“Always avoid the near occasions of sin.”

The nuns who taught in parochial schools drilled that cautionary lesson into every child in their custody. Sometimes the words reverberated in those little ears after a youngster or two got into some mischief that in the minds of those good women fell into the category of sin.

Although most folks consider misbehavior on the part children as rebellion or acting out, the nuns did not. Of course, we are talking about nuances of behavior which the sisters usually interpreted as sin. Well, that mindset certainly kept them busy.

When the children got older, the nuns’ interpretation of life’s blips evolved as well. Since my father was a college professor, I had to attend the all-girls college prep school connected to the college. I may have balked a time or two, but in the long run, the education I received was, for the most part, excellent. However, some lessons in religion were a bit skewed, but then what do cloistered women know about the real world?

For example, young ladies were told not to wear patent leather shoes, pearls or step over puddles because they reflect cleavage or underoos. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that some of you caught guys ogling your shiny shoes or staring into puddles as you stepped over them. I never did.

If your shoe had the fellows riveted, it is possible they suffered from shoe fetishes. (The nuns would have a field day with that concept.) When it comes to the caution regarding pearls, the guys would have to get mighty close to see anything reflected. If they are that close, they could glance down your neckline. Much simpler.

All of the preceding is to firmly set in your mind the concept of “near occasions of.” We put ourselves in countless situations where lapses in judgment not only make sin (also known as minor or colossal mistakes) a possibility. In many cases, such hiccups can result in harm to one’s body, mind, or soul — a condition beyond the saving grace of a simple confession.

Not everyone approaches the holidays with open arms. For some, the holidays bring families and friends together. It is a joyful time. But during the same time frame, some people are suffering.

There is no joy in their hearts because once again the choices they made, the people they allowed in their lives, led to disappointment and pain.

And yet, they do not learn from past less than stellar decisions. Proving the quote, which originated in the 1930s and often attributed to Albert Einstein is painfully accurate. “The definition of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Or they do not care.

Perhaps the Fates watch too many horror flicks because they manage to bring whatever poor choices we made back to haunt us with a vengeance during the season of loving and giving.

As we travel the length of the unfortunate decision line, the mistakes vary in severity.

Far too many people must console suffering friends, and loved ones because the creep-head they loved let them down or worse. It is painful to see that, but a part of you may wonder why they feel drawn to those who can hurt them physically and emotionally, over and over again.

The Human Resources Director of a company liked to gamble. Every month she convinced some kindhearted but addle-brained co-worker to drive her to a Louisiana casino for the weekend. She paid for the driver’s room and the meals leaving him or her to their own devices while Ms. HR smoked like a chimney stack and gambled. It was not uncommon for her to max out at least one of her credit cards during each casino visit. People tried to help her, but she chose to chase Lady Luck.

People overspend, shoplift, overeat and mess up their health or cheat in school instead of studying. Mistakes happen, but some repeatedly make the same bad choices. With every such decision, they are rushing toward another Near Occasion of Stupid.






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