Avoiding unnecessary temptation

My priest gave me a book after Confession on Thursday, How to Resist Temptation, by Francis J. Remler, C.M. In chapter 2 it says “Every unnecessary willful contact with what we know or suspect to be for us a source of temptation is sinful in itself either mortally or veniently according to the gravity of the sin to which the temptation tends”

Now, this has me a bit anxious. I have a dear female friend. Sadly she and I on a number of occassions have fallen into sexual sin. This I have confessed and repented of. But does this mean, for the rest of my natural life I may never call her or take her to a movie? I may never date her or even go to Mass with her because she has in the past been a near occasion? I even called my confessor back the next day to pose this very question to him. “No, relationships change, people change.” This very holy priest says it is fine to still date her as long as i do not say, go to her house late at night and such. Is this correct? It would devastate me to never talk to her again, to break her heart, but it would be a lie that the temptation to commit sin with her would never occur. Any time I am near any woman this could happen. He says I’m clear to carefully see her. Just…not so sure. With this in mind I know ANY time I date ANYONE it will be a near occassion because the thought will always be there.

Listen to your priest first, he knows you infinitely better than the author of the book. The book can serve as a general guideline but your confessor serves as a specific guide in these matters.

Yes, temptation could occur anywhere, even when you are alone, in adoration, or even at mass. Just be very careful with this particular woman and even explain to her your intentions that you will not fall into sin with her again. That way she will understand why you will be avoiding certain situations that you didn’t avoid in the past. If she is as important to you as she seems, she should understand and maybe even welcome this chance to start over.


I second Mary Ellen’s suggestion. It’s best to put your cards on the table, so to speak, when dealing with relationships with people that might become sexualized.

I notice that you didn’t mention your state in life, e.g., are you single, or are you married? The answer to that question would put the sort of sin that you are being tempted with at different levels. If you’re married, you have absolutely no business being with this lady in any sort of situation she (or you, for that matter) could easily take to another level. If you’re single, you first need to determine whether you are called to marriage. That includes determining whether you would be a good husband and father. All this is called discerning a vocation. Don’t let that term scare you: There are three vocations in life: The consecrated (including ordained,) the married, and the single.

If you discern a call to the married state in life, you’ve got half the battle “won.” The next thing you need to learn how to date in a chaste and appropriate manner.

From what I see nowadays, the institution of dating and courtship seem to be dead in the water. The purpose of dating and courtship is to get to know a member of the opposite sex for the express purpose of determining if they are a candidate for marriage to you, or to anyone, for that matter. That would include getting to know their core values (just determining what religion they practice isn’t enough,) discerning whether they would be a good life partner (which would include such things as being a good team worker,) and figuring out whether they would be a good parent.

Assuming you’re single, and in a position to get married (education complete, reasonably stable source of income, emotionally independent of your parents,) there is no way to do the kind of discernment that I described other than dating. So you’re going to have to learn to deal with sexual feelings without giving outward expression of them. That’s part of learning to deal with temptation. Just because you’re attracted to someone does NOT mean that you HAVE to hop into bed with them. Emotion is a powerful part of our personalities, but remember, we were given free will, a gift we share only with God. We’re expected to exercise our free will in making good choices instead of sinful ones. Current society places far too much emphasis on expression of emotion. If we all lived our lives with feelings that were uninhibited by our intellects and our wills, the streets would be littered with bleeding bodies!

What I’m about to say might sound a little condescending, but I honestly believe that young people have no idea how to date. A date isn’t just “hanging out.” Lack of a preplanned activity and boredom is generally how people start experimenting sexually. Our reproductive systems are meant for sexual expression that is both unitive and open to procreation in the context of a stable marriage. They aren’t a built in free home entertainment system, although that is how a lot of people treat their sexuality. The human reproductive system is the body’s lone exception to the rule “use it or lose it.” Nobody ever dropped dead of chastity, but there is a worldwide epidemic of such things as incurable venereal diseases!

Find out what this (or other) young ladies’ interests are, and invite her (or other “hers”) to do something that might be of mutual interest. I’m thinking in terms of museums, festivals (the summer festival season is coming up, where you can go to exciting activities,) concerts, theaters (many places have outdoor concerts or plays that are not expensive or are free to attend,) and participate in the planned activity with her. Even an evening of something like bowling or a sporting event is good, and will give you plenty of information about the other individual (e.g., is she a good sport?) While you’re at this activity, observe how she acts.

When I was dating, I would discreetly notice such things as how my date treated waitresses and waiters, what his manners were like, whether the topic of conversation always revolved around himself, if he could take minor frustrations in stride, if he could converse intelligently on a number of things, whether he could converse (as opposed to monopolizing a conversation,) whether he was considerate or inconsiderate, and the like. Answers to those questions, I figured, would give me an inkling of how, if the relationship progressed to marriage, he would eventually treat me. I weeded out a lot of potentially unsuitable candidates that way. Making it clear that I was not into premarital sex was another great way to weed out unsuitable candidates. Sure, it resulted in a lot of men not calling me for a second date, but I figured I didn’t want to be involved with anyone that selfish anyways. A self-centered person makes a lousy spouse. Someone who doesn’t respect the other persons’ values makes a lousy spouse. Finding out all this information early on is a good way to save yourself time and heartbreak, as well as sin. And by the way, I got this hint from a religious Sister who worked at the parish I attended when I verbalized my frustration in finding suitable men. God bless that Sister, who taught me that there is a lot more in discerning a potential marriage partner than just finding a knight in shining armor! In your case, beware of damsels in distress: Generally, you end up with a distressed damsel!

Keep the relationship casual: Don’t imply exclusivity unless you are planning to actually ask her to marry you. Consider doing some of those activities as part of a group of friends. You would like to see if this person acts possessive, or is capable of socializing readily with other people, if you would like to have mutual friends in your life after you get married. Can they talk with the other women, or the other men? Or are they hanging onto your arm all evening as if their leg was broken and they forgot their crutches at home?

Implying exclusivity too hastily in the course of getting to know someone with the idea of marriage in the future is one of the biggest impediments to chastity–it encourages sexual activity. Until you’re really pretty sure that a particular woman would be the one you want to spend your life with, you should consider dating other people as well. If a relationship hasn’t progressed to the physical point, misunderstandings don’t occur.

Sure, you escort her home after a date, but you don’t go in the house with her. You just see her safely home. A hug at the door is fine, going in for “coffee” seems to be modern code talk for spending the rest of the night. Tell her that when she gets in her apartment, to flick the lights on and off a couple of times so you’re sure she’s in the house safely before you leave. That is not only safe, it’s chivalrous. Then–go home! Your OWN home!

Best wishes on this. It’s an interesting and exciting time, and can be navigated without sin.

You must avoid near occasions of sin, especially when a greater gravity of sin is involved. Fr. Remler is right and what he is teaching is in accordance with the teaching of the Church. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that you will be safe if you already know that you won’t be. Follow the teaching of the Church; in this matter it even coincides with your conscience. It is best to side with caution when it comes to matters involving temptations to mortal sin. Do what is best for your soul and for your salvation, and pray for your friend if you can’t handle being with her without falling into temptations to mortally sin. It is the Church’s teaching that if an occasion of sin puts you in serious danger of falling into a mortal sin, then the occasion of sin itself is a mortal sin. Would it be a temptation for you if you merely spoke with your friend on the phone? That could be an option, if it would be safe for you. I’d talk with a traditional priest about what your priest has said; he’d be able to tell you if you should go by your priest’s advise or by your conscience on this one. God bless you.

It is good to avoid “temptation” but also know that temptation will happen in life…

It also important to distinguish regarding occasions of sin.

A near occasion for a mortal sin is some thing or person or place etc what generally leads one to commit a particular mortal sin…or likely will cause one to commit the mortal sin in question…

Such can be of a *nature *that it generally leads most to sin…or particular to a person.

Ordinarily we are obliged to avoid such. Though there can be exceptions.

It is not just a temptation per se. Often times one must be around certain temptations due to duty or the simply the society we live in. Etc.

And it is not a “remote occasion” where one could be tempted but generally one does not fall. Such are often in our society.

There can also be “necessary” occasions…one can speak with ones confessor in regards to such.

Now of course if something generally does not lead one to mortal sin…but one sees that here and now it will…well one avoids it! (for then it has become a N. Occ.)

A good confessor too can help one judge.

P.S. I wouldn’t go against your conscience, if I were you … and your conscience in this matter appears to be pretty well formed. God bless you.

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.