A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Euphemisms for Sin

Euphemisms fig leaves we use to try to cover sin

Euphemism fig leaves we use to try to cover sin

I am compiling a list of euphemisms for “sin.” I’ll start with the sin-minimizing terms I’ve seen in articles or heard from megachurch pulpits recently.

  • Moral failure
  • Mistake
  • Flaw
  • Error
  • Problem
  • Indiscretion
  • Oversight
  • Shortcoming

Lest these terms get worn out and overused, I have made a list of synonyms that leaders might want to consider using when attempting to minimize sin and keep unrepentant abusers/sinners in power.

Slip-up. The floor was wet and someone slipped. Or they stepped on a grape in the floor and slipped and fell.

Area of opportunity. It’s not a sin at all, just an opportunity to trust Jesus more!

Hiccup. Maybe you can drink some water while holding your nose and the problem will go away.

Misstep. He was going up the stairs and he missed a step.

Blunder. He’s not sinning. He’s just a blunderer, like the lovable grandpa on a bad sitcom.

Foible. Just sounds silly and harmless.

Misguided. He didn’t sin. He was misguided. So he’s a victim of an unnamed bad guide.

Lapse in judgement. He didn’t sin. His judgement lapsed. Did he forget to renew his Good Judgment software license?

Misunderstanding. That could be anything. He didn’t sin. You are misunderstanding the circumstances.

These terms don’t fool anyone, least of all unbelievers. Just say “sin” like the Bible says “sin.” No one is surprised when sinners sin. Christ died for sin. It’s not a bad word. The Westminster Children’s Catechism Q & A: What is sin? Sin is disobedience against God’s perfect law by failing to do what God commands or doing what God forbids. Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones simplifies it even further calling sin anything that does not bring glory to God.

you have turned justice into poison
and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood  Amos 5:7

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!  Isaiah 5:20

I was also considering some biblical synonyms for sin. There’s:

  • Sin
  • Iniquity
  • Trespass
  • Transgression
  • Guilt
  • Disobedience
  • Unrighteousness
  • Shame
  • Wickedness
  • Evildoing

Got any to add?

47 Comments

  1. Anewanon

    Negligence, carelessness, forgetfulness

  2. Ellie

    A friend mentioned “struggles.” It’s a one word pity play. You’re meant to imagine the strugglers struggling with this massive burden and feel sorry for them.

  3. StandsWithAFist

    “a little fib”= lying, as in: “I told a little fib, but I confessed it to the Lord, so now it’s off my heart and you need to get over it.”

    Abusers will lie about lying…..but only if they are caught redhanded, with witnesses. Then they will minimize it, twist it and make it be your fault for seeing it.

    However, “it’s not really a lie if people believe it”.

    Yikes.

  4. Betty A. Crews

    You already listed flaw, so this is not significantly different, but my ex-husband repeatedly referenced his ‘€˜character flaws’, implying this was part of his temperament that needed to be overlooked.

    Betty A. Crews

  5. Scarlett

    Rebellion comes to mind. The old brain hasn’t kicked into gear because I’m just now having my first cup of coffee, which is a “vice” of mine. A sinful indulgence …..but it tastes so good, in the same sort of way as a piece of Chocolate Decadence Cake.

  6. joanne

    Who can disagree with the “I’m not perfect” statement?

    • Valerie

      Ugghhh…if I had a nickel for every time my husband said that…..

    • Ellie

      I certainly won’t.

  7. Jeff Crippen

    “I made a poor choice.”

  8. I dont have a “synonym” for sin, but my H uses “over the top” instead of “abuse.”

    • Ellie

      Minimizing.

  9. Valerie

    “In retrospect I see I could have done better.”

  10. LorenHaas

    Popular among corporate CEOs, politicians and celebrity pastors, “MISTAKES were made.”

    • Ellie

      Ah, passive voice. Who made the mistakes? Zombies?

      And you left out NFL coaches. Oops. Was that out loud?

    • Yeah. “MISTAKES were made” …. the word ‘mistakes’ is a euphemism for sin. And the omission of the subject of the verb ‘were made’ is another tactic of evasiveness. When you omit the name of the person or the organization which made the ‘mistakes’ you render them almost invisible.

      “… the ether, or the gnomes at the bottom of the garden, made those mistakes, not me, not us! “

  11. LorenHaas

    Elle, I hope you do a follow up with half-hearted apologies.

    • Savedbygrace

      good point- my husband has just recently sent me an ‘apology’ that on one level sounds comprehensive but there is no mention of /ownership of ‘I have sinned’. When you break down what he says he is still minimising and ducking responsibility. It is anything and everything except disobedience and sin. The eg of the prodigal son I think is helpful ” on returning to his father he said “I have sinned against heaven and against you,I am no longer worthy to be called your son”.. now that kind of attitude and apology left room for the father to graciously forgive and restore their relationship

      • healingInHim

        Thank you for posting this. Half-hearted apologies most often put the burden on the victim to “forgive & forget” … “get over it and move on” … etc. etc. etc.
        Sadly, all of this is stated as they continue on in SIN 😦

  12. In Christ Alone

    The 12-step recovery program calls sin “character defects.” Because my husband has chosen to identify sex addiction as the cause of his abusive behavior (despite my clear presentaion to him with evidence that addiction is not the cause of his problems & is an incorrect label), the term “character defect” is the perfect get-out-of-jail-free card that doesn’t call his motives, attitudes and behaviors by their right name. If he has a “disease” that comes with built-in character defects, how could he possibly be to blame?? Gag. The first time I ever witnessed his true rage against me was when I dared to confront him with the true & honest description of what porn really is. And then I was just “shaming” him…

    • I think that what your husband does not truly realize is that his sexual addiction and abuse have the same root cause, the sins of pride and control. One does not flow from the other, but both come from the poisoned well of wanting to gratify himself to the detriment of others.

      • healingInHim

        Wendell – For years I pleaded with my husband. Prayerfully desiring to help him work on the “root cause” of the sexual and other sins. As the years of feigning remorse passed he eventually criticized me for using that term. He would say, “Oh I know what you think? To you everything has a “root cause”.” The children heard this and follow in his path. — I knew what I read in the Scriptures — years of apathy towards sin creates many victims — and the ‘c’hurch and so called ‘c’hristian counselors condone the apathy.

  13. Anne

    Ellie, I love your humor. It helps off-set the insanity.

  14. Lisa

    I always hated hearing this from the pulpit, “A big problem in some marriages is that one of the two has unrealistic expectations.” And, (said with sarcasm) “If you want intimacy, sow intimacy!” I kind of wonder what that sounds like to someone who doesn’t have an “afflicted filter”.

  15. Ann

    When confronting anti-husband about flirting with women and sexual innuendos written to him by them in emails he said of himself, “I guess I just don’t have high enough boundaries”.

  16. searchingfortruth

    My husband always claims inoccence because his “intentions were not to hurt me” He claims being ‘misinformed’ or it was just a ‘tactical error’ and then says that if I still choose to be upset it is on me. No apologies. I can never claim he did wrong because his intentions are always right.

    • I can never claim he did wrong because his intentions are always right.

      Hmm. Even if it was true that he had good intentions — and he most likely had malicious intentions — this is a shabby argument. It would mean that Peter could/should have rebutted Jesus because Peter’s intentions were right.

      From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” [and this is NOT what happened next:] Peter replied, “But Lord, my intentions were right! I wanted to be loving and I care for your wellbeing!”

      • Round*Two

        Whats that saying? “using good for evil”… Using good for evil for their own selfish benefit.

    • Valerie

      Searching, mine said that frequently too. Finally I started telling him that when you truly love someone you do not want to see them hurt, you care when they do and you do everything in your power to not do it again. It is so sickening to hear them approach your pain as a lawyer who just wants to win the case. In those times it was so obvious to me that he couldn’t care less about my pain. I also told him repeatedly that my pain does not affect him- something a counselor told me about him at one point. They never respond to the pain, only the argument. Dead giveaway of their heart because it displays their lack of empathy. I also find it very telling in your case that he would use the world “tactical” because it seems to reveal that he approaches the conversation as war. (unless he is military/police and the reference comes readily)

      • searchingfortruth

        You hit the nail on the head. Lack of empathy and not taking responsibility. After years of feeling confused I’m finally seeing his verbal tactics as abuse.

    • DancingRain

      Hmm. I know this is old. I am dealing with this right now. My H hesitates calling himself an abuser even when presented with sufficient evidence. He says that abusers choose to abuse, and even though his behavior towards me has been horrible, he didn’t mean it. His intention was not to hurt me but show me affection and love. (Very twisted!). Somehow that absolves him of responsibility. After all, the Lord looks at the heart…

      • oh, Dancing Rain, it sounds to me like your abuser is very crafty, subtle in making excuses for his bad behavior… excuses that will absolve him.

        Bottom line with abusers: they lie. They evade. They obliquely fight having to take responsibility for their bad behavior.

        Whatever he ‘claims’ about his intentions, it doesn’t stack up. It doesn’t wash. And Scripture says that even when a sin is unintentional, it is still sin.

        And abusers usually claim they ‘didn’t mean to hurt you’ – but it’s just another of their lies.

      • So the Lord looks at the heart… and He knows the abuser is lying, and evading, and distorting, and misrepresenting the facts to make himself look innocent.

  17. Anonymous

    “It’s just the place I’m in.”
    “I’m afraid to love you right.”
    “You’re just too good for me sometimes.”

    • “This is my personality. God gave it to me so it must be ok.” (even though you are bawling your eyes out in pain begging me to stop yelling at you. Oh, wait, he doesnt say this part…)
      “I had poor modeling. It makes it so difficult.” (to actually treat you in anything resembling a Godly way. Oh, wait. Sorry. Not this part either…) Feeling a bit snarky today…

  18. Faith

    My husband would blow his top and call it righteous indignation. I didn’t see any righteousness in a temper.

  19. Ben B.

    Awesome post, really appreciate it!

    My father would always tell me that I had it better than when he was growing up, so I ought to be appreciative that things weren’t worse. This never made sense to me growing up, I mean when someone yells, screams, cusses you out, throws thing, punches holes in walls, throws food all over the floor/walls, threatens you, threatens others if you do not capitulate to his desires, etc. Its supposed to be ok/justifiable because he had it “worse” growing up?

    Reading the post made me think though of how many times I’ve seen the church tell an abuser to hurry up and put on their fig leaves before someone notices. Hello! That doesn’t matter to God if you try to cover things up and minimize them. God focused on the root cause with Adam and Eve, fig leaves didn’t fool him, neither should they fool the believer today.

  20. standsfortruth

    When calling out his bad behavior, he replies “You just dont understand me, you see, I was feeling happy when I said that.
    On second thought, I was just being stupid when I said that.”

  21. Dr Phil Monroe has just published a post that pertains to this topic:
    How labels we use reveal self-deception.

    Here’s a quote —

    No, I’m not a rapist, but I have used force to make someone to have sex.

    • Innoscent

      Barb, I remember last year there was an uproar on the web about a guy promoting ‘soft rape’ being ok. Did you hear about it?

      • no I didn’t hear about that.

      • Innoscent

        At the time I was alerted about it by a circular email. They must have banned the video on YouTube because I couldn’t find it. Just as well.

        Definition of ‘Soft rape’ by Andrea Parrot (Coping with Date Rape and Acquaintance Rape): Forced sexual intercourse (or other sexual act) in which coercion (mental pressure or intimidation) or threat of coercion is used to gain the victim’s acquaintance.

        This is what happened to me twice when a young woman, first with an acquaintance an second by my boyfriend.

  22. Not Too Late

    Ellie, if using euphemisms for sin wasn’t bad enough, Christians often don’t allow us to name sin for what it is! So it’s OK to say that the abuser “has weaknesses”, “has poor judgment”, “is flawed”, “shows immaturity”, but you CANNOT say that his acts are evil or wicked. Oh no, you can’t do that. That’s what I was literally told.

  23. fiftyandfree

    In addition to the many euphemisms for sin, the ex had plenty of them for lying. He “embellished” some things (mainly his character) while we were dating because he didn’t want to lose me. You see, it was actually for my own good because I would have moved on to someone else had he told me the truth about himself and then I would have missed out on a really great guy who doesn’t lie, he just “embellishes” things. His lies were “versions of the truth” and “matters of perspective.” He didn’t actually “lie.” I had the wrong perspective. I didn’t appreciate that his embellishments were for my own good.

  24. Innoscent

    Thanks Ellie for the humorous linguistic decoding 🙂
    My H’s favorite euphemistic word for sin was ‘weakness’, and either ‘it was not his fault’ or he was ‘working’ on it. Well…. decades down the line he’s still working on it I guess!
    ‘Wrongdoing’ and ‘challenge’ are other euphemisms for sin.
    ‘Violation’ and ‘offense’ = sin.

    • As Dr George Simon says, change happens in the here and now. The covert aggressive’s claim “I’m working on it” is just hot air unless you see evidence of rubber to the road change in the here and now.

      • Innoscent

        Exactly Barbara! Many abusers are masters at procrastination. One statement that sprung to my mind at reading the words ‘hot air’ in your comment, is from Paul:

        I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, NOT AS ONE THAT BEATETH THE AIR: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.1 Cor 9:26-27

        That says in all in a nutshell.

  25. Anonymous

    This is awesome! I’m so grateful to have come here–I usually start with the “Recent Comments” section and go from there–this brings me to older posts like this one that are still relevant.

    How all these euphemisms are used AGAINST God’s children and often benefit the ABUSER. WE (Gods true children) are held up to UNATTAINABLE standards and we are refused the same soft cushion of lies that we provide for the abuser in the relationship. WE must speak the truth at all times and if WE try to “hide” behind these LIES, we are called out.

    In all the time I’ve known my husband, he has been a psychopath. Always. I was never forewarned about evil abusers in the church or in society and instead was lied to and trained up to believe that we were all the same. Wow. What a MASSIVE lie I used to believe and one that I based my entire life on and the life of my children. By being forced to believe this lie I thought that my being honest, taking people to account for their behaviors, and standing up for truth would eventually help others to see the truth as well. This thinking is SO NOT BIBLICAL!

    Ephesians 4:18, “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.”

    Romans 1:21, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

    The examples used in this post are BEAUTIFUL! They are the ways evil ones use the truth of God’s word and wrong teaching in the church and society to keep those who belong to Jesus playing their evil game. The beauty comes from the sharing of these lies with each other so that we can start to work our way out of the fog of abuse and lies that the evil one keeps us under. Thank you!

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