How do you know a sin is serious?

I find the whole exercise of analyzing whether a sin is truly serious to be quite difficult (especially when I’m scrupulous). How do you do it? For example, I’ve heard that immodest looks are serious, but virtually every priest I’ve talked to has indicated that, at least generally, immodest looks are not serious (although pornography is, for example). How do you figure it out for yourself when you’re examining your conscience?

By working on having a well formed conscience, which is attained by researching the Church’s teachings on moral issues.

I posed this same question to a priest who has become both my confessor and spiritual director.

His advice has served be well.

He said if something is weighing on my mind, and bothering my conscience, consider it serious enough to take to The Lord through the sacrament of reconciliation, because I obviously need the healing and grace which it offers.

Peace and all good!

If you have a deep relationship with the Holy Spirit, He will either warn you that something is serious that you about to do. If you choose to ignore Him and do whatever anyway, He will convict you of the seriousness of what has been done. I have found this so true in my life. I rely on the Spirit for this guidance. It is up to me to choose if I heed His warnings.

Colorad007, for you the key is the part I bolded - anybody who is scrupulous needs to have a regular confesson/spiritual director to whom they take these questions. You need to have just one trusted priest who you always go to for advice and you particularly do not take your questions to an anonymous internet forum (such as this one) where the advice you are given will rarely take your scrupulosity into account.

Sorry if this sounds somewhat harsh, but you need a ‘specialist’ to help you with your difficulties in this area.

This is an excellent reply.

Some (myself included) are happy to try to help…but given that you are dealing with Scruples…it is critical that you have a single trusted voice…and that is your confessor/director.

The reason we say this is because your confessor - especially if he knows you are scrupulous - will tailor his advice and guidance in a way that fits with where you are on your journey. He is doing this in such a way as to allow you to focus on what is truly important and avoid getting tangled up in lesser issues.

So - get a good confessor and stick with him.


Frankly, I consider any sin deliberately committed to be serious. I also believe that there is no sin that God will not forgive me for is I am truly contrite.
So - in determining how serious a sin might be, I consider two tings.
First, how and to what extent does it violate the Laws of Love (Mt 22:36-40 and John 13:34-35)?
Second - how deliberate was the thought or the action. Did I catch myself and stop quickly - or did I continue even after recognizing that what I was thinking/doing was wrong?

Hope this helps a little.


There has to be an easier way… Archbishop Fulton Sheen said listening to nuns confession is like hearing popcorn hit the wall!!!

To say an individuals concious should be your guide is wholly unbalanced as you can now see.

Venial = Misdemeanor
Mortal = Felony

There must be a better way… Because there will NOT be any plea bargianing

Michael…Your description above is one of the reasons I have issues with the way the most people seem to approach the matter of sin - and this includes many catechists and indeed even the Catechism itself. In this approach too much emphasis is placed upon the object…the action…and not enough on knowledge and intent.
It is a very negative, “OT”, judgmental approach that often times seems to minimize God as Father, teacher, lover and friend.

God knows that we are imperfect. He knows that we are struggling. He recognizes that we will fail at times and need to come back to Him for forgiveness and guidance.
He welcomes us to do this…To learn…to do better next time…to struggle and to grow.

The more we seek to please Him through love the less likely we are to sin at all, and if we DO sin…it will be out of malice or spite or ignoring God. More likely it will be because we react to something in an “old way”…we lose our temper or speak to quickly or something like that. Then we catch ourselves and say, “Lord I know better than that…please forgive me”…

Then when we go to confession, instead of tossing popcorn all over the place, we can discuss the real core issues. like WHY did I speak too quickly 5 times last week…WHY did I lose my temper and cuss out another driver…
These things can truly help us to advance in holiness because they seek to root out and correct underlying flaws instead of focusing on the surface issues like “I snapped at my co-worker three times”.

Sorry if I’m rambling…but this is something that I’m passionate about. Confession isn’t about “plea bargaining”…Confession should be about growing in faith and grace and holiness over time.


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