The reasonableness of sin: Why what I do isn’t so bad

Ever notice how our sins are a reasonable response to our situation? We attack/defend with hurtful words because someone offended and slandered us. We overeat because we are lonely. We punish our kids because they make us crazy. We give the cold shoulder because someone didn’t keep their promise. We cheat on our taxes because the government wastes our money.

In my counseling office, I frequently hear the context given behind someone’s destructive behavior, especially in couple or family conflicts. The set up goes like this: “Can you believe just how evil this person/organization is? This is what they did. I know I shouldn’t have done ______ but I just couldn’t take it anymore. I just had to say something.” (read: I had to drop the bomb that would allow me to be vindicated, get the upper hand, point out how their sins are far worse than my own).

Its Adam and Eve all over again. “It was the woman…” Its Saul all over again. “Well, I destroyed most of the booty and I only brought these back for a sacrifice to God.” We find our sin reasonable to us. And so our “repentance” to others and to God sounds like, “Yes, but…”

Why do we want to be vindicated? Why are we so willing to engage in black/white thinking about other people’s bad behavior and yet we want our own behavior excused due to circumstances? Funny, we never get what we want, but we keep trying all the same.

Its the actor-observer error (or called by some as the fundamental attribution error) whereby we explain other’s bad behavior as a result of their bad character (Its because you’re a jerk!) and our own bad behavior as a result of our situation (its not really me. Its your fault!)

Lord have mercy.

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Filed under Cognitive biases, self-deception, sin

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