Sins of Omission at the Gas Station

Pumping Gas

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My first son is teething. With one hand I tried to sooth his cries. With the other hand I tried to explain journalism to the internet trolls who had descended on my most recent article. I felt weary and cranky.

I was anxious for my wife to return home from class so she could watch the baby while I ran the errands and finished up my work for the day.

But when she came home–20 minutes late–she had a ton of graduate level homework. All of which had been procrastinated until it was due immediately.

It was clear I would not be able to pass the baby off.

In terms of the sin-ometer, I was doing pretty good.

So I loaded up the kid, with about 30 minutes until he needed a nap, and headed out on my errands.

I felt frazzled. But I gave myself a self-congratulatory pat on the back–the kind we embarrassingly give ourselves from time to time. I felt satisfied that I hadn’t made any snarky remarks, hadn’t raised my voice, and hadn’t said a single unkind word.

In terms of the sin-ometer, I was doing pretty good.

So me and kiddo headed off to the gas station. The gas station at the corner is next to a laundromat. And as I began to fill up the car, a mother carried a hamper full of clothes out to her car, with two toddlers orbiting her legs. She was about 30 feet away from me.

I only half processed the scene. I was quite absorbed recounting through my mind the many offenses I had endured that day, while simultaneously pumping the gas and cooing at my baby through the window. He was not cooing back.

The woman from the laundromat opened her trunk and deposited the hamper. But as she closed the trunk door it scraped a small sock off the laundry onto the asphalt parking lot.

It took me a moment to even realize what had happened, as the woman began walking toward the driver door unaware. And here are the places that my mind went to:

  1. It was only a sock
  2. No one wants strangers yelling at them all the way across the parking lot.
  3. It’s not really my responsibility to rescue her sock
  4. She looks harried, perhaps rescuing the sock isn’t even worth her time

These were stupid places, because by the time I finally got to #5-Just shout “you dropped a sock” she had already gotten in her car door and begun to reverse. Those worthless second-sapping thoughts were justifications, and they led me to something I hadn’t even thought about earlier that day–a sin of omission.

“Sins of omission are the thoughtful, caring deeds we fail to do.”

–James E. Faust

That entire afternoon I had felt so confident in my sinlessness because of the terrible things I failed to do, that I forgot that I once promised God to bear the burdens of those around me.

When we hesitate to do good, we are giving away one of our most precious commodities, our time.

When the Savior invited Peter and Andrew to follow him they left their nets “straightway,” and James and John followed Christ “immediately.”

When we hesitate to do good, we are giving away one of our most precious commodities, our time. And in cases like mine, we miss the opportunity to do good all together.

Which of course brought me back to my wife. After a long school day, she had returned home at dinner time with another several hours of work in front of her. And I just left because I thought my errand list was so much more important. I didn’t make her a nice dinner, I didn’t give her time to vent, I didn’t say a kind word.

So how can I move myself away from sins of omission? Neal A. Maxwell taught, “Most omissions occur because we fail to get outside ourselves. We are so busy checking on our own temperatures, we do not notice the burning fevers of others.”

In the end, it’s a matter of focus. When we are worrying about our own problems, we are not trying to solve the problems of others. The Savior himself taught:

“Whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”

As I learn to stop worrying so much about all my own little frustrations, I can turn my attention to doing the little things to improve the lives of those around me.

Christopher D. Cunningham is the managing editor for Public Square Magazine and contributor to Third Hour. He loves emphatically celebrating the normal healthy development of his sons Albus and Whitman, writing about the Church of Jesus Christ, finding the middle ground on most controversies, and using Western Family generic brand lip balm. Christopher is a proud graduate of Brigham Young University-Idaho, and a resident of San Antonio, Texas.