Does absent-mindedness cross into sinfulness?

I’ve only met one other person in my life who was truly more absent minded than me (and I have great pity for her!!!) – it is a huge problem and always has been. I get laser-focused on one thing and everything else that should be important fades into the mist…

Today’s example: It’s Ash Wednesday. I spent a lot of time yesterday thinking about what to give up, helping my kids decide what special thing they wanted to do. I said a rosary, I pinned a bunch of religious stuff on pinterest. This morning I came up with a great game plan for all the wonderful daily meditations and Lenten activities we would do as a family, I printed everything out, set everything up… and I did it all while eating my typical full daily breakfast which includes meat!!! It wasn’t until lunchtime, when I saw my husband preparing his meager dish, that I remembered, THIS IS ONE OF THE FAST DAYS WITH A CAPITAL F. Tell me how a person can be a practicing Catholic from infancy, thinking Ash Wednesday this, Ash Wednesday that for the past 48 hours, and yet forget something so important. That’s my life…

Speaking of yesterday, my kids had scheduled haircuts that I completely forgot about until bedtime, because school was canceled! I know if they had gone to school, I would have remembered the haircuts, but because the schedule was disrupted it threw my brain into disarray.

I have annoyed just about everyone I know with my forgetfulness (including the local priest). It has made me a bit OCD about certain things, like checking often to see if the oven’s on, the doors are locked, or the baby’s in the carseat and not forgotten at home… On a day like today, I feel like a total idiot – and I can’t help but have twinges of guilt, if you do something enough you start to wonder whether it’s truly accidental or if you should know by now how to prevent it… maybe I should have written myself a note to fast… of course the idea of writing a note never occurred to me when it should have… I am just at a loss!

Do you feel that absent-mindedness only works as an excuse for so long, and then it crosses into sinfulness?

Yes …

God gives us all different crosses to bear in our lives. This might be your’s! Give glory to God in everything you do and you can’t go wrong. It doesn’t sound like you purposely forget things so it can be a sin. When you discover you forgot to do something, you might say a short prayer and offer up to God what you forgot as well as ask Him for more calm in your life. God Bless you for being so faithful.:thumbsup:

Depends on what you are doing to alleviate the bad consequences. I’m also absent-minded, so over the years I’ve learned to depend on my calendar (EVERYTHING goes on the calendar!), to-do lists, and menus.

Of course, I then have the responsibility to check the calendar, lists, and menus.

When the kids were little, the calendar was a giant wall variety with big squares. Plenty of room for everyone’s activities. :smiley:

oops, further proof you are not alone.

Sorry, what did you say again??

Seriously, how bout you just do your ash wednesday tomorrow or something like that to make reparation for your unintentional mistake today.

Many people are absent-minded, don’t sweat it. Sin has to be intentional.

Melancholic, have you ever tried to develop a meditation practice? I don’t mean daily meditations in the ordinary Catholic sense, which you mentioned in your post. I’m speaking of learning to silence your mind. I realize, too, that this subject alarms quite a fair number of Catholics, and that I’ll undoubtedly be criticized for even suggesting this, but please consider what I’m saying. Often when we have difficulty focusing it’s because our mind’s are preoccupied, and other thoughts intrude upon what we’re intently trying to focus on. It could be anything, past hurts, etc., which come into our consciousness and derail and distract us. I think it’s just part of being human; nobody can concentrate under those conditions. A meditation practice will alleviate that. We learn to silence our mind in a particular way for a short period of time, and gradually we become good at it. Before long we discover that what this actually allows us to do is silence nagging distractions when we’re bringing our attention to bear on something. This skill doesn’t take long to develop, either. It’s the reason for that stereotype about meditative sages being able to focus their minds like lasers.

No. But it depends somewhat on what you mean…

You will never commit sin by forgetting something. Sin is always to voluntarily and deliberately choose something wrong. Forgetting is never a sin, even if it’s important, and even if it happens a lot.

But, one might say that they forget things too often, and thus need to develop strategies to overcome this. If you constantly forget important things, and know you need to do better, but fail to put into place effective strategies, then the sin may be in choosing not to address the problem. This would be a deliberate sin of omission (omitting to do something you should).

As Bonnie suggests, a well-kept calendar really helps. Put everything on it, and consult it regularly - first thing in the morning, and throughout the day. Of course, this can still fail. My wife does this - and yet still forgets all manner of appointments - that are clearly written on the calendar! :rolleyes:

But I’ll repeat - on a fundamental level - forgetting something is not a sin.

Since the Forum rules forbid asking for or giving medical or psychiatric advice I’ll word this carefully: have you ever asked your health care provider about being tested for ADD? And to those who think forgetfulness as the OP describes and wishes to overcome is a sin, I think that skates a bit close to being judgmental of her.

I have done this too, and agree with the other posters that say it is not a sin to forget. You didn’t intentionally eat meat, sounds like you were on auto-pilate. And fasting/abstaining from meat is not a normal thing for most of us, so it’s understandable to forget sometimes.God knows you and knows it was an accident. Like the other person said, maybe you could pray and then fulfill your fasting obligation tomorrow.

Last year I was planning a Friday meal during lent and was doing pretty good… had the fish going on the stove and was making a broccoli salad that had BACON in it. I didn’t even think! So we sat down to our nice dinner of the fish and salad and my daughter says, “Isn’t bacon meat?” Whoops! It happens. I didn’t do it on purpose, and I know God knows that it was an innocent mistake. I just didn’t eat meat the next night day to make up for it.


My Myers-Brigg result is INTP, which is more likely to be diagnosed ADD/Aspergers - daydreamers who are notoriously forgetful and disorganized (think Albert Einstein). So I probably have a tendency that way… but is it a personality trait or a mental disorder? Who knows… I don’t feel like it is something I can control/change…

BTW I don’t forget something critical every day or every other day, but it’s a pattern nonetheless.

I will try a large format calendar (so big I can’t miss it!) and see if it helps. Thanks everyone for the advice.

I have ADD and lately I’ve had some forgetfulness incidents that were very distressing. So I’ve had to implement some additional reminder systems to address those. I think the distinction to be made, and perhaps I should’ve elaborated in my other post, is that one can have a tendency or a disorder or whatever - and one can use it as an excuse if one is lazy and doesn’t try to use resources to mitigate its effects.

Examples might be a diabetic who doesn’t take medications/insulin as prescribed, deliberately gorges on sweets and carbs, and winds up in the hospital. Or an alcoholic who doesn’t address their problem and gets drunk and drives and hurts themselves or other people. Sin enters in if we deliberately blow off a problem and don’t address it at all. But if we’re trying and we have an innocent slip-up or didn’t realize there was an area where we needed to take pre-emptive precautions, I don’t believe there’s a sin committed. Of course we always need to be honest with ourselves and God - but not scrupulous and anxious either. :slight_smile:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit