How to differentiate between imperfect contrition and a purely servile fear?


Imperfect contrition (sorrow or advertance due to fear of hell) is sufficient for confession, but a purely servile fear (one would do the sin if there were no punishment) is not?

I’m not sure I understand the difference. Can anyone clarify this?



From my knowledge, Servile fear is when the person has no love of God: he or she would commit the sin if there’s no punishment. In imperfect contrition, I’d say that the fear of hell is the predominant motive for avoiding the sin, but the sinner still has some form of remorse of offending God.

Please correct me if I’m wrong.

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To make a perfect contrition you have to be sorry, or want to be sorry, because you offended an infinite God who is all good and deserves all you love. Of course you have to have a firm purpose of amendments and desire never to sin again.

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Well said. I always think of 2 Corinthians 7:10:

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

After his denial Peter had Godly sorrow. After his betrayal Judas perhaps had worldly sorrow?

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