Confessions: Looking for Infamy
Look at my heart, God, look at my heart, which you took pity on at the very bottom of the abyss. Let it tell you now, this heart you see, what it was looking for there, let it tell you how I was evil entirely on the house, and how there was no cause for my viciousness except viciousness. She was ugly, and I loved her, I loved my own demise, I loved my failing—not the thing for the sake of which I failed, but the failing itself, as in the hideousness of my soul I plunged down from your steady structure that held me up, into utter annihilation; I wasn’t looking for what I could get from infamy, but looking for infamy.—Saint Augustine, Confessions 2.9
Augustine describes a time when he and his friends snuck into a neighbor’s vineyard in the dead of night to steal pears from a pear tree. Although he already had a lush supply of better Pears at home, they took an ‘immense’ load; not to feast on, but to sling away to swine. Reflecting on this memory Augustine noted that he did not commit the crime because he was hungry but because it was illicit.
Why do we commit some of our sins? If we are honest with ourselves, is it not because we are looking for infamy? Because when we sin, it is never enough for us to do just enough to satisfy our craving. We go above and beyond. It’s not enough to steal, we steal more than we need. It’s not enough to lie, we lie more than we need. It’s not enough to lust, we lust more than we need. It’s not enough to be selfish, we horde even what we have in abundance.
At some point, we have to recognize that we are not being practical. We are not even having a little ‘fun.’ We love the feeling of sinning. Our hearts and desires lay at a bottom of an abyss and we enjoy it.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! —Psalm 139:23-24
Lord, Look at my heart, I want to hate my sin.
Note: These are my daily reflections as I go through Saint Agustine's Confessions. Unless otherwise noted, I am using Sarah Ruden's translation of the original text, and the NIV.