Unless You are an Adulterer, You are Not an Adulterer

I have a bunch of blogs in my RSS reader left over from the Nashville is Talking days and slowly, obviously very slowly, I’ve been weeding out the ones I don’t care to read any more. Normally, these are sports blogs.

But yesterday, I read a post by a woman in which she was talking about being an adulterer and I read the whole thing only to realize it was, basically, a rehash of the family fight we’d had on Sunday. My mom is like this–not an adulterer, though she might claim she was or was as bad as one. But this idea that, because their god sees all sin as the same–a sin is a sin–finding yourself briefly lusting after, say, Beyonce is the sin of adultery, same as cheating on your wife with her best friend, even though one is something you enjoy the idea of briefly and then get back to your day and the other one can tear your family apart.

But my mom has these weird moments, too, where you’ll be talking to her about some asshole you both know, who has just been arrested for beating his wife, say, and my mom will say “Well, I shouldn’t talk, I have my bad qualities, too.” Really, Mom? You have some bad qualities heretofore completely hidden of equal evilness to beating your spouse?

You know what I mean? It sounds delusional. This woman whose blog I stopped reading has not hurt her husband even in the same neighborhood of bad by lusting in her heart as she would by wrapping herself around another man’s penis after promising her husband she would be true to him. Not only are those not even in the same ballpark, they’re hardly the same game, like the difference between playing catch with a toddler and being the catcher in a major league baseball game.

My mom isn’t a spouse-abuser.

Now, let me be clear–I get this at some level from a spiritual perspective. And, in my heart, I don’t care if you think all have sinned and fallen short in the privacy of your own home. Or hell, in public.

But it seems to me sometimes to be borrowing trouble, to believe of yourself that you are as bad and hurt people as bad as people who are actually hurting people, and it seems to me that it starts to fuck with a person morally. After all, if you commit adultery against your husband by having lustful thoughts about Bob Dole and your husband laughs and you pray about it and he forgives you, if you truly believe that is adultery and those are as bad as the consequences are? Does it make you reckless about pushing it a little further?

I don’t know.

The main thing about it is that it scares the shit out of me for my mom, which is why I can’t bear the daily exposure to someone else also thinking along those lines. I worry sick that my mom does not say “Oh, this person is a bad person who I should stay away from.” Too many times I’ve seen her set aside her own discomfort, because who is she to judge, since she, too, is a sinner?

I wish there were some way of saying to her “Can’t you believe that all sins are equally bad AND believe that all behavior is not equally bad?”

8 thoughts on “Unless You are an Adulterer, You are Not an Adulterer

  1. My flip response to this is that the flip response I made to your bridges post now qualifies me as unfaithful.

    In a more serious vein, though, I think there’s a level of thought/behavior that’s in between briefly thinking “oooh, that person not my spouse is attractive, I sure wouldn’t kick him/her out of bed!” and actually physically committing adultery. (Or between the passing thought and the action of committing a whole lot of sins, in fact.) The in-between level is the one where you think about that other person (or about robbing the bank, or whatever), a whole lot, maybe daydream some plans for how to make it happen, connect this mythical plan with things you’re doing in real life (“oh, this is the outfit I’d wear,” “oh, this is the route I’d take to get away,” “oh, here’s where I’d buy the gun”), and generally let the idea dominate too much of your experience.

    And, maybe, if the sin you’re not quite committing is one that violates your responsibilities to another person, you start to feel that dwelling on the idea so much is actually taking your attention away from the person who ought to have it. Which is the truly bad result of actually committing the sin, so you feel as if you really did commit it.

    Obviously, there’s a continuum involved. And I doubt that your mother, for instance, travels all that far along it. But I sort of see where she’s coming from — it’s kind of like people who haven’t touched a drop of alcohol for years, and go to AA meetings every day, but still identify themselves as alcoholics.

  2. Maybe the next time it comes up I’ll ask my mom if she’d just like to start swinging.

    But, yeah, nm, I think you’re right that there’s got to be a continuum and I’m sure my mom sees herself on it.

    But like I said, I keep watching her leave herself unhappily open to others’ bad behavior because she’s a sinner, too, and it frightens me for her.

    Ironically, aside from himself, this is one of the things my dad is very protective of my mom about.

  3. So, everyone’s a sinner and needs to be treated with respect and forgiveness, except her, because she’s a sinner and not worthy of the respect that would allow her to protect herself? Ouch.

  4. Hmm, I’m going to have to think on whether respect and forgiveness exactly come into play or if it’s more a matter of not getting too big for your britches by thinking that you’re better than someone else.

  5. Isn’t that kind of the point of having rules (religiously based or otherwise) against behavior in the first place? To insert something between the thinking about it and the doing it?

  6. If the thinking is as bad as the doing, then everyone is equally bad all the time. This can possibly work to your advantage if you are in one of two general categories:

    1) the bureaucracy that is in charge of maintaining and policing morality
    2) persons who are beyond the practical authority of that bureaucracy and can use the thinking=doing equation to justify all the awful shit they want to do

  7. It really helps to not be religious anymore and therefore not worried about sin, because esp. when you’re a Christian, the one thing you *can’t* do w/out guilt is say “I am a better person than that asshole over there.” Because we’re all sinners! Pride is also a sin! Oh no, the devil is in your brain!

    But now that I’m not religious, I can say, “I acknowledge that that person over there may have had horrible things that influenced them to become an asshole, BUT, they are still an asshole, and I, as far as I can tell, am not.”

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