At What Point Does An Act Become A Sin?


I was reading a thread talking about how watching to much tv can become the sin of sloth, and it raised the question of when does it cross the line or become an actual sin?

For example, at what point does eating to much become gluttony, or looking to much become lust, sitting to much become sloth, so on and so forth.

This confuses me because I think I am a bit scrupulous (sp?) and this always goes through my head, I watch tv maybe to much sometimes but how much is to much. When have a crossed the line into a grave sin?

Thanks for any help!


This is my opinion only:

  • when it distracts you from virtues you know you must try and obtain.

  • when it becomes a continuing or obsessive thought.

  • when you know that doing a particular act or participating in a certain activity will lead to more harmful activity, (whether you follow thru or not)

  • when you ignore pure truths about yourself and participate in the activity just because “everyone else is doing it”

There’s a fine line between goodness and sin, and I feel that we all should be guarded to make sure we don’t cross that line.

Sorry if this is so simple-minded.



I’m simple minded too, and my advice should be taken with that in mind.

i don’t think the seven deadly sins are technically sins, but human tendencies toward sins. my SD tried to explain that once but I didn’t really get it for sure.

I think an act becomes a sin when you consciously will to do it, knowing that it is or you have good reason to be that it is sinful.

In other words, if I punch a person in the face other than self defense, it becomes a sin the minute I make the decision to actually go ahead and do it.

If I check my swing and turn out not to do it, then I have avoided collateral damage but I’m not sure I erased the sin. That is, unless I wasn’t “really serious” about doing it in the first place.

Today my wife said something particularly snide to me, and I was exstatic because she was obviously joking, and doing so in a way I’d never seen her do. The only thing I could think of to say back, is to play like I was Jackie Gleason, made my fist and said, “to the moon, Julie!”

In a case like that, I think if I wanted to hit her and only my fear of causing collateral damage to her and my marriage (and maybe get me locked up) then I think I’m still guilty of the sin.

I claim I did not sin by saying that to Julie because it was absolutely clear to us both that we were engaging in phony banter.


P.S. I think it becomes a sin when the will decides it will make a bona fide attempt at committing it. This may be moments, days, or years before the actual physical sin may or may not be committed. This is why I think Christ says that if you want to hurt somebody (code word: anger) that you are guilty of breaking the commandment against killing. (To kick this up a notch, I will include “showing displeasure” as a possible alias for “harboring anger”)


The common way of looking at salvation is to view it as a matter of what we have done, and what has been forgiven. If we commit a sin, we are guilty and go to Hell. If we confess, we have it wiped off our record and go to Heaven. This view works for a general understanding and everyday conversation, but it falls short when it comes to what is actually happening.

We are born in original sin. This means we are without God’s Grace. When we get baptized, we receive God’s Grace. Baptism puts us in a State of being in and with God’s Grace. We call this being in a state of Grace. We don’t go to Hell or Heaven based on what we have done, but based on whether we are in a state of Grace or not. Because of our sin, we can never be fit for Heaven. Even being forgiven in the way people usually understand it wouldn’t do us any good. You see, having a “clean slate,” as we usually think of it, doesn’t matter because we are by our very nature corrupt and impure, and as we know nothing impure can enter into Heaven. The common way of looking at Baptism is that it “washes away” original sin. In one sense this is true, because it alone Christ makes us able to receive God’s Grace and be in a State of Grace. However, even Baptism leaves behind an impurity which we call concupiscence. Concupiscence is a “disordered nature,” a nature which is not natural and not according to God’s design for us. In “laymen’s” terms, it is an attachment to sin: something that makes us “want” to sin. Concupiscence is an impurity. Because of that, even being forgiven doesn’t really cut it if we want to get to Heaven.

ONLY through God’s Grace may we make it to Heaven. God’s Grace gives us that free gift of Salvation that nothing can earn. When we are God’s Grace, He promises to bring us to Heaven even though we don’t deserve it. This is truly Grace indeed! Therefore, through God’s Grace, he gives to us Purgatory: a purification to remove the impurities in our souls, such as concupiscence.

Sin also has two ways of looking at it: the common way and the technical way. The common way to look at sin is to look at it as breaking some sort of law or rule, like “do not commit adultery.” The technical way to view sin is as a rejection of God’s Grace. The original sin of Adam was something very simple: rejecting God and going against Him. This is what all sin is in its essence. Killing is not a sin because it is intrinsically wrong, but because it is a rejection of God’s commandment and therefore truly a rejection of God Himself (which is essentially why God Himself can take lives without sinning). God can’t sin not because He is so powerful and righteous (though He is), but because sin is nothing more or less than the rejection of God. Put another way, a sin is something which falls short of loving God.

Venial sins are those acts which don’t completely reject God. They are “minor” things which fall short of loving God, but don’t actually reject Him. A mortal sin is a sin which at its core rejects God. This is why a mortal sin has its three qualifications: grave matter, full knowledge, and full will. To reject God, a person must know it is God he is rejecting, and also must have the want. This is why for a Christian, only mortal sin can send a person to Hell. When we are in God’s Grace, we will be purified and goto Heaven. Only rejecting this Grace and becoming Graceless will condemn us because if we don’t reject God’s Grace it will save us. An unbaptized person never was in a state of Grace in the first place, so it doesn’t matter if they have full knowledge or will when they commit sin. They may not go to Hell, but without the Grace to be purified they can’t make it to Heaven (When they Church talks about people outside its visible boundaries being saved, it is assumed that they have received a Baptism of Desire).

A mortal sin, therefore, is an act which completely and utterly rejects God and therefore His Grace which alone would save a person. A venial sin is an act which is not completely in line with loving God but doesn’t reject Him. Think of parents and a teenager. If a teenager lies and tells his parents that he did his homework when he didn’t, this is not completely living up to the idea of loving them, but it certainly doesn’t reject them. If the teenager sneaks out in the middle of the night, he is completely missing the goal of loving them and he rejects them.

When we completely miss the goal of loving God, this is mortal sin. Therefore, when a person denies God exists, this completely misses the goal of loving God. It is a rejection of Him. When a person kills, it completely falls short of loving God. When a person tells a white lie, or steals a dollar, it doesn’t completely fall short of loving God, but it doesn’t completely live up to it. This is a venial sin.




No amount of venial sins will ever send a person to Hell, because they never put a person out of God’s Grace. They never outright reject God’s Grace. However, it is important to remember that God’s Grace enables us and helps us to avoid sin. It helps us to love God more. Therefore, every time a person commits a venial sin, its an act which by its vey nature is a refusal to cooperate with God’s Grace. The person doesn’t reject the Grace, but he chooses not to cooperate with it. When a person commits venial sin after venial sin after venial sin, he chooses to not cooperate with the Grace again and again and again, and he gets used to not using the Grace. This leads to a person being very likely to utterly reject God’s Grace. Thus, commiting many venial sins leads to mortal sin. Mortal sin is a rejection of God’s Grace, which is the only thing that can purify a person and allow them to enter Heaven. This is what St. James is refering to in James 1:14-15:

“Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.”

A person’s desires are his concupiscence. When James speaks about the birth of sin, he is referring to venial sins: minor acts that fall short of the goal of loving God. Fully grown sin is mortal sin: acts which completely reject God and completely miss the goal of loving Him. These, of course, give birth to death: damnation. This also ties in very closely to Jesus’ statement that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, and all your mind, and all your soul. This is the greatest commandment because it’s really what life is about and what actually matters. Nothing else really means anything, because everything at its core breaks down to either loving God or not loving God.

I could go on and on about this, but I hope this helps…


To commit a sin three things are necessary. !. An action or omission must be sinful. 2. One must know or be aware at the time that an action or omission is sinful or think that it is. 3. One must freely decide to do it(act of the will).

Lets say you decide to punch someone out, but a friend grabs you and stops you. You have already decided to go but have been cicumvented. You are still guilty because the decision(act of the will) was made. You are not legally guilty under the law of the land, but you have sinned.

You would have to know what constitutes a sins of sloth, lust, etc. by reading an Examination of Conscience for example. What constitutes too much TV for example would vary depending on the circumstances and what duties you were neglecting while setting in front of the tube.

Booklets with an Examination of Conscience are available at Catholic bookstores or sometimes in Parish pamphlet racks. A book on the sacrament of penance might have one. :thumbsup:


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