Recently I was speaking with someone who was using the anemic moral argument, “…as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone…” That set my mind thinking about the Christian understanding of the social nature of sin, which posits a certain “butterfly effect” in every good or evil deed. Even the most secret inner evil thought, as Fr. Zosima says in The Brothers Karamozov, poisons the whole universe, while the most secret act of charity brings light into the farthest reaches of darkness.
Then I came across this quote from 19th century French convert Léon Bloy, which I discovered in a terrific article, that makes this same point with the literary artistry Bloy is known for:
Every man who begets a free act projects his personality into the infinite. If he gives a poor man a penny grudgingly, that penny pierces the poor man’s hand, falls, pierces the earth, bores holes in suns, crosses the firmament and compromises the universe. If he begets an impure act, he perhaps darkens thousands of hearts whom he does not know, who are mysteriously linked to him, and who need this man to be pure as a traveler dying of thirst needs the Gospel’s draught of water. A charitable act, an impulse of real pity sings for him the divine praises, from the time of Adam to the end of the ages; it cures the sick, consoles those in despair, calms storms, ransoms prisoners, converts the infidel and protects mankind.