9 Ways You Might Be Participating In Other People’s Sins

by Sin

Talking about sin is not exactly a surefire way to win a popularity contest. Good thing the path to holiness is not a popularity contest! In fact, He promised that it wouldn’t be, both in word (especially in the Beatitudes) and indeed (at His Crucifixion).

But isn’t there a kind of cognitive dissonance to refuse to talk about sin? I mean – it’s not hard to look around and see that everything is not okay in the world… and, on a personal level, we KNOW when we’ve done something bad.

Our conscience just pricks us. So, no, the Catholic Church is not obsessed with sin, and neither am I, but it’s helpful sometimes to examine the topic a little more carefully, especially where nuances apply, and concerning areas, we might not have thought about.

Today I’d like to discuss the notion of “being accessory to another’s sin.” An old-fashioned idea and phrase, perhaps, but worthy of our consideration if we wish to be on the personal path to holiness, and to draw those around us closer to God, as well.

Obviously, we do not live in a vacuum (where I’m immune to what’s around me and vice-versa). Rather, we live, necessarily and by design, in a particular context. We influence and are influenced by those people around us, to a greater or lesser degree. Distilled down to a very simple level, we are either helping or harming.

Scraping along with the bare minimum of virtue is not going to get us to heaven, and it sure isn’t inspiring. Indeed, it’s an attitude that really doesn’t make sense at all to the Catholic. It’s simply not good enough for us to mind our own business and pat ourselves on the back for “being a good person” if we know better, and if we want to truly spread the gospel in the hearts of our friends and in the world around us.

So, without further ado, the following list is taken from the New Roman Missal by Father Lasance, with Imprimaturs in 1937 and 1945. Where appropriate, we have added scripture verses and other resources to help you consider these points more deeply.

Nine Ways of Being Accessory to Another’s Sin

1. By counsel

In other words, we should never urge someone to do something ill-advised or sinful.

The thoughts of the righteous are just, But the counsels of the wicked are deceitful (Proverbs 12:5).
A man of violence entices his neighbor And leads him in a way that is not good (Proverbs 16:29).
Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD (Numbers 31:16).

2. By command

Or, in other words, don’t force someone to do something sinful.

“But as for you, you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by the instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi,” says the LORD of hosts (Malachi 2:8).

But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! (Matthew 18:6-7).

3. By consent

Giving someone permission or telling them it’s okay to do something sinful is, itself, a sin on our part.

Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life (Genesis 3:17).

4. By provocation

We must be careful to never provoke someone into sin, for example, by teasing someone for not joining us in bad behavior, or by irritating someone to the point that he punches you, or by introducing some topic of conversation that draws your friend into gossip.

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this–not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way (Romans 14:13).

5. By praise or flattery

By flattering a person’s pride, or any sort of praise for an action on the part of another that itself was sinful. By puffing up the ego of someone we know to be in error.

He that speaketh flattery to his friends, even the eyes of his children shall fail (Job 17:5).
But as for the wicked, they do not speak truth at all. Inside them there is only wickedness. Their throat is an open grave, on their tongue is deceitful flattery (Psalm 5:9).
Behold, I am against those that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and did tell them, and caused my people to err by their lies, and by their flattery; yet I did not send them, nor command them; and they did not profit this people at all, said the LORD (Jer 23:32).
With flattery he will corrupt those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will be strong and take action (Dan 11:32).
For these are the kind who do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By their smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of the naive (Rom 16:18).


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6. By concealment

By covering up for a friend’s sin. That doesn’t mean you go around blabbing about it, of course, but deliberately trying to hide it is cause for your own sin.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3 ).

7. By partaking

This one explains itself, no?

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:10-13).

8. By silence

In other words, by failing to admonish, warn, correct, instruct or rebuke. This is a really tough one, I know. In an age when it’s hard to walk out the door and not be confronted by institutional and individual sin, scandal, and bad influence. Dr. Jordan B. Peterson says below, “it’s not safe to speak. Pick your poison. Tell the truth and see what happens.” When you do speak the truth, you risk alienating people and worse. But when you don’t speak against sin, you risk your own spiritual well-being.

It is an entirely false notion of friendship that thinks it’s okay not to call out a friend who is harming himself through sin. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, “silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17).

9. By defense of the ill done

Furthermore, Manasseh killed so many innocent people, he stained Jerusalem with their blood from end to end, in addition to encouraging Judah to sin by doing evil in the sight of the Lord (2 Kings 21:16).

When you see a thief, you are pleased with him, And you associate with adulterers (Psalm 50:18).

But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:15-19).

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