One of the hardest things to get teens to understand is that our sin - EVEN WHEN NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT IT - hurts others. That was sophomore class discussion today.
My first example was this: a guy, alone, looking at porn. Nobody else involved. "Hey, it doesn't hurt anybody." To their credit, my students were able to work through this: it hurts him, hurts his relationships with women, supports an industry that shouldn't even exist, etc. (And no, I'm not disillusioned or naive; I know a lot of them struggle with porn themselves.)
My next example was tougher for them. What if I, every time I see a certain student, think, "Geez, I hate that kid..." I don't badmouth that kid to anyone, don't talk about him in the teacher's lounge, don't complain about him to my husband. I just think, "I hate that kid" every time I see him. Is that a sin? Yes. Does it affect anyone? And that's where they got stuck.
It's ridiculously hard for all of us to think that our private foibles and "naughty" thoughts aren't just that: private. But as much as we rationalize it, such negativity really does affect us and others.
I asked my students, "Do you think that Christ looks at anyone that way?" (One student pulled out the inevitable Hitler answer - like Hitler is the only evil guy ever...), but they had to admit that no, Christ didn't look at anyone that way. Then I asked, "And aren't we supposed to be like Christ?"
Teaching faith often means telling people stuff they don't want to hear, and telling teens that thinking mean thoughts is a sin is definitely something they don't want to hear.
Come to think of it, neither do I. Guess we all have some work to do.