In the book Growing Down by Barry J. Robinson, he writes about this very common attitude:
“Holding people in their sins is a popular pastime. Few of us can resist it. I know something wrong that you have done and, no matter where it falls on the continuum of wrongdoing, it has lodged squarely in my mind. It is the way I see you whenever I look at you from now on. The woman who had an abortion at eighteen. The man who got caught cheating on his wife. The person who failed at his job.”
“And yet, how simple it is to let someone go, to unlock our hold on their sins, and release them to live a new life. It is what human freedom is all about – both the freedom we give another from releasing them from their past and the freedom we receive from choosing to be our deepest and most loving selves.”
He relates a story about a man named Joe and therapist Milton Erickson to illustrate the point. An excerpt about “You can if you’re a gentleman” can be found here.