I was walking down the path at the park and noticed two squirrels having sex just next to the path. It dawned on me that I couldn’t figure out why that’s not appropriate for humans?
I’m NOT AT ALL advocating that people do this in public, but I noticed that I didn’t judge the squirrels. I didn’t think it was “disgusting” for these two animals to be screwing right next to the walking path in the park. (They did run away when I got too close, but I assume it was self-preservation rather than shame that prompted this response.) So what is going on that makes us feel like we shouldn’t see people screwing on the sidewalk or the park bench?
- Lust. This is probably the most common reason, and it’s tied to many different character flaws. But when you think about it, it is YOUR weakness that is causing the sin, not the action of our imaginary amorous couple. It’s that you can’t resist thinking about taking the place of one of the people in the act to enjoy the other- simply for your own sexual pleasure. It’s not motivated by love, or a desire to give the other person pleasure, or to create a safe family together for a child to be raised in. It’s purely a desire to get gratified yourself right now, without regard for helping anyone else-even your partner- have a better life now or in the future. It’s simple temporary pleasure, and therefore foolishness. Go for the bigger pleasures- they are expensive (and paradoxically free) because they require you don’t spend every bit of cash you have on cheap trinkets like lust.
You want to stop the couple because YOU can’t control your lust, and want others to stop tempting you since you don’t have simple self-control.
- Envy. This is also pretty obvious and tied to lust and greed in many ways. You may be envious that this other couple has a relationship- whether you see it as sexual, romantic, or simply free of shame and fear. You’re envious that you don’t have someone that attractive, confident, or adventurous enough to have sex on a public bench. Maybe you have all the thoughts and confidence, but you don’t do it because you’re ashamed of your body and feel unattractive- so you’re envious that they are beautiful or confident enough to pull it off. Perhaps you imagine that this display speaks to a kind of love that is so bold and complete that it cannot be shamed into the dark, and you’re envious that this couple has that kind of love you so desire. Or perhaps your marriage has those components but not the freedom to be so public about your love and you envy the freedom they have to shout so boldly of their togetherness.
You want to stop the couple because seeing what they have just makes you realize that you don’t have it. It reminds you that you’re not satisfied.
- Greed. Greed is so closely tied to envy for me that I find them difficult to separate. The way I’ve come to understand it is that greed is wanting the things that others have, and envy is wanting the emotional feelings that others have. So in this case, it’s pretty obvious that you want that sexual lack you can’t really control to be tamed. You want that body, that relationship. This is different than wanting the relationship for envious reasons. There, you’re wanting the peace and contentment inside that another has. When greed is in play, you want the relationship because you desire to possess the other person like an object. You want the trinket on your shelf or the mansion on the cliff… the amount of desire relates to how much worth you give to the other. But you’re still thinking that joy and contentment comes from something outside of yourself, so you try to get more so that you’ll feel more.
You want to stop the couple because it reminds you that you are in want and discontented. It reminds you that you don’t have peace.
- Laziness. This is harder to see, but definitely in the mix. Perhaps you can look back at relationships you were in but were so selfish and demanding, trying to get the other to meet your needs or dissatisfied with what they offered, but you realize that you were not accepting everything they gave. When they attempted to give to you their best offerings of their different perspective- you resent being asked to even do the work of considering their view. You don’t want to change, and you resent that their lives required some work you simply didn’t want to do. I feel certain I have done this in relationships- I assume every teenage relationship is marked by this. You don’t want to grow into a responsible adult, so you wish to be coddled by your relationship rather than grow in it.
You want the couple to stop because it reminds you that you never gave enough of yourself to another person to be able to enter this kind of free, confident, unashamed love. It reminds you that you’ve never loved so freely and completely.
- Gluttony. Lower in the list there seems to be less connections to specific angles of sin, but my desire here is to point out that it is sin itself, not the action that we are judging that is the problem. It’s OUR sin, not theirs. As for gluttony, perhaps some might have an amazing love life at home, and all the joy and peace that comes with a solid relationship and material comforts. You don’t desire the relationship like envy, or the trophy like greed, you just want more than you need. You have all that you want and you’re still looking around for more, even though if you were to take the time and be present- you would see you have all you need. You already have the peace you want, you just don’t feel it because you’re focused on the “more” rather than the “thing.” You don’t want the extra relationship, you don’t need the feelings- you already have them at home… You just want more.
You want so much more than you need and it never fills you, but you’re already full and still want more. It reminds you that you’re not satisfied because you’re unable to be pleased and content.
- Wrath. Here we start ramping back up into the darker areas of the heart, you may resent our young couple because you are full of wrath. Wrath is always complex because it assumes already that you are in the right, and in that assumption you are probably falling prey to one of the other sins on our list… but you’re so far beyond that now that you have to make your first stop at wrath before you can move forward to fix the core problem. You feel wronged, and that you have the authority and power to seek justice and penance from the other. They must conform to you, and will under force if you have your way. The force can be physical, political, social, emotional, or any other weapon we wield; but we do feel we have the right to enforce our stance. This is so closely tied to pride it’s sometimes hard to separate, but this is there.
You want the couple to stop because you desire the power to stop and control other people to make you feel stronger and safer. It reminds you that your anger is a cage, and you feel better when others are caged as well.
- Pride. This is the last sin, and is also the sin of our couple if they are aware that their behavior might cause others to get tripped up on (admittedly) the observer’s own weaknesses. It could be that our couple is so proud and arrogant that they feel nobody has the right to ask them to hide their intimacy (I’ve seen this in the hallways countless times as a High School teacher). It could also be that you think you’re so sexy and attractive that nobody could possibly look on and see anything other than the dazzling human specimen you are performing at the peak of human experience. This could also be the sin of a judgmental passerby who looks on and says like all the hoity-toity refined and cultured people that say it’s inappropriate. This may be the saddest of all the sins, because you don’t get any joy from it… you just try to make others seem more miserable than you already feel.
You want the couple to stop (or you are the couple showing off your goods) so that you can feel better than the other side. You feel so worthless you actively look for people to look down on to make yourself feel superior.
I can’t adequately explain why all of this ran through my head in the park- though I know the impetus. I am just wondering if the church will ever start to act like Jesus and do what he did: Love, forgive, serve, and sacrifice yourself for people that are “worse” than you are.
That, in the end, is exactly what Jesus is all about.