• Dora Nudelman

Saints versus Sinners


Except for a select few, it is highly doubtful that any of us are really here to become a saint. However, there are many people on the spiritual path that are striving to do just that for fear that if they don’t, they will be considered a sinner instead.

But is altruism the only path to salvation? Must we be perfect all of the time in order to merit our spiritual worth? If you asked me this question a few years ago, I would have told you unequivocally, yes. But I would have been seriously wrong.

You see, in most cases, what makes any of us a “saint” or a “sinner” is a personal judgment. As such, usually the judgment we have for ourselves is way harsher than it needs to be. Yes, we can all be more mindful from time-to-time, and yes, we all make mistakes, but there is usually no just cause to put that kind of label on ourselves.

We came here not with the intention to be perfect or idealistically virtuous, because if we were meant to be angels we wouldn’t be human. Instead, we came here to experience life with as much joy as we can, while acting with integrity and authenticity as we move along our path. Sprinkle in a dab of purpose and a dusting of service and we’ve got a life well lived.

Consequently, we do not need to worry about being righteous all of the time if our focus is to be our best and to do our best, even if that means failing and getting up again. We are not being asked to be overly pious in everything we do. We are simply being asked to be a bit more mindful with our choices and actions.

Furthermore, many have the belief that “desire is the root of all evil,” and that having desire leads to sinful behavior. But the truth is, having earthly desire is not evil, wrong, or devoid of spiritual merit. Wanting to be happy does not make a sinner by default. Rather, desire is a pure expression of our passions and often our purpose too. That isn’t to say that we needn’t question our motives on occasion, but it does mean that we needn’t feel guilty for “wanting it all.”

In truth, aiming to be a saint for fear of being a sinner is a spiritual trap and probably has more ego behind it than we realize. That’s because it puts undue pressure on us, making us feel guilty and ashamed, and causing us to try to meet unreasonable expectations, all of which will inevitably lead us to disappointment.

Being self-righteous does not mean being devoid of ego. In fact, the ego will look for any way to feel superior in order to compensate for its insecurities. But when we allow ourselves to make mistakes, to feel less than holy, and to have desire, we deflate the power the ego has to control our lives. Furthermore, when we set manageable goals for ourselves for our personal standards of behavior, we can relax the pressure, which ironically helps us to do more good in the world. Because when we act out of mindful choice, we let go of our false sense of obligation, which makes us actually want to be and do our best.


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