Distinguishing Rationalization from the Right

Distinguishing Rationalization from the Right

It’s incredible to me the number of times I’ll be talking to a friend and they’ll admit to doing something wrong and then spend the next ten minutes expounding upon why it was ultimately a good thing that they chose the wrong action instead of pursuing righteousness. Friends who are guilty of sexual immorality, cheating, lying, and other sins will admit these sins to me and then talk about why they felt like committing these sins was necessary for the given situation. When they do this I rarely, if ever, correct them and stand up for righteousness sake, I usually just sympathetically smile or make a funny face that says, “geesh, what else could you have possibly done?”

What’s even more incredible to me, however, is how I rationalize my own sins on a regular basis without even giving it a second thought. This makes it very difficult to do an honest examination of conscience. Whenever I think about my sin, my next thought is usually about how it was justified in the circumstance. Do I really think that Jesus didn’t know of our human condition when He talked about what’s right and what’s wrong?  What kind of extreme pride and arrogance allows me to think that my given situation is better/ different than those presented in the Gospels? How do I ever expect to grow as a person if I’m constantly making excuses?

You see a mantra in the fitness world all the time: excuses don’t burn calories. Well, excuses also don’t improve our souls. They don’t improve our relationship with God. Succumbing to a mentality of rationalizing our actions with a sinful culture when we know the Gospel says the opposite won’t achieve any good in this world, or the next. In this day and age it can be surprisingly tough to recognize right from wrong, which is why we need the Gospels, the Catechism and the Magisterium to inform our consciences. We also need an almost extreme spirit of humility to acknowledge when we’ve done wrong.

Humility, I think, might be our biggest issue. We’re so egocentric and most of us are so used to excusing our own bad behavior, that humility is surprisingly hard. No one likes to admit that they’re wrong. Breaking habits that have been around for decades is hard and constant vigilance is required.

If we’re going to make any progress whatsoever as Christians, we have to not only stop rationalizing our own sins, but we have to stop accepting it when our friends do it. I’m not talking about smacking said friend across the face when she rationalizes her sins, but maybe offering a gentle, “…or you could have just gone in the other room and not had sex with him.” Maybe the next time someone begins rationalizing, we can do the best to speak the Truth in love and to reject the constant spiral into darkness. It’s a delicate subject and one that must be approached with all humility and love, but it must happen if anyone is to know us as Christians (most importantly, Christ himself).

Our world needs love, to be sure, but I think what we need more is righteousness and honesty about what love is.

1 Comment

  1. Yes, all true. Further, we rarely hear how our action/inactions are in themselves sinful.
    The “9 Ways of Being an Accessory to Another’s Sin” is taken from the 1962 Roman Missal under the heading of “The Most Necessary Prayers.” The list is commonly used as part of the Catholic’s examination of conscience before receiving the Eucharist. The list is simple, but a necessary guidepost for those striving after the Christ-centered life of virtue.

    Accessory to Another’s Sin

    I. By counsel
    II. By command
    III. By consent
    IV. By provocation
    V. By praise or flattery
    VI. By concealment
    VII. By partaking
    VIII. By silence
    IX. By defense of the ill done