“You are so much more than the worst thing you’ve ever done.”

I just read this excellent article about Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles which exists to give jobs to ex-cons. There’s a lot to take away from the profile of Father Gregory Boyle and the company he founded, but this took my breath away:

There was a theological point: “I always have a funny story at communion time that underscores that no one is perfect, and that communion is not for perfect people but for hungry people,” Boyle told me. But that probably matters less than this: The girls were rapt. After Mass, they came to him and lingered as long as they could. He spoke to each one in turn, as if she were his favorite niece: “You are so much more than the worst thing you’ve ever done.

Boyle is speaking to girls in a detention camp, but don’t we all need to hear this? The greatest danger of sin, the adversary’s greatest tool, is that we’ll be defined by our sinfulness and look away from God, lose hope of repentance and redemption. The wages of sin are real, and we need to confront them and see them for what they are, but we also need to keep them in some perspective.

And so I will steal this. I will say this to the young men I teach on Sundays. I will say this to the inactive members I hometeach from time to time.

And I will say this to my own sons as they struggle and misstep and wander into the darkness of sin and self-loathing. But mostly I will say this to myself as my past folly continues to swirl around me and those I love, sometimes obscuring my view.

It’s the old mantra: I am a child of God. I have value. And I am so much more than the worst thing I’ve ever done.

Comments

  1. I like this. We can also say that we are so much more than the best thing we’ve ever done.

  2. I would strongly recommend Boyle’s book about his work, Tattoos on the Heart. Even better, I would suggest the audio version which is read with great affect by Boyle.

  3. Boyle’s ideas and hard work are so amazing! What a wonderful, practical program. What a beautiful quote. thanks

  4. Just me says:

    I didn’t know until I read this, but oh how badly I needed to hear that today, and yesterday, and everyday for the last several months. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Thanks for sharing that story and for linking the article.

  6. annegb5298 says:

    Thank you for this. Our hardest task of forgiveness is to forgive ourselves.

  7. After a terrible day yesterday, this is exactly what I needed to wake up to. Thank you.

  8. That resonates.

  9. isolatedmormonwoman says:

    Thank you–
    I want to get a copy of this and send it to a friend in prison.

  10. Lycidia says:

    The idea behind confession always was that we need to hear that we’re forgiven, and perhaps do something to make ourselves feel cleaner. When you take away the forgiveness and keep only the penance, there’s no point: theologically or personally. Boyle is a beautiful human being for recognizing both the what and the why of repentance: it cleanses us because we need to be cleansed for ourselves, not because God needs us to be cleansed.

  11. This is the stuff! Thanks for sharing.

  12. Wonderful, Norbert.

  13. BYU TV’s original series “Turning Point” did an episode about Homeboy Industries.
    Link to episode

  14. Mostimportantly says:

    The greatest danger of sin, the adversary’s greatest tool, is that we’ll be defined by our sinfulness and look away from God, lose hope of repentance and redemption.

    Wow. I needed this. Everyone needs this. Thank you.

  15. Love this, Norbert.

  16. Antonio Parr says:

    Amen.

  17. Hunter says:

    Nice. And that photo is powerful. Thanks.

  18. That was the most powerful thing that I read today.

  19. Mark Brown says:

    Thanks, Kilmer!

    I appreciate this.

  20. This article explains perfectly why I loathe the description ‘Doubting Thomas’. Can you imagine if we did this with everyone? There’s ‘Philanderer Phil’ & ‘Shoplifter Mary’, etc. Thomas was an apostle of the Lord and because of one incidence, he earns a nickname for life. He is so much more than that. I am so much more than my biggest problem/sin. We all are. Thank you for stating it so eloquently.

  21. Carine says:

    So true, Norbert! Dank u.

  22. Powerful. Thanks, Norbert.

  23. Wow. This is absolutely wonderful. It struck a little emotional chord with me. Beautiful!

  24. I would highly recommend watching the BYU Turning Point episode linked by N in comment #13 above. Powerful stuff.

  25. Geoff - A says:

    On a larger scale America has one of the highest rates of imprisonment, (276/100,000 compared to 95 average for rest of developed world) mainly because of the war on drugs, which has failed. something like 60% of those in jail are for possession (not dealing) drugs. There are moe Americans in jail than the worst purgas in Russia.

    What chances do these pople have to redefine their lives with excon on their resume.

  26. Big Reid says:

    just found your blog. thanks so much.

  27. This is a wonderful sentiment, but I have a truly hard time forgiving myself. I am extremely hard on myself and have a hard time letting it go when I have done something that I know is wrong. It starts a shame cycle, I spiral, and there I go. It is hard to really feel that we are better than the worst thing we have ever done when I see it emphasized so much in The Church lately that we are lowly creatures not fit to lick the dust off of the bottom of a donkey’s foreleg. Too often, in our zeal to somehow “prove humility” or “attempt to be like Christians and emphasize Grace” we forget that we have a divine nature. I have seen too many people (not here) come down on the value of self-worth that it honestly baffles me. I am my own worst enemy, but for normal people they need to feel like they are worth something, and work on themselves before they can be of any use to anyone else.

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