Avoiding Sin and Strength of Will

Salvete, omnes!

There are apparently a number of passages both in the Old and New Testaments that speak to avoidance of sin. Many of these speak of avoiding even “near occasions of sin” due to even the potential for sinning.

However, there are those who, under certain circumstances, may have strong enough wills so as to avoid sin, even if they are placed in situations that might otherwise be considered “near occasions”.

Not to sound terribly vain, but I believe (and I have found in the past) that I myself indeed have a very strong will and am easily able to resist temptation. (Now, I’m not saying that I am guaranteed to do so under all circumstances, but I think I know myself well enough as to avoid those circumstances where I am very likely to be led into sin.)

The question then arises: Is the notion of “near occasion for sin” a completely objective standard? Or, can it be more subjective in the sense that what may be a “near occasion” for some may not be for someone else because of a difference in strength of will? If one is introduced into a completely new situation, how can one know 100% whether one is entering into a “near occasion” or not? In those cases, is it best to avoid the situation entirely or is one free to “test the waters” in the sense that he/she is permitted to go there so long as, if he/she experiences temptation and cannot control it, he/she must get out of it? What of the situations where this, though, is practically impossible? Also, how much is the correcting ofthe will to be invoked rather than the avoidance of the situation?

Thanks.

I would say it’s subjective. What tempts me may not tempt others. What tempts others may not tempt me. I actually can think of one area where I never feel tempted but often hear other people say how hard that situation is for them. And I’m sure there are things that I find very difficult that other people are like, “No biggie.”

Occasions of sin, simply said, are things those make you fall into sin. They can be persons, places, things, etc.

We are told to avoid these.

The more we know and love God, which defines our justice or holiness, the more able we are to refrain from sin. Will power doesn’t acheive holiness; love does, which is why Scripture tells us that love fulfills the Law. The essence of the New Covenant is that man needs God-communion with God- ‘apart from Whom he can do nothing’, to paraphrase John 15:5. Our wills are oriented towards that which we truly love.

Perhaps a bit OT, but, I must say, I can identify with a temptation being terrible for most but truly non-existent for me, i.e., sexual sin, as I believe myself to be asexual (having no desire of that nature). This, however, is a whole other topic for a whole other thread, I fear, and I have indeed seen it discussed before… But, yeah, half the time I don’t even know what is “provocative” and what is not, save for what I hear in movies/read in books/etc. as they tell me what is and isn’t. Can get a bit confusing, especially when judging what might make someone stumble and what may not. (See? I eventually brought the thread back around…LOL)

What if one’s use of will-power (aided by the Holy Spirit) is motivated by this love, as I believe mine is?

Yes! Absolutely. Grace producing love resulting in obedience. Something on that order is the right way as I understand our faith.

It’s always a mistake to rely solely upon our own willpower. The saints teach us to flee to God’s protection the moment we’re tempted. NEVER engage in dialog with the tempter. Self-reliance is a species of pride that is toxic to spiritual growth. Humility, poverty of spirit, and total dependence upon God will serve us much better.

Sure, we must resolve to follow God’s will for us and use all of our strength to do so, but always while invoking God’s assistance at the same time.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.