Fear vs. Despair


For a few nonconsecutive days in the past(what I’m trying to say is that this didn’t happen often), I had significant fear and worry about spiritual topics. When it occurred to me that God would help me in these struggles, I got even more fearful/worried, as I was saddened by my lack of trust and my sin by fearing when I could be helped by Him. I tried to reassure myself about God’s help, but the worry I was feeling was enough to cancel out the benefit of these words.

I was worried that this might be the mortal sin of despair(somehow), and so I looked it up here. Based on that, I don’t think I fit the definition of despair, but I’m still slightly confused on despair as a sin. Obviously Judas was an example, but could you supply some more examples for me(fictional ones) and help me contrast them with being in a state of fear?


According to this examination of conscience, in the “Hope area” of examination(p. 10), despair is on the mortal sin part, while the fear related areas like I mentioned are venial. Could someone help contrast the two for me? I know they’re different levels of severity, I just need to hear it explained in someone else’s words.


For me it is not easy to answer all of the points you made. Some are related to one another, some are not so obviously related. Better perhaps to address point by point - but I suggest you start by answering the following question:-

You say you had significant fear and worry about spiritual topics.This assumes that this was a result of, or coming from, what you had been reading.? So initially I suggest that this (and more importantly how you are interpreting it) may form a major contribution to some of your confusion?

God Bless,

[Put your trust totally in Our Lord Jesus Christ; He will not let you down.!]


Perhaps the Catechism gives a different perspective that may be helpful:

*2091 The first commandment is also concerned with sins against hope, namely, despair and presumption:

By despair, man ceases to hope for his personal salvation from God, for help in attaining it or for the forgiveness of his sins. Despair is contrary to God’s goodness, to his justice - for the Lord is faithful to his promises - and to his mercy.

2092 There are two kinds of presumption. Either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God’s almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit). *

Suicide as a life-ending act may be preceded by despair. The Bible gives several examples of suicide.

Abimelech (Judg 9:52-54), the prophet Ahithophel (2Sam 17:23), Zimri (1Kgs 16:18), and the more familiar stories of Saul and his armor-bearer (1Sam 1:1-6; 1Chr 10:1-6). Sampson (Judg 16:28) initiates an action which causes his own death but the text suggests such was not his intention.

The Catechism may be helpful in her teaching on suicide reminding us that we do not despair the salvation of those who commit suicide. God’s mercy is boundless.


*2280 Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.
*2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.

Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives. *


I can understand it being hard to understand, so I’ll say this then. Despair is mortal.
General anxiety/fear seems to be venial. What is the difference between the two? Could I have examples of these?

Anyways, on to your second thing. The fear that I speak of came from analyzing my spiritual life/future, not from anything I have read on the topic.


When you say fear came from analyzing your spiritual life/future, your fear must come from something. Perhaps it comes from your conscience?. I mean whereby you may for e.g.lack the certainty of forgiveness?

As for mortal v. venial, I suggest you re-evaluate those terms. For example the catechism information quite correctly enumerated above does not mention the word mortal at all. I think ‘grave’ is as far as it goes.

Thank you for proceeding with your topic.:thumbsup:



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