A practical definition of original sin

I was reading yesterday about how at baptism, God forgives our original sin. Given that baptism, as a sacrament, is a sign of what has already happened or is going to happen, it makes sense that the sacrament itself functions as a tangible experience showing us that, indeed, God has already forgiven original sin.

But what is this “original sin”? Theology tells us that it is the act of defiance by Adam. Indeed, the human capacity to defy is something we are born with, because we all want autonomy and control. But are there not plenty of other “original sins”? It seems to me all of the “seven deadly sins” (greed, envy, sloth, anger, lust, gluttony, pride) are all very “original”. We are all born with the compulsions that underlie the acts (desire for lots of stuff, desire for what someone else has, desire for rest, etc.) whether we want them or not. We all resent the fact that we have these drives/desires because of the harm caused when we act on these desires, so all of these could be called “sin”. They are “original”: they are, in behavioral terms, innate. “Selfishness”, also, is certainly original, because like everything I have mentioned so far, it is our default mode.

What I am saying is that it makes a great deal of sense to say that all of these God-given compulsions are not only original, but as our baptismal theology states, they are forgiven. The question is, can WE forgive these compulsions? We could hear over and over again that God forgives us, but if we cannot forgive (reconcile with) our own compulsions, we are not any better off in a day-to-day-life-on-Earth happiness way. When we don’t forgive our compulsions, we remain divided and unreconciled within.

Maybe those in the early Church were better at incorporating this kind of reconciliation upon receiving the sacrament. It just seems to me that a lot of baptized people are really caught up in not being able to reconcile with their compulsions, and that Jesus wants us to forgive ourselves. If original sin does truly include all of the above, should we not be helping our Christian youth learn how to forgive themselves, all of our “original sins”, as Abba forgives?

Modern Catholic Dictionary:

ORIGINAL SIN. Either the sin committed by Adam as the head of the human race, or the sin he passed onto his posterity with which every human being, with the certain exception of Christ and his Mother, is conceived and born. The sin of Adam is called originating original sin (originale originans); that of his descendents is originated original sin (originale originatum). Adam’s sin was personal and grave, and it affected human nature. It was personal because he freely committed it; it was grave because God imposed a serious obligation; and it affected the whole human race by depriving his progeny of the supernatural life and preternatural gifts they would have possessed on entering the world had Adam not sinned. Original sin in his descendants is personal only in the sense that the children of Adam are each personally affected, but not personal as though they had voluntarily chosen to commit the sin; it is grave in the sense that it debars a person from the beatific vision, but not grave in condemning one to hell; and it is natural only in that all human nature, except for divine intervention, has it and can have it removed only by supernatural means.

Thanks, Thistle, but I already have access to the definition. I’m talking about a “here and now” approach, not a “after we die” approach. Is forgiveness supernatural? It is a choice, and it is good for the soul now, and it is a skill that can be developed. Certainly it is a gift from God, but what part of ourselves isn’t?

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