Many examinations of conscience list “immodest glances” as sins of lust, but what exactly is an “immodest glance?” And is such an immodest glance a serious matter such that it can be mortal sin?
Take this scenario:
A married man is in a major American city walking down a very crowded street with many attractive women. The man notices and looks at the women, occasionally looks twice, and makes sure not to fantasize, dwell on any sexual explicit thoughts, or make plans (however sincere) to do something impure with the women, and then moves along and thinks about something else. Is there anything sinful or improper about this?
What if he is casually “people watching,” especially keeping an eye out and looking out for the attractive women and then noticing and appreciating their attractiveness for a moment–is this sinful? Gravely?
I am very scrupulous and I, like most men I’m sure, struggle with this sort of situation. And, as a confessor once told me, this is certainly something you don’t want to have scruples about. I’ve always been told that it’s only sinful if you’re fantasizing about those attractive women, thinking about taking their clothes off, doing impure things, etc, or dwelling on those thoughts. But what about when you’re just sort of casually walking along in a crowded street (or mall, or festival, etc.) with very attractive women and you’re really enjoying the attractiveness of the women, without actually fantasizing or thinking anything impure? St. Francis de Sales says that a married man should avoid every glance of the eye, yet I find that nearly impossible practically, and I worry that it could be mortal sin.
I have to note that I never “admire the attractiveness” of women at the beach or pool, and never go to those places, because they are a definite occasion of sin. And when a girl in a mini-skirt or really slinky shirt walks by, I always look away. But when I’m reasonably confident that I can avoid fantasy and dwelling thoughts, I usually take a look or two, admire their attractiveness, and then move along. But then my scruples kick in and I feel awful.
Any advice or thoughts?