Traffic Tickets and Sin Have Much in Common by Libby DuPont


dupont_libbyRed and blue lights flash in your rearview mirror. It takes a second to register what they are. Then, as these lights follow you over to the shoulder a more sickening realization settles in: Uh-oh. You’re getting pulled over. Few non-life threatening things instill more fear or dread in people. In a best case scenario, you get off with a warning and a stern talking-to. In a worst, you could end up switching cars and leaving with a new set of bracelets. More likely, you get stuck with a very expensive sheet of paper. In any case, it’s an experience most would love to avoid.

It occurred to me one time when I, (I mean this lady I know), got pulled over, that the experience can be a wonderful analogy for sin. Let’s take the traffic violation itself first. If you’ve ever driven anywhere, you know that people break traffic laws all the time. This is like sin, which happens constantly in our world. Like sin, many people are tempted to think that because it is common, it is not a big deal. But that’s not true. Traffic laws are meant to keep us from smashing into one another, and getting hurt or killed. Sometimes when you break them, you get in an accident. But even when you don’t “get caught” by the State Trooper, or cause a crash, you can still hurt people. If you are tailgating or you cut someone off, or weave through traffic, you are affecting others. I am probably shaking my fist at you from within my minivan, and you’ve just added stress to my already stressful day. You have only to do a little research on road rage to see the effect drivers have upon each other’s emotions. Of course, when it comes to sin, every sin hurts both you and others. Even sins that seem victimless have hurt the dignity of the transgressor. Actually every sin hurts the one who commits it more than the one who is the victim! Sin is an injury. Always.

Secondly, tickets can give us a good understanding of mortal vs. venial sin. (Yes, we still do believe in mortal sin!) A mortal sin is one that completely cuts us off from our relationship with God. It extinguishes sanctifying grace in our souls. If we die in this state without repenting, we go to hell. This is like a DUI, driving with a suspended license, extreme reckless driving, or a fatal hit and run. In these cases, if you avoid jail, you’d at least end up with your license revoked.

People are quick to point out that in order for there to be full culpability for mortal sin, one needs to have full knowledge that it was wrong and have chosen it freely. That’s true. However, in the case of mortal sin, the grave matter involved means that it’s always bad. Even if a person is not at fault at all, they still do grave harm. If you take an extreme example, how about a car that uncontrollably accelerates? Even though it was not the driver’s fault, even death can still result. I bring this up because many people simply don’t think that sin is a big deal, and even sometimes seem to want people committing mortal sins to stay ignorant so that they aren’t culpable. This is ridiculous. Wouldn’t you want to know if you had a defective accelerator?!

Another thing that many people dismiss as unimportant is venial sin. Venial sin is the less serious type of sin that does not destroy, but does diminish God’s grace in our lives. It would not cause our damnation if we died with it on our souls, but would require purification before entering heaven. The thing about venial sin is that even really small ones open the door to bigger ones. They make it easier to fall into venial sin. Think of a small venial sin like getting a warning. Once you get a documented warning, you are more likely to get a ticket the next time. And let’s face it: a ticket is a frustrating nuisance. They cost money. They make insurance premiums go up. They don’t go away from your record for several years. Of course, if you get enough tickets, you end up getting your license revoked. It’s the same with venial sin. Anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of someone else’s crabby mood or lazy carelessness can tell you: even venial sins hurt people. Put enough of them together, like a marriage full of mean-spirited sarcastic comments, and the hurt can run very deep.

No one likes to talk about sin any more than they like to get pulled over. But it is good to refresh ourselves every once and a while about the truths of God’s law so that we can avoid causing damage to ourselves and others.

Copyright 2o1o Libby DuPont


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1 Comment

  1. Libby,

    Thank you so much for this excellent piece. It really does bring home the concept of sin using an analogy that hits home. I would love to be able to use it in my RCIA class when we teach about sin. I request your permission to use it, with attribution to you, for that purpose only and to make and distribute printed copies only to those persons being catechized.


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