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Many Christians, like me, are observing the season of Lent, forty days of reflection and sometimes renunciation, leading up to the celebration of Easter. At my church, we are engaged in a study of the letter of the apostle Paul to the Galatians. Pastor Rock points out that fully half of the 27 books making up the canon (accepted as authoritative writings) of the New Testament are attributed to Paul, a Jewish teacher in the first century CE, who was persuaded to follow Jesus by a blazing (and blinding, for a time) insight.

Among other things Pastor Rock said in his sermon on March 12 (find it here), he invited us to consider what might be our personal “signature sin”–the aspect of ourselves that needs correction, but is often difficult to admit, let alone work on. So, in the spirit of Lent, right here in the internet universe, I offer my confession.

My signature sin (according to me): Smugness

Smugness is an ugly word on the face of it, right? To be smug, according to the dictionary, means to be “highly self-satisfied” (with an underlying current of complacency). A person like me can be smug in the feeling that my life–through good luck, good choices, and good behavior–is just fine, thank you very much. The outward, if unspoken, attitude arising from this feeling is, “Why isn’t yours?” And that’s a harsh judgment. Other people can feel it, even if I don’t “mean it.”

I hope that those of you who know me personally will understand that I am working on this, and I hope you will consider at least provisional forgiveness in the meantime.

I acknowledge that my life–everything that I am or have, the planet I live on, the history I am a part of–is pure gift. Furthermore, because of a gift called, in my tradition, Grace, I know that I am loved and forgiven, even in the midst of my signature sin. Because of that, I can proclaim the same gift to you. You are loved. You are forgiven.

That’s a good thought for Lent and for always.

I wrote the poem below in 1977. The “loaf” is still a work in progress.

That I might be the bread to feed a little one in pain,
winnow me, Spirit, by thy breath. Let fall the perfect grain.
Grind me by the rock of faith into a useful flour.
Sift me, knead me, lift me with thy leavening of power.
Mold me into humble loaves, and fire me by thy Word,
then set me where I may be blessed and broken by the Lord.
Barbara Loots
Published in The Lyric


  1. I used to live in Rochester, N.Y., which has this nickname: “Smugtown USA.” It’s really hard to break into social circles there — or at least that was the case in the late ’60s when I worked there. I don’t associate you with smugness, but I know what you mean by it.

  2. “Smugness” caught me by surprise but you have a LOT to be smug about. I haven’t seen you being smug in any negative way as in making other people feel bad. You make people feel good!

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