Sin, the Breaking of Relationship

broken glass - photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi on UnsplashThis post is based on Week Three of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.

Growing up, I understood sin to mean being “off the mark” or “off target.” I have an image of an archer lining up to shoot the arrow, which when released, abruptly lands on the outer edge of the target perimeter. I missed.

And so it is with sin, particularly in my personal relationship with God. If I believe that God dwells within me and is my innermost core and center, which I do, then I am “off the mark” and “off target” every time I ignore God’s voice within me, urging me to love, to be honest, to be grateful, and to do that which is right and just and which brings life and fulfillment to others and me.

It is in this way that I can see that personal sin not only impacts me, but all with whom I come into contact. Sin, at its core, is about relationship, or the break in relationship.

To explore this thought further, I recently caught up with a friend, who also happens to be a Jesuit priest. Fr. Andy Hamilton, SJ, is a well-known writer and a deep thinker. I asked him whether he knew of any good reflections, poems, or other writings that eloquently described the nature of sin. He had no books to recommend, but he did share, in his words, “a few simple ideas.”

I think that the best images from a Christian point of view describe sin in terms of breaches of relationships between people, between people and themselves, between people and the world of which we are part, and between people and God. All those relationships have a proper form of respect that considers all relationships and not just the ones immediately involved in an engagement. In sin these relationships are breached by greed, arrogance, rage, resentment, contempt, fear, lack of due attention, and so on. Because respect is the natural expression of love, sin is always a failure to love.

These last words struck my heart like an arrow: Sin is always a failure to love. And I see its impact. Sin primarily touches our relationships to ourselves, others, and our world, and destroys possibilities of flourishing that would have been there had we not disrespected them.

In light of this reflection, I have been doing an audit of the relationships in my life. Where am I “off the mark” or “off target” when it comes to loving others and God? Where have I been disrespectful or cruel, or have allowed fear to prevail? Instances come to mind. And so it is that I continue to pray for the grace to recognize sin in my life and to overcome it, to ask for God’s (and others’) forgiveness, and to give thanks to God that I continue to be loved and encouraged, despite my sin.

Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi on Unsplash.


  1. A friend of mine and I have been sharing about God as a ground of being and how it is God who joins us together and makes it possible to leap over fear to join together, over time and distance, to be really close to one another. Using a childhood Idea about sin as an offense against God leads, therefoe, to separating from others. Thank you.

  2. Fiona, Thank you for sharing this insightful post. “Sin is always a failure to love,” is such a powerful statement that will be carried my in mind and heart and shared with others. Someone also told me, “Sin is refusing to do the right thing.” Loving and Doing, simple words to confront and acknowledge during my daily Examen.

    • Thank you Russ. In reflecting on love and sin further, I am reminded of the following statement made by a famous Australian cartoonist, Michael Leunig, who said: “Love one another… it’s as simple and as difficult as that”. Leunig’s prayers and drawings are often quite profound. Perhaps look him up? Blessings, Fiona

    • Thank you, Meg. I too have read it several times. It’s amazing what God reveals in our hearts at different times, though we may be reading ‘the same’ words. It’s a beautiful mystery, constantly unraveling… Blessings, Fiona

  3. Sin as the failure to love is also the failure of love received. I think we, wanting to do God’s will, often try hard to love. It is not always about trying harder to love, but about healing the places inside us where we have not received love because we either didn’t get it or along the way we stopped letting it in to certain places. We all need to open to allow God’s love to continue healing us so that we may be better lovers. This broken relationship with ourselves often gets overlooked.

    • Thank you for your comment, Ami. I think there is truth in this, and your insight offers further opportunity for reflection, and opening to God’s grace and love, and to that within ourselves, and of offer from others. Blessings, Fiona

  4. This simply is Amazing and spot on. “Sin is always a failure to love”
    Will share with my friends in our Group Study.

  5. Wow. Great post, Fiona. Really loaded. Thinking simply about sin as a failure to love is really worth the price of admission, you can stop right there, as that thought alone will probably lead you a long way. Thank you!

    • Thanks, Suzanne. We probably all have such a long way to go! But this is the beauty of our journeying with God – it’s life long! Blessings, Fiona

    • It makes absolute sense to view sin as a broken relationship. Because it is the Person of God that exists first, before the universe, the laws of the universe, the moral law or the Torah. No law exists without the Lawgiver. No law was put on itself or randomly.
      The universe and its laws that govern it arise from the design and will of the Person.
      Each particle moves and revolves around Him. It recognizes and respects its creator.
      He put Adam and Eve in His image and likeness to have a relationship with us. Its laws have an intention. The Person set the mark. The arrow is shot by people. Missing the mark or missing the target refers to people failing the intention and design of the Person. Sin is a broken relationship with the Person of the Creator, rather than a performance or functioning failure. It is He whom our hearts have stopped loving and respecting. Sin causes pain in the heart of the Person, rather than splintering a window of his heaven. He suffers because he misses communion with us, rather than because somebody had chipped his window.


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