“Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.” James 4:17
Those of you who pray the daily scripture will recognize the above verse from the first reading today. It is a clear description of “sin of omission,” something I believe occurs more frequently than sins of action.
When talking about health (mind, body, and spirit), which we are required to care for, a sin of omission comes in the form of not pursuing treatment when that problem affects one’s ability to maintain healthy relationships with family, children, coworkers, and others; or the ability to work, care for others, and enjoy the good gifts of God. An example is when one doesn’t have that worrisome lump checked out or when stress is too overwhelming to deal with alone. You commit a sin of omission when you are having panic attacks, incapacitating bouts of anxiety or OCD, or are feeling helpless and hopeless about life. We all have looked up the symptoms of depression. Ignorance is not a good excuse these days.
I am often told that help has been sought but it didn’t work or was insufficient. While sometimes bad insurance or not finding the right provider is a valid problem, most of the time it is a lame excuse to cover for fear or arrogance. Seeking professional help and often insurance is like shopping. Being persistent whether in the form of changing providers, insurance, or methods (ex. spiritual direction to psychological help) oftentimes wins the prize.
Finally, consider this. “Sins give rise to social situations and institutions that are contrary to the divine goodness. “Structures of sin” are the expression and effect of personal sins. They lead their victims to do evil in their turn. In an analogous sense, they constitute a “social sin.” Catechism 1869
Our unwillingness to set aside pride, arrogance, fear, and the like not only affects ourselves, but the very structure of our family and the structural dynamics of a workplace. Think of a teen or spouse who begins to cope with your symptoms and behavior by abusing prescription drugs, alcohol, or “checking out” from responsibilities. Think of developing tension at the job as people walk on eggshells around you. These are examples of the social nature of your personal sins of omission. It reminds me of dropping a rock in a body of water. The ripples spread outward.
So, if you know you have a problem, do something about it. It will help you, stop the chain of sin and suffering, and possibly save your life.