Can your thoughts be a sin?

Good question and it is something that we often wrestled with before Confession. Not all ‘bad’ thoughts are sins though some are. Wishing someone dead or some calamities may befall on them can be constituted as sins - sometimes we call them anger, unforgiveness, resentment or simply bad intention. Confess them anyway if you are not sure.

We are called to have purity of thought and always wish others well, in love of them. If our thought conflicts with these, it is good to examine it and see where we stand. Going to Confession with them would be one way to weed out the evil in our mind and to gradually allow it to be pruned and purified.

I have greatly sinned,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,

I think it also pertains to the thought in particular.

For example, I’d agree that thinking about screaming at your mother would be sinful. But not because you were thinking about doing something sinful, but because thinking that means you already had hatred towards your mother.

And with theft for example, thinking about stealing someone’s gold necklace even if you don’t intend to may be sinful due to envy, not thinking about theft.

And thinking evil thoughts towards God would again be something where thought could be sin.

But let’s take another situation. A man’s sitting a chair when they realize they need to get something from across the room. Not wanting to get up they wish they could just use magic to levitate it over to them before getting up to get the item. They thought about using magic and delighted in the thought. Magic is grave matter. Is that mortal?

Or the store employee who after a hectic day sees the store is a mess. Dreading how long it’ll take to clean the thought of just burning down the store pops up. This is followed by a mental image of laughing as it burns which amuses them so they give a chuckle before cleaning up the store. They found the idea of arson amusing so did they sin?

Or the secret service agent who looks at a location and starts thinking of way someone could try killing the president, granted so that they prevent those attempts. One cannot commit evil with the intent of doing good so if thinking about how to kill an innocent (in this case the president) is a sinful act, doesn’t that mean the agent has mortally sinned in doing that if all willed thoughts concerning grave matter are mortal?

So this is why a thought about a sinful thing, even if willed, may not be a sin and why this forum isn’t a great place to ask about this. A priest, with more theological education than most posters here, is a much better person to ask about this.

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