An analogy by Mother Angelica, founder of EWTN.
According to this hilarious and holy nun, there are 3 types of Catholics: the sinner, the good person, and the saint. They have many things in common, but one thing is for certain… every single one of them falls into “the mud puddle” of sin. What sets them apart and defines them is their response to mud.
The Sinner rejoices in the mud puddle. He loves to stay and play in the mud. He claims that mud is “natural” and there is nothing wrong with wanting to cover himself in it. He even believes that the mud is rejuvenating. He has mud fights with other sinners, and splashes those people who are trying to walk by and avoid the puddle. He delights in the slush and muck, seeing it as instinctive and commonplace. The sinner makes little, if any attempt to get out of the mud.
The Good Person mourns each time he falls in the puddle. He knows the mud makes him unclean and will stain. He cries out, and mentally punishes himself over and over again saying, “how could I let this happen? I know better than this! Why didn’t I just avoid the mud puddle? I have no desire to be here! I know that it’s wrong! I just fell!” He pridefully thinks he never should have ended up in the puddle to begin with, and because of this, his “fall” is mortifying. He spends so much time wallowing, he remains in the mud for awhile before finally climbing out.
The Saint doesn’t make a big deal of the mud puddle.When he falls in he thinks, “crap… I did it again…” and then immediately gets himself out of it. He knows the mud is bad for him and he knows that he falls into it sometimes. He simply stands up, steps out of the mud puddle, cleans himself off. He doesn’t excuse his fall, but he doesn’t dwell on it either. In humility, he knows he is prone to falling, so he is forgiving of himself. Because he doesn’t dwell on the mud, his is able to focus his attention upward and concern himself with things that are much more enjoyable and life-giving than mud.
This analogy has been so helpful for me in my own life. My own tendency is to respond like the Good Person. I am so condemning of myself when I fall that I end up staying down! This is exactly what Satan wants; it’s his masterful trap.
It’s freeing to know that my frequent trips into the mud puddle are not a sign of personal weakness, rather a sign of fallen human nature. I still try to avoid the mud puddle, but now I know I do not have to condemn myself when I slip. Condemnation– even self- condemnation– is not a holy attribute. Love is though, even when we are directing it towards ourselves.
Thanks to Jesus, if I do fall, I have a way to get up and clean myself off. The mud puddle can only keep me dirty if I let it.