In light of this, we need to ask ourselves, “Is this how we normally act? Is this the order that we see in the decisions being made by ourselves and those around us?” Usually, the answer is no. What then actually happens? Unfortunately, we experience the opposite.
What normally happens is that we first experience an emotion. For example, another driver on the highway cuts us off and we immediately experience the emotion of anger. Then, we make a choice (an act of the will) governed by the experienced emotion. Concerning the example of the man who cuts us off on the highway, in anger we yell profanity out the window at the driver.
Third, after we have calmed down – after the anger has subsided, we then utilize our intellect to rationalize our behavior. For example, we say something like, “That guy deserved it because he was a jerk,” or “Someone needed to let that guy know that he was a bad driver.”
As you can see, sin reverses the proper order of human decision-making: (1) emotion, (2) will, and (3) intellect. This is a common inversion method that leads us into sin. The word “sin” in Greek is amartia. It means, “to miss the mark.” The human person is designed by God to “hit the mark.” In order to hit the mark, we need to reclaim the proper human decision-making process. We need to utilize our intellect, will, and emotions in their proper order. When utilized correctly, they function like a bow and arrow and allow us to achieve great things. Sin only causes us to shoot aimlessly and keeps us from achieving great things.
This is why the Catholic Church highly emphasizes living a life of virtue. The virtuous man is the well-ordered man. He is someone who controls his emotions rather than allowing his emotions to control him. He knows how to make good choices, choices that “hit the mark.” A society thrives when it is filled with individuals who have the capacity to live a life of virtue.
Unfortunately, our world today does not encourage the well-ordered person, but rather rewards those who act emotionally. In this way, our modern culture encourages sinful behavior. As Catholics, we are called by God to reclaim a culture of virtue. We should reward virtuous behavior not sinful behavior. We should learn about the various virtues and how to grow in them. We should take advantage of every opportunity to develop self-mastery.
We also need to live a life of grace. God gives Himself to us in an incredible way through the Sacraments. Sacramental grace heals us from the brokenness of sin and reorients our life back toward a relationship with Jesus Christ. In Christ we find the strength to live our humanity as God has designed it. Through the grace of Jesus Christ we have the capacity to properly
Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a serious sin and asked yourself, “How did I get here?” Sin seems to creep up on us out of nowhere. Unfortunately, the truth is that we don’t magically find ourselves in sin. Sin comes from somewhere, and if we want to avoid it, we have to know where it comes from.
The key to understanding sin is to understand how it distorts human nature. Once we understand what sin has done to the human person, we can then begin to understand how to combat it.
Sin reverses God’s design for the acting person. What does that mean? Well, God designed the human person to be different than all the other animals. Man is created in freedom and has the capacity to make moral choices. God has designed the human person in such a way that he can utilize and properly order a variety of faculties toward making choices. Sin distorts the decision-making process and leaves man confused and broken.
The various faculties that man uses to make a choice are his intellect, his will, and his emotions. First, man is called to utilize his intellect to evaluate the question or issue at hand. He intellectually evaluates daily life situations and examines the various possible responses he could make, the consequences of such responses, and the desired outcome. After he has evaluated his potential responses, he is then called to choose the appropriate response – the best decision. Once his mind has decided on the appropriate course of action, he then must make the choice to put that decision into action. In other words, he makes an act of the will. He makes his desired choice a lived reality. He then utilizes the appropriate emotion to accompany his choice. In other words, he properly orders his emotions and passions toward the choice that will help bring about the desired end. In this way, there is a logical progression (or order) to human decision-making: (1) intellect, (2) will, and (3) emotions.BACK TO LIST