father’s approval helps us to know that at least on some level, we have. But we have another Father who is always ready to forgive us. Our Father in heaven, one that I’ve been having a hard time lately admitting to that I’ve sinned.
I know I’m a sinful man and I know I fail. But sometimes it’s hard to walk into that confessional and admit it. I don’t want Him to be ashamed. I want Him to be proud. I think it’s particularly important to me because as a person who’s very vocal about my faith, the charge of being a hypocrite is something I want to avoid. And as stupid as it is, if I can bury my sins instead of asking forgiveness for them, somehow I convince myself into thinking I can avoid the charge of hypocrite.
And this is the devil’s greatest bait and switch. It is the trap he hopes we will all fall for. He tries to get us to make a choice between two false options. Society is quickly buying into the denial of sin option. There is no such thing as sin. It can be ignored. It can be, to use my earlier word, buried. But when we do that, we give up our right to proclaim truth and the devil has won. Which reveals the other choice, we can be hypocrites. Since we all inevitably fail, we can proclaim truth and fall short of that truth and thus be hypocrites.
It’s no surprise that the charge leveled at the disgraced Christian who’s sins have been revealed is that of hypocrite. Society can’t charge them with sin, because we deny the concept of sin. But it is wrong for the disgraced because they’ve preached against it. They are the hypocrite and they can be disgraced and thus ignored.
These are the two choices the devil gives: deny sin or be a hypocrite. But there is a third option, one the devil will never admit to. It is the one that Christ came to this earth to give us all: To be forgiven.
This is why we long to hear our Father say that He’s proud of us. It’s why we want to tell our children that we are proud of them. It’s not based on some cosmic desire to deny that we’ve failed or to deny the weakness and failings of our children. It’s because we believe deep in our hearts in the power of forgiveness. We know it is possible despite our failings for our Father to be proud of us. To be forgiven.
God in Heaven, I’m a sinful man. Forgive me my sins. Help me to find the nearest confessional to to receive your forgiveness in the healing Sacrament of Reconciliation. It has been far too long. I repent of all that I have done and ask your forgiveness. I promise to strive to sin no more and to be your servant here on earth.