I am not my sin. It’s a simple statement, but we often forget it; when in the midst of lust, anger, or any other inflamed passion, not just our body, but our thoughts and soul, all try to gravitate to the carnal. We imagine things or distort reality all into a paradigm that we on a moment to moment basis may not even recognize. Lust, perhaps, is the easiest example; a man may completely be against the sexual objectification of women that has become so prevalent, but when the blood runs strong and he caves to his temptations – and I don’t necessarily mean fornication – the very things that usually sicken him become delightful and all encompassing. Greed is another obvious example that can come in more subtle forms than we think; one’s vocation can sometimes replace Christ as the center of our life, and not necessarily in the aspect of making money. Our job can become the locus of our identification, how we present ourselves to others, and especially to ourselves.
What can help us when we stumble and need to repent (the Greek word metanoia meaning to ‘change one’s path’ or ‘one’s mind’) is to remember that we are not our own sin. Even after losing a battle to the throes of anger, anger does not define us. Yes, it is a passion that we struggle with, and if unchecked it can seriously dehumanize us, but is not the content of who we are. Though fallen man has an inclination to sin, sin is not inherent in his nature. Don’t worry, there’s an anime connection.
In the midst of the ‘desires unleashed’ arc of Kokoro Connect, there is a scene where the main characters all show up at Yui’s house to confront her about her continuous absence from school. Yui explains that it was her reaction to having her desires released uncontrollably, beating up a group of men that were being too aggressive when hitting on some schoolgirls, and that her self-imposed isolation was a protective measure to prevent any more episodes of violence. One of her friends, Inaban, not only castigates her for this, reminding her the danger that she’s putting the others in, but is merciless in her criticism, ignoring Yui’s fragile and scared state, even saying that she’d provide no comfort if Yui broke down, essentially hinting that she thought her utterly pathetic.
Inaban, of course, was in the midst of having her own desires released, hence her escalating voice and unwarranted harshness in tone. She realizes this an apologizes to Yui immediately, having returned to a far more soft and melancholic level. Yui, through her sobs, replies, “but that’s how you really feel.” Inaban leaves, thoroughly disgusted with herself.
This scene bothered me the first time I watched it because it reflects a mentality that has become common in societies today: we are our emotions and opinions. “How I feel is how I feel, and that’s it.” “If it feels right, then it must be right.” “I have a right to my opinion.” Yes, these are common mantras, but nevertheless the vox populi reveals something about the people themselves. We have a notion that what is most sacred to us are our feelings and opinions, and that if these are criticized, then it is a criticism on our very substance, our being as a person.
Of course other societies, even those that were or are not Christian, would shake their heads at such a statement. The ancient Greeks believed in cultivation of virtue, and that a man who simply threw himself into every desire that came his way was no better than an animal, and that the true anthropos was the one who could control himself, who would not be swayed by each internal movement inside the soul. This idea continued throughout Christianity, albeit in a Christianized form, and can be found in almost any ascetical writing. The monks of the desert went not to punish their bodies to fulfill some kind of sadomasochism, but learned to truly bring it under control, to focus more on Christ and the Kingdom than this present world where all is passing away. Hence the canons that bring strict penalties on those who would actually castrate themselves to be eunuchs for the kingdom.
Inaban need not be defined by an outburst where submerged feelings, ones she may not even entirely agree with, are uncontrollably brought to the surface. Yes, those feelings are there at some level, deep within the soul, and yes, she currently doesn’t have full control over their expression. But normally she has a choice, she has her own will, and she can choose whether to obey them or to struggle, to fight against them and bring them under control. As Neo put it, “the problem is choice.”
And thus we find ourselves back in the Garden.
1 – http://www.emptyblue.it/post/2012/07/15/Kokoro-Connect-Nagase-Iori-idea-does-make-sense.aspx