i am having a hard time understanding imperfect vs. perfect contrition

from what i know:
imperfect is when you don’t want to go to hell or you feel disgusted by sin
perfect is when you are sorry for offending God

But isn’t offending God = creating distance between you and God = hell
it seems like a ring to me, like a cycle

first i feel disgusted by sin, then i feel sorry for offending God because I love God and want to be close to God. how is being sorry for offending God different than not wanting to go to hell?

how can you really know if you made an act of perfect contrition?


1452 When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called “perfect” (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.51

1453 The contrition called “imperfect” (or “attrition”) is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin’s ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner (contrition of fear). Such a stirring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution. By itself however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance.52

(PS: Venial sins can be forgiven in many ways…imperfect contrition, prayer, acts of love, etc too)

The grace of perfect contrition is not something we really know in some absolute way per se. We turn to God – and make the such acts of contrition… (if one commited a mortal sin one does such and of course refrains from Holy Communion and seeks confession).

Now what can be helpful to know is that the grace of perfect contrition is also compatible with lesser motives. Just because one sees the sins ugliness or fears hell …does not mean that one therefore does not have perfect contrition. Such can co-exist with other motives.

Okay this thread doesn’t have many replies so I suppose I’ll take a crack at it. Perfect contrition is when we feel within ourselves an overwhelming love of God and our “apology” is seen in His eyes as perfect. It always includes a firm resolution to avoid any instance of sin, especially any mortal sin we have committed. To say an Act of Contrition out of habit or without true regret does nothing however if we fear hell and are sorry for our sins, guess what- you’re still sorry. I once played handball with a friend using the side of my father’s freshly painted shed as the wall…and about two rounds in I saw my father lowly and deliberately walking towards me with a look lf murder on his face. I immediately said before he reached me “I’M SORRY!” and he corrected me by saying “No you are sorry you got caught” which was correct, obviously I just wanted to play handball and didnt really thinkabout the shed until that moment. So in that case the only regret I had was placing my self in a position to be punished. However with sin that may in certain circumstances warrant an imperfect contrition. Im rambling but Id like to point out two things:

  1. The only one knows if our Contrition is perfect or imperfect is God Himself.
  2. Even with a perfect contrition the intent to recieve formal absolution through the sacrament of pwnance muat be present anyway
    So moral of the story- don’t worry about perfect and imperfect, my advice is to just go to confession

The best way I have heard the difference described is that imperfect contrition is the unhappiness at the punishment, whereas perfect contrition is the unhappiness at hurting God, regardless of punishment.

One is based in fear, the other love.

Being worried about hell as a terrible place of suffering would be fear, being upset about hell from the perspective of permanent separation from God is probably tending towards love. Sure, most people probably don’t want to go to hell. Why?

Baltimore Catechism No. 3 has:Q. 764. How many kinds of contrition are there?
A. There are two kinds of contrition; perfect contrition and imperfect contrition.

Q. 765. What is perfect contrition?
A. Perfect contrition is that which fills us with sorrow and hatred for sin, because it offends God, who is infinitely good in Himself and worthy of all love.

Q. 766. When will perfect contrition obtain pardon for mortal sin without the Sacrament of Penance?
A. Perfect contrition will obtain pardon for mortal sin without the Sacrament of Penance when we cannot go to confession, but with the perfect contrition we must have the intention of going to confession as soon as possible, if we again have the opportunity.

Q. 767. What is imperfect contrition?
A. Imperfect contrition is that by which we hate what offends God because by it we lose heaven and deserve hell; or because sin is so hateful in itself.

Q. 768. What other name is given to imperfect contrition and why is it called imperfect?
A. Imperfect contrition is called attrition. It is called imperfect only because it is less perfect than the highest grade of contrition by which we are sorry for sin out of pure love of God’s own goodness and without any consideration of what befalls ourselves.

Q. 769. Is imperfect contrition sufficient for a worthy confession?
A. Imperfect contrition is sufficient for a worthy confession, but we should endeavor to have perfect contrition.

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