I’ve a dilemma. The other night while watching a DVD, thinking I had seen something of a sexual nature in a particular shot (which was not in fact sexual at all), I focused in on it to see if what I thought I had seen was actually there. Now, in doing this, an impure image came into my mind, and as I continued to examine the image I allowed that thought to stay in my mind. In other words, I allowed a sexual image to stay in my mind whilst looking on in curiosity at a non-sexual image that I had originally perceived to be sexual. Though I believe I allowed the thought to stay in my head too long (and I looked at something that, if it had been what I thought it might be, I definitely shouldn’t have been looking it), I did not lust at the thought in any way that I am aware of.
My question is this: is allowing a thought to stay in one’s head gravely sinfully, or is it only in lusting after and in taking pleasure in the thought that makes it a sin? By allowing the thought to stay in my head while I satisfied my curiosity, did I commit the sin of “consenting” to an impure thought, even though I derived no pleasure from it (no did I intend to)? My reason tells me that though I definitely played with fire by keeping the thought before my mind, it was not a mortal sin because I did not actually give in to lusting at the thought, and I eventually pushed it away. The scrupulous side of me, however, says that by even curiously allowing the thought into my head instead of instantly rejecting it, I have committed a mortal sin.
Unless you willingly played with the thought in your mind I wouldn’t think it would be a mortal sin. Next time you are in the confessional it wouldn’t hurt to ask the priest. It is better to confess it if its not a sin than not to confess a sin.
Images come and go, and sometimes they linger in our head a bit longer than we want or expect, but when you realize what is happening and quickly push it away, that is what matters. I know sometimes it happens to me, something will distract me and for a few seconds I will zone out, but then I snap back.
The most helpfull defenition of lust i found was ’ i would if i could’ in regards to having sex with them, seeing them naked etc, as long as you didn’t want to do this it probably wasn’t lust.( although that’s just my opinion)
2351 Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes. Catechism of the Catholic Church
Only God judges the heart, however your narrative sounds very familiar to the way my mind operates. I know that when I stop the video, I have already sinned, whether I saw what I thought I saw or not. Lust takes place for me the moment I indulge the curiosity. St. Augustine speaks of curiosity itself as sinful, in his “Confessions.”
All sin is bad because it seperates us from God. The acknowledgement that we are sinners in need of redemption, however, is how we come to appreciate God’s grace. So God uses even our sins to bring about something good in us. Grieve that you are a sinner, rejoice that Christ has already paid for your sin!
Is this lust you mentioned a mortal sin? Let’s look at definition of Mortal Sin, in the Catechism:
1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”
Grave matter (very serious)
committed with full knowledge
committed with deliberate consent
I hardly think your sin qualifies, but really this is something only the sinner themselves can answer. If you are at all worried about it, confess it! That is the beauty of the sacrament. I really wouldn’t stay up at night over this one though. I ask myself: Is Christ’s work on the cross sufficient to cover this particular sin? If I die tonight, in guilt over a sin, will his love be insufficient to keep me from himself? The answer is always no. I understand your frustration though; it is sometimes hard to rectify some of the things the catechism teaches about mortal sin with God’s grace being all encompassing. I think the #2 (full knowledge) in the criteria for mortal sin is difficult to meet. If I have full knowledge that a particular sin will keep me away from Christ, will I even commit it? I think for #3 that you could also argue that addictive and/or compulsive behavior can strip you of deliberate consent. In this case however, lust seems most likely to fall because of #1 if nothing else, but again that is based on the individual to determine. For myself, I don’t think the sin would even come close to being mortal, but if it bothered me at all, I would want to confess it.