Can your thoughts be a sin?

I’m needing clarification on whether or not your thoughts can be considered sinful and something that needs to be confessed. I know lustful thoughts should be confessed if you entertain them, but what about thoughts of wishing evil on someone or thinking bad words but not saying them i.e. taking the Lord’s name in vain.

If these are fleeting thoughts or feelings - especially ones caused precisely by the fear of having them - then pay little attention to them.

If you are thinking deliberately about doing something evil if you could, or delighting in a thought in a disordered way (impure thoughts is the normal example) then make mention in confession, especially of the former - that can be mortal sin, if the thought is of doing something gravely wrong and you have continued in that thought deliberately.

Beyond this, you should go explain your experience in confession.

Suppose one is seriously planning a sin such as a sinful date. That serious planning is a sin also.

I’d ask your priest about this instead of the forum. After reading some things about people saying thoughts could be sinful, I asked a priest and they said they were temptation, not sin. So this is something to ask the priest about as they’re more informed than posters on the internet.

Some thoughts are just temptations, but if you give into them, they can become sinful.

So, if a woman walks by and a man has a thought about her, then that’s usually just a temptation. If he gives in to the temptation and continues to think about her and elaborate on the thoughts in a sinful way, *voluntarily, *then it becomes sinful.

Iif the man keeps fighting against the thoughts, there is no sin, just unwanted thoughts.

What if someone makes such a plan and then repents and does not act on it? Are they still in sin?


They have the sin of having thought about it, but not the additional sin of having done it. Remember that Christ said that whoever lists after a women in his heart has already committed adultery. (St Matthew 5:28)

If the thought was mortally sinful, then it must be confessed in the sacrament of confession. The three factors must be considered to determine mortal or venial sin.

(Baltimore Catechism No. 3)

Q. 282. How many things are necessary to make a sin mortal?
A. To make a sin mortal, three things are necessary: 1. a grievous matter, 2 sufficient reflection, and 3 full consent of the will.

Q. 283. What do we mean by “grievous matter” with regard to sin?
A. By “grievous matter” with regard to sin we man that the thought, word or deed by which mortal sin is committed must be either very bad in itself or severely prohibited, and therefore sufficient to make a mortal sin if we deliberately yield to it.

Q. 284. What does “sufficient reflection and full consent of the will” mean?
A. “Sufficient reflection” means that we must know the thought, word or deed to be sinful at the time we are guilty of it; and “full consent of the will” means that we must fully and willfully yield to it.

Does this sound familiar:

I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.

Thoughts become words. Words become actions. Negative or bad thoughts are unwholesome or unskillful. Choose the good thoughts and as others have sensibly noted talk to your priest. He can give more detail on what you are concerned about.

They can be yes.

When ones knowledge and will are involved.

There must be consent for sin. Not just a thought that happens to one against ones will on the spur of the moment.

All sorts of thoughts or feeling can “happen” to one though without any sin being involved.
Compendium** issued by Pope Benedict XVI
393. Is there a variety of sins?

There are a great many kinds of sins. They can be distinguished according to their object or according to the virtues or commandments which they violate. They can directly concern God, neighbor, or ourselves. They can also be divided into sins of thought, of word, of deed, or of omission.
395. When does one commit a mortal sin?**


One commits a mortal sin when there are simultaneously present: grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent. This sin destroys charity in us, deprives us of sanctifying grace, and, if unrepented, leads us to the eternal death of hell. It can be forgiven in the ordinary way by means of the sacraments of Baptism and of Penance or Reconciliation.
396. When does one commit a venial sin?**


One commits a venial sin, which is essentially different from a mortal sin, when the matter involved is less serious or, even if it is grave, when full knowledge or complete consent are absent. Venial sin does not break the covenant with God but it weakens charity and manifests a disordered affection for created goods. It impedes the progress of a soul in the exercise of the virtues and in the practice of moral good. It merits temporal punishment which purifies.

(I did other posts over the years on “unwanted thoughts” and on misuse of the Lords Name - which can be a vulgar action and often venial or blasphemy and grave…as well as temptation etc - if you search these themes and bookcat you will find some more)

Just as the commandments are summarized and made positive, so they are traced back from external conduct to the internal root of conduct, from actions (commanded or prohibited) to love–a state of the soul: and sins of the mind–or heart-or intention become as serious as sins of the exterior action: the yielding of the mind to lust not only is as bad as adultery, it is adultery; the yielding of the mind to murder not only is as bad as murder, it is murder. The essence of sin is now clear–it is the soul of man twisting itself out of the right relation to God. That is sin. Nothing else is. And the laws which express the right relation are all forms of love.

Frank Sheed - A Map of Life

sorry, I’m a bit confused now. I thought resisting temptation was a noble thing?

let’s say I’m running low on my budget, I walk past an aisle in the grocery store and it suddenly comes my mind that I could steal something withouth anyone noticing. but then I think to myself, no that wrong, and continue on my way. is the initial thought still a sin?

or does it have to be a more elaborate plan that that?

Yes resisting is good - or better yet ignoring in many cases.

The fact that such a thought “happens” to one does not mean there is any sin that occurs. For sin there must be the will.

The OP was getting at for example a person wants to steal something - and thinks about it willingly…wants to…but then does not for fear of the Police.

They have sinned in thought.

In the scene you describe here, you have not sinnned *and *resisted temptation :slight_smile:

We have thoughts that pass through our minds all the time, and the thoughts about doing something wrong are just temptations.

If the thoughts hang around, then we need to resist them rather than give in to them, but giving in, voluntarily going down that path, that is where sin comes in.

Why are thoughts sinful?

That seems a bit unreasonable. Thoughts sneak up on you so it is possible to find yourself entertaining bad thoughts without consciously knowing it (even if only for a few moments). Likewise, if you don’t act on a sinful thought and have no intention of actually acting on it, then can you really be said to be “entertaining” a thought?

It seems like an unrealistically high expectation if someone’s relationship with God can be fully severed simply because he sees a poster of a model in the store and looks at it for a few moments instead of immediately looking at the floor.

Make the distinction between thoughts which simply appear without true volition, thoughts which are delighted in, and thoughts of things or actions which are delighted in.

All different. Only the second and third kind can be sins - since in them we can will something disordered.

Take lust for example. Baltimore Catechism No.3:

Q. 1318. Are impure thoughts and desires always sins?

A. Impure thoughts and desires are always sins, unless they displease us and we try to banish them.

Speaking as an Eastern Catholic, Evagrius Ponticus taught that all sins rise out of the logismoi (evil thoughts).

He developed a comprehensive list in AD 375 of eight evil thoughts (λογισμοι), or eight terrible temptations, from which all sinful behavior springs. This list was intended to serve a diagnostic purpose: to help readers identify the process of temptation, their own strengths and weaknesses, and the remedies available for overcoming temptation.

The only way to conquer this was through a vigrious prayer life and attaining apatheia, or a state wherein the soul doesnt engage in passion. As he teaches:

“A man in chains cannot run. Nor can the mind that is enslaved to passion see the place of spiritual prayer. It is dragged along and tossed by these passion-filled thoughts and cannot stand firm and tranquil.”

The eight patterns of evil thought are gluttony, greed, sloth, sorrow, lust, anger, vainglory, and pride. While he did not create the list from scratch, he did refine it. Some two centuries later in 590 AD, Pope Gregory I, would revise this list to form the more commonly known Seven Deadly Sins.

In the scenario you posit, if when he realizes what is happening he shakes himself and moves on, he won’t have sinned.

But read some things written by women whose husbands are involved with pornography. Those thoughts, which are pretty volitional given that the man has to decide to gonto a site and look, can destroy a human relationship. (I realize that the man may not be completely culpable, etc, so say he does it because he’s mad at his wife and kniws this upset her.)

And we have the first human sin written in Genesis of Eve, where her pride rose to desire and obtain something against God’s will.

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