What is Sin?

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Let’s talk about premarital sex; it’s been on my mind today after watching The Real World last night (I know, less trashy television, more job hunting; but a girl needs to indulge in her guilty pleasures every once in a while). Before I start, let me begin by saying that I was born and raised Catholic, so this will be written from a Christian point of view. Do I celebrate Mass every Sunday? No. Do I believe all of the doctrine of the Catholic Church? No. Would some people argue that I’m not a true Catholic because of my answers to the previous question? Probably (that’s a whole other post, my friends). But, do I believe that people should avoid having sex before marriage, as the Catholic Church teaches? Absolutely, yes.

Now, before you run off, scared that I’m about to get up on my religious high horse, let me stop you. I had sex before marriage. I won’t judge you if you did too. I won’t judge you if you completely disagree with everything I’m about to say. I’m going to talk about what I think about sin, but not in the way you might expect. If I haven’t scared you off just yet, go ahead and keep reading. And don’t be afraid to leave a comment – whether you agree or disagree – I’m all for a healthy debate.

What is Sin?

Many religious people think of sin as something that should be avoided so that you will not be punished by the wrath of God. “Don’t sin,” they say, “because you will face eternal suffering in hell.” Many people believe you shouldn’t have sex before marriage because if you do, you will have sinned and God will be mad at you. If you sin, you will need to repent and ask for forgiveness. God forbid you die before you ask for forgiveness, because if you do, you will go directly to hell, do not pass Go, no “get out of jail free card” available. Just don’t sin; you don’t want to be punished forever in the next life.

I have a different view. God loves you, that’s what God is: Love. This isn’t to say that loving someone means you never punish them – parents punish their children every day. But parents also don’t eternally punish their children because of mistakes, even if the child never fully understands what she did wrong or never admits to the wrongdoing or never apologizes. Thank God for that, by the way; one time, when I was five, I snuck off to the bathroom and flushed a taco down the toilet because my mom told me I had to finish all my food, and when she asked where the taco went I lied and claimed I ate it while going to the bathroom. Disgusting, I know, but I didn’t want that taco and didn’t know what else to do! My mom knew I was lying and scolded me, but I never apologized (or at least, never apologized sincerely). I still don’t think I was entirely wrong for flushing that taco, but I digress. Most loving parents don’t disown their child forever because he shoplifted or did drugs – they love their child and try to help him so that he can have a better, happier life. And if the child doesn’t change, well, that parent still loves and wishes the best for the child. They hope he will repent, change his ways, and find happiness.

I think God is the same as a loving parent. I believe God doesn’t want you to sin because there’s a good chance the sin will make life more difficult for you. The sinful act will hurt you, cause you unnecessary pain and strife, and steal from your happiness. When we hold the traditional view of sin and eternal damnation, we are getting lost in translation. We naturally think of punishment as something that someone else forces upon us: when we misbehave, our parents give us a time out, or when we forget to turn in our homework, our teacher gives us a bad grade. We grow up with this concrete understanding of the word punishment, so it’s no wonder that’s how we read and understand it in the Bible. But what if God didn’t mean punishment in the same way? What if God doesn’t want us to sin, not because He will send us to hell in the future, but because our sin will put us through a figurative “hell on earth” right now?

That’s what sin is. A sin is something that causes us pain and misery. Not eternal pain and misery sometime in the future. Pain and misery right now. Sin should be avoided, because if we avoid sin, we will avoid some of life’s most terrible sadness and strife. We, as Christians, are taught that sin is bad, not because our God is a “my way or the highway” kind of guy, but because God loves us and wants us to have a beautiful, happy life, with limited sadness and pain and maximum happiness and fulfillment.

Back to Premarital Sex.

Premarital sex is a great example for me to use to illustrate my view of sin because I have experienced it firsthand. But before I start talking about me, let’s talk about the scenario that was portrayed on The Real World last night. Lauren took a pregnancy test, and it came back positive, leading her to realize that the unprotected sex she’d had before coming on the show had resulted in an unplanned pregnancy with a guy she wasn’t in love with.

For those of you who don’t follow the show, here’s a little background: Lauren is the ex-girlfriend of Cory, one of the original seven roommates cast in The Real World: Ex-Plosion. Lauren entered the Real World house when the producers brought back each of the original roommates’ most recent ex. Lauren and Cory have known each other since seventh grade, have an extremely close bond, and have dated on and off for years. When Lauren had unprotected sex before coming on the show, she wasn’t in an exclusive relationship with Cory. She didn’t cheat on him, but she did have sex with someone else. She arrived at the Real World house, and her and Cory seemed to be working on mending their relationship. They had been getting along really well, and seemed to be rekindling their bond with one another. Cory talked about how he saw Lauren as the love of his life and the person he wanted to end up spending forever with.

But then, Lauren announces that she is pregnant. She didn’t mean for the pregnancy to happen, she made a mistake by not using protection (and, as I would argue, for having sex outside of a fully committed marital relationship), and it’s very obvious that the decision she made caused her great misery and pain. Cory is in pain too, and lashes out at Lauren, undoubtably adding to her suffering. He clearly cares deeply for Lauren, but doesn’t know how to handle her bearing the child of someone else, just as their relationship was starting to get back on track.

Lauren later described the day she found out about the unplanned pregnancy as “the worst day of her life.” I bet she felt like she was “going through hell” in that moment. I don’t know her, and depictions of events on reality television are rarely all that real, but I can confidently say that in a situation like the one portrayed on national television last night, many women would feel as though they were in hell. I am confident about this, because even though I have never been through what Lauren went through, I have been close.

Two months before I met the man who is now my husband (whom I will call Adam), I made a mistake. My ex-boyfriend (whom I will call Bobby) and I had been broken up for six months, but I was taking it hard. I had sex with Bobby two months before meeting Adam – I could blame it on the alcohol, say I was overcome with sadness about the breakup, or try to make you understand why I did what I did by telling you about all the other challenges I was facing at the time, but I won’t make any excuses because I honestly don’t remember why I did it. I didn’t love Bobby, I didn’t think I was going to marry him, we weren’t even in a relationship anymore. I made a mistake that I regretted instantly, and I never spoke to Bobby again after that night. I wasn’t happy with myself, but the consequences of my actions weren’t immediate. I forgave myself relatively quickly and moved on with my life.

It wasn’t until two months later, when I was out late at night, driving around with Adam, that all hell broke loose. Adam and I met through a mutual friend in March, just a few weeks after the incident with Bobby. We spent much of that month really getting to know each other, and we grew instantly close. We bonded almost immediately, and with every day that passed, my feelings for him deepened. Adam and I were a wonderful pair and I was so excited to see how our budding relationship would blossom.

A month after we met for the first time, Adam picked me up from a family Easter gathering late in the evening and began driving me back to his hometown so we could spend a few days together before heading back to school. It was a long drive back to his house and I had a lot on my mind. My period was a day or two late and I had been feeling extremely fatigued recently. Adam and I had never had sex, and I’d already had a period since the hook up with Bobby, but I’m an extremely anxious person and the “what-ifs” had moved in and taken over my brain. I was no longer rational and downright hysterical. I am not the kind of person that can keep this kind of irrationality inside. I don’t do secrets, not because I don’t believe that everyone is entitled to privacy, but because I simply can’t keep the big secrets inside. When something is bothering me, it usually slowly begins to seep out, until I finally can’t stand it anymore, and let it spew out on whomever is closest to me. In this case, Adam was the unlucky victim drenched in my verbal vomit.

I told him everything. I told him about the mistake I had made two months before with Bobby. I told him about how my period was a little late, how I felt bloated, how I was tired all the time, how I felt like I had to pee every second, and how I was absolutely, one hundred percent sure that I was carrying the child of another man while trying to start a new relationship with him. He was taken aback. It was dark in the car, so I couldn’t see his exact facial expression, but I’m sure he was wondering what the hell was going on. He was angry, too, but he didn’t start a fight. I asked him what would happen if I was pregnant; I needed to know if we would stop talking, if the relationship we had barely begun would come to an end. He answered by taking me to the drug store, buying me a pregnancy test, and telling me that if I was pregnant with someone else’s child, he wouldn’t be able to continue seeing me. He said he couldn’t handle it. And I couldn’t blame him; he probably felt like he barely knew me after hearing news like this, we weren’t in love just yet, and we were young.

But just because I understood, didn’t mean I wasn’t devastated by his answer. When I met Adam, I knew that he was quite likely the person that I would marry. I had never had a connection with someone like the connection I had with Adam. I wasn’t certain about the future we would have together, but I knew that there was potential. Adam was someone I could talk to, I was comfortable with him, and he had been helping me through a lot of messy stuff. He knew things about me that only a handful of other people knew, and he was by far the best at getting me through the difficult times. The worrying that I had been feeling for three nights before telling Adam my fears that night in the car were awful – I felt sick, sad, and more alone than I had ever felt before. Having to jeopardize my relationship with Adam by telling him my fears was excruciatingly difficult. Waiting those two minutes for the results of that pregnancy test to come back, knowing Adam was sitting, worried in the other room, was hell. Being pregnant now, and understanding what a blessing we have been given when there are so many who can’t get pregnant, I realize how utterly sad and unfortunate it is that when the pregnancy test came back negative, my heart instantly leapt for joy.

You see, if I hadn’t had sex before marriage, I never would have had to feel that kind of pain and suffering. That night, driving back to Adam’s house, would likely have been filled only with happiness. It would have felt a whole lot more like a slice of heaven than a pit of hell. I know it’s sexy to say “no regrets,” but I do have regrets about having sex with Bobby that night. I regret that I very well could have missed out on the beautiful marriage I have now because of a meaningless night with someone who I knew I would never end up with. I regret having sinned, not because I think God is holding it against me, but because I know that God didn’t want me to have to suffer. Sure, I learned a lot from that experience and for that I am grateful, but I would have much rather learned that lesson from a homily at Mass, a Sunday school lesson, or a witness talk at a church retreat.

I’m also not saying that everyone who has premarital sex will go through hell. Punishment doesn’t always hurt the same way. Not everyone is spanked when they make a mistake. My point is, God doesn’t want you to sin because he doesn’t want you to have to experience pain and suffering, in whatever form that pain and suffering takes. So don’t dismiss the concept of sin just because you struggle to believe that God will send you into a fiery pit for eternity. Don’t assume that God put rules in the Bible because He wanted to stifle your freedom and encroach on your lifestyle. Have faith that God defined sins for you to avoid because He wants the best for you, doesn’t want you to suffer, and most importantly, because He loves you.

Six Things the Unemployed Wish You Knew

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Since becoming unemployed, I’ve become extremely sensitive to the opinions and stereotypes of others. I know I shouldn’t worry about what other people think, and maybe the fact that I do shows that I’m not quite as a mature as I wish I was. But, with the national conversation happening in the media surrounding the failure of Congress to extend emergency unemployment benefits and so much of what is being said coming down to stereotypes and generalizations that are damaging and untrue, I am compelled to add my voice to the mix. Here are six things that the unemployed (or at the very least, this unemployed person) wish you knew.

1. We are unemployed through no fault of our own.

Sure, every state has their own laws for determining what being unemployed through no fault of our own looks like. But most likely, we didn’t quit our jobs because we thought, “hey it’d be fun to collect unemployment for a while.” We didn’t decide we’d had enough and walk out. We weren’t fired for being poor employees.

Sure, some people leave their jobs, leave the workforce, or get fired. But we aren’t those people. We didn’t want this reality; we were handed it, on a pink slip, in one of the scariest meetings most of us will never forget.

2. We don’t enjoy receiving only a fraction of our previous salaries each week.

We often have to dip into our hard earned savings or rack up credit card debt to maintain our standard of living. And if we can’t maintain it, we have to watch it slip away. We don’t want to have to tell our children that they can’t have that new toy they’ve been looking forward to receiving. We don’t want our significant others to have to return to work to support our family, but they will if they can and are lucky enough to.

We liked the lives we had before. And we can’t wait to get back to our previous salaries, or even close to our previous salaries, so we can have a sense of normalcy back in our lives. The money we get from the unemployment office every other week isn’t enough for the life we really want, but if we’re lucky it’s enough to keep us afloat while we work to get back the life we lost, and for that we are thankful.

3. We don’t enjoy feeling dependent on a government program. 

We work hard. We landed a job, earned a living, and paid taxes before losing our employment. But we feel bad about taking what many of us still view as a handout. We don’t want to depend on unemployment. Just as you think we’re dependent, many of us do too, but it doesn’t feel good and it isn’t gratifying. We’re often ashamed and embarrassed, and your stereotypes do nothing but make us feel worse.

We shouldn’t feel dependent. We are only eligible for unemployment because our employers paid taxes for us to be enrolled in unemployment insurance while we were employed. We should feel no more dependent than you do when you go to the doctor and your insurance company  pays for 90% of your medical expenses.

4. We sit around the house all day sometimes, but not because we’re lazy.

Revising our resumes, building portfolios, scouring job boards, applying to jobs, reaching out to business contacts, participating in phone interviews, and scheduling in-person interviews are all activities that most people do from their own homes. That is, unless we have to do those things at the library because our unemployment insurance ran out and we had to sell our laptop and cancel our internet service, but I digress.

We love the days we are lucky enough to get out of the house for an onsite interview or for a networking event that may provide a promising lead. But, just as most of your days are spent in an office chair doing the mundane everyday tasks, so are ours.

5. We allow ourselves some downtime for things like spending time with family, watching television, self-reflection, exercise, participating in hobbies, and whatever else keeps us from losing our mental health after spending hours on job hunt (or, dare I say, professional) pursuits.

Don’t you? You never come home after a long day in the office, grab a beer and turn on ESPN? You don’t spend an hour of your day going for a run or a weekend afternoon at the park with your family? Studies have shown that this kind of downtime is good for your health, and for the unemployed, it’s even more important. The unemployed are at higher risk for both mental illness and medical illness. Our relationships are at risk and our sense of self-worth is challenged.

So, when you see us doing something we enjoy, don’t automatically assume we’re living the high life on your tax dollars while you slave away. (We pay taxes too, you know.) Chances are you’ve just caught us in a rare moment of rest and relaxation. We look happy because, for the moment, we’ve briefly forgotten about our stressful professional life, or lack there of. We’ll be back to the daily grind tomorrow, just like you.

6. We will make some of the most loyal, hard-working employees for the company that gives us another shot. 

Everyone knows it’s easier to get a job when you already have one. Companies don’t like to see that you’ve been out of the workforce. Of course, being out of work is evidence that our skills our rusty, we aren’t worth your time, and we forgot how to behave in a professional setting. Right? Wrong. There’s evidence that times are changing, companies are becoming more understanding about periods of unemployment,  and recruiters are increasingly sympathetic.

But for those of you who aren’t thoroughly convinced we are worth bringing in for an interview, let me just say this. If you give us a shot, a career, hope for the future, we will give you everything that we have to offer. We will work harder for you. We will not take our jobs for granted, even on the worst days. We will show up with a smile and always count our blessings. We will be loyal to you because we always will remember what you did for us. You gave us our lives back.

 

Now that I’m done speaking on your behalf (please tell me where I misspoke or took liberties with your personal situation), tell me, my fellow unemployed people: What do you wish people knew about being unemployed?

Unemployed: Will It End Today?

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Will today be the day that I receive a call telling me that I am hired? Will I finally hear that I am the best candidate for the role? Will the Human Resources manager woo me with talks of a salary and employee benefits? Will I finally be able to update my LinkedIn profile and feel proud that I’m no longer that girl with no title? Can I update my Facebook status, letting all my friends know I’m finally back in the game? Can I call my husband, crying with excitement, and let him know that I’ve done it, I’ve landed a job and things are going to be okay for us now?

Or, will today be another day of silence? Will I spend hours checking my email, staring at the phone, begging it to ring, and scolding myself for getting my hopes up yet again? Will it be another day of lying to myself, saying they will definitely call with good news tomorrow? Will I apply for ten more jobs and get excited when I get invited for a couple more phone interviews? Will it be another day of getting ready and driving to an onsite interview, practicing my handshake and getting a little better at wearing high heels?

Will I shed a couple tears as I head online to certify for my unemployment insurance yet again because I’m still not able to bring home a paycheck? Will I spend another night wondering how we’re going to afford health insurance once they baby arrives? Will I take another look at our budget, and try to find another expense to cut? Maybe this time it will be the cable bill, I watch too much television anyway. Or what about the monthly car wash subscription? $6 a month will surely make a difference. I have to keep the phone and internet bills, it won’t be easy to get a job without those. Maybe I can start selling things; I don’t use that exercise bike nearly enough, we don’t need two laptops, and if we don’t have cable, we really have no use for a television. Might as well get rid of the Playstation too; my husband can’t play without a TV.

But wait. Don’t panic. I still have sixteen weeks left until my unemployment runs out. Sixteen more weeks to find a job. I can do this. Can’t I? Just because today wasn’t the day that ended this struggle doesn’t mean that tomorrow won’t be. No matter that I’m more pregnant today than I was yesterday. Forget the fact that I’m now available for one less week before needing maternity leave than I was at my interviews last week because I’m 31 weeks pregnant now instead of only 30. Stop – you’re panicking again.

You see, until you’ve been unemployed yourself, you can’t really understand. You can sit back and look at those people in the unemployment office or on your Facebook Newsfeed and scowl, “why don’t they just get a job already?” I’m ashamed, I’ve had those thoughts before. But I was wrong, and so are you. The unemployed don’t have it easy. We don’t have stress-free days. We share your sleepless nights. Our battles are different, but they are in no way less challenging. We would give anything to be back in your shoes.

Becoming Mommy

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I’m always looking for the silver lining, and I’ve definitely found it when it comes to being pregnant and unemployed: I have more time and energy to prepare for becoming a first-time-mom. As someone who worked and took graduate school courses during a hellish one and a half trimesters filled with hyperemesis gravidarum, hospitalization for dehydration, and a fatigue I could never seem to shake, I understand the other side of the coin. I know what it means to work while pregnant, especially during a difficult pregnancy, and you ladies that do it are my heroes. While I would prefer to be part of the workforce, it really is a blessing in disguise to not have to be super mom right now.

As a first-time-mom, there are so many things that I’ve discovered need my attention while pregnant. What foods should I avoid? Did I drink enough water today? When is my next doctor’s appointment? What will we name him? Do I know how to change a diaper? What is a muslin blanket? Are mesh crib bumpers going increase SIDS risk or protect my baby’s limbs or both or neither? What theme should we use for his nursery? What is happening to my body? How do I stay out of the Mommy Wars? What is it going to feel like to hug and kiss him? Are we there yet? How are we going to afford this? For the love of all things good and holy, why can’t a glass of whiskey be just as healthy for baby as eating a bowl of fruit just this once?

And let’s not forget the demands of creating a baby registry. Maybe I took it far too seriously, but I spent at least six hours reading Denise Fields’ Baby Bargains book, trying to find the best quality items that fit into my family’s budget. It took me two hours to choose a crib mattress. I purchased and returned two different baby carriers before deciding on the one that is currently sitting in my nursery, hoping it gets to see it’s day to shine. I’m not even going to admit how many hours I spent comparing the prices of the exact same items at Buy Buy Baby and Target, so that my shower guests could have the best-priced options to choose from on each registry and so our completion coupons would give us the most bang for our buck.

I’ve had fun chatting with women in Facebook groups who are due in the same month as me – I’ve learned a lot and laughed a lot with them. I’ve taken up some crafts, and have yet to master the art of crochet (I can’t get past a simple chain), but I’m trying. I’ve watched my son grow at ultrasound appointments and felt his kicks and punches get stronger. I’ve bonded with my mother-in-law over shopping trips and lunches I never would have had time for before. I’ve napped, taken bubble baths, kicked my feet up, and let my hair down. I’ve watched documentaries that have made labor and delivery slightly less terrifying. I’ve sat in the nursery and read my favorite childhood books to my belly.

The long and short of it is this: I’ve been given a gift and even though there are plenty of times that I curse the day I got laid off, I know when this storm blows over I’m going to thank God for the extra time. I’m going to have my faith restored that everything really does happen for a reason.

I am Unemployed. But I Didn’t Ask for This.

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I am unemployed. But I am not lazy. I am not similar to an irresponsible child refusing to do chores. I don’t actively look for work each week just so I can say I did in case the IDES chooses to audit me. I am not interested in sitting on my couch.

I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t ask to be laid off and spend my days at home scanning job boards, or at networking events making small talk with strangers, or driving around to job interviews while praying that this one will finally lead to my lucky break. I don’t want to be receiving less than half of the income I was earning a few months ago. I don’t want to watch you go to work while I sit at home with no obligations, a painful reminder that I’m not quite as successful as I was before. I don’t want to deal with the anxiety or the shame or the condescension.

I want to wake up tomorrow morning, take a shower, get dressed, and drive to the office of my previous employer, ready for another day of meetings and an inbox full of unread emails needing my attention. I want to discuss industry trends with my coworkers over sandwiches in the cafeteria. I want to come home at night and feel proud, telling my husband about the things I accomplished that day or the new project I just took on. I want to receive that promotion that my boss said I was on track for during my mid-year review. I want the meeting where the head of my department got weepy as he told me that my position was being eliminated as part of a reduction-in-force to have been a simple nightmare.

But that isn’t my reality. My reality is that I was laid off right during the holidays, not too long before the annual review that I thought was going to yield a promotion and a raise. Some of my best friends, the people I often spent more time with during the week than my own husband, were laid off too. One day I was an employed professional and expectant mother, working with the HR department to plan the maternity leave I would need to take in a few months. The next day, I was an expectant mother meeting with the HR department to find out that my position was being eliminated.

I was reduced to a terrified woman, wondering if the health insurance I’d been relying on would still be active for the ultrasound I had scheduled next week. I went from being my family’s main source of income and health insurance provider to the woman who had to tell her husband that it was no longer possible for him to cut back his hours at his retail job to focus on finishing his education and landing a job in an extremely competitive field. I became the young woman walking into Destination Maternity, trying to find a suit to wear to interviews that would disguise her baby bump because she isn’t naïve enough to believe that pregnancy discrimination doesn’t exist during the hiring process.

My reality is that after six months, my unemployment compensation will run out. My reality is that I’ve been on eight interviews over a two-month period and I haven’t landed a job. My reality is that there are too many qualified applicants for too few positions. My reality is that if I don’t have a job by the middle of June (just a few weeks after my due date), my savings will start to dwindle, and before I know it, my family will be forced to move back in with my mother because although my husband works full-time while attending school, his minimum wage retail job isn’t enough to pay the rent for our modest apartment and put food on the table. My reality is that while Republicans in Congress refuse to pass legislation that will allow me to extend my unemployment benefits should I still not have a job, there are millions of other families with emergency circumstances who will watch their unemployment compensation end as well.

We didn’t ask for this. We don’t want this reality. Yes, there may be some people who abuse government aid, but we aren’t those people. We don’t deserve to be punished for what we can’t control. We weren’t fired and we didn’t quit; we lost the jobs we had through no fault of our own. We want to go back to work so that we can get back to living the lives we are used to and proud of and so we don’t have to feel put down by stereotypes any longer. But if we can’t get back to work, we just want to stay afloat while we try.