We look at sin in many ways: doing bad things, disobeying God, acting against God's will, fallenness, imperfection, just to name a few. All of these views have good merit. They all help us to see the nature of our sin.
One way that I am finding helpful lately is to look at sin as Unsurrender. It's true that sin is surrendering to something other than God, but I want to focus on the complementary idea of Unsurrender in particular, because even if we don't do something particularly bad, Unsurrender in our heart is still sin.
When Adam and Eve first sinned, they chose Unsurrender. They did not surrender to God's specific instruction, but more to the point, they did not surrender their hearts to Him.
And everyone since then. We commit acts of sin because of our sin of Unsurrender.
Unsurrender means that we're not treating God as Lord. It means we're withholding something from Him. It means our allegiance is given in part to other things. It means we are trying to disallow God from some portion of our lives, even if we gladly give Him other parts of our lives. Unsurrender is what rebels do, what military opponents do even if their defeat is inevitable. Unsurrender is the disposition of our heart rather than specific acts of badness.
Unsurrender is an insistence on self-justifying ourselves before God (which will always fall short).
Therefore, confession and repentance can be viewed as Surrendering. Obedience can also be seen as ongoing Surrender. Discipleship is helping one another progressively surrender more and more of ourselves to Christ. Surrender is accepting that we can never self-justify and so we don't even try. We obey, but we give up every ounce of self-justification.
To try out this idea, in your next time of prayer, examine your heart for Unsurrender and then ask the Holy Spirit to help you to surrender. Perhaps your Scripture reading for the day will help illuminate an area of Unsurrender. Or perhaps even mindfulness of a present area of sin can expose Unsurrender in your heart.
But be encouraged! Surrender is precisely what Jesus uses in order to fill us.
Note: I also believe that just our state of fallenness is part of our sin problem, so I don't mean to suggest that "Unsurrender" completely describes all that sin is.