Is an overactive imagination sinful (mortally)?


#1

Is an overactive imagination sinful? By this I mean a Walter Mitty type of imagination. For example, I might imagine being a dictator or even a Priest (granted, I do feel a desire for Holy Order) or Bishop or Pope or terrorist mastermind. If I am watching TV or a movie, I might envision myself as one of the characters in the movie (good or bad).

I also will envision ‘scenes’ (to borrow a script/screenplay term) in my head, sometimes thinking that one day I might put them onto paper. For example, stemming from my college days (only a few months ago to be quite honest), I had a fixation on Sorority girls and so I used to envision this whole plot where a major plague/disaster strikes America and me/my character plans to take over and win the love/respect of Sorority girls. All the while, me/my character is forced to interact with all sorts of ‘important’ people (i.e. actors/actresses, other leaders, etc.) and often these Mitty-ish imagining involves me/my character wanting some kind of validation/respect/love.

Sometimes, I envision myself as an evil/bad leader or as some kind of criminal mastermind. For example, during my college days fixation on Sorority girls, I envisioned a mastermind called the Omega (from all those Greek letters) although he is male and has nothing to do with Sororities and had the idea to try and write a movie serial (although I am only in my 20s, I got introduced the movie serials from many decades ago). In the screenplay (I got a few chapters done), I actually include a character based on myself who is the mastermind, although it would not be revealed until the last chapter (never got that far in the writing though).

I also worry that my imagination gets sacrilegious or something. In one of my recent incarnations of the Omega mastermind idea/Mitty-ish escapist imaginations, his hideout is an old Church and he issues his orders from behind a Confessional screen so as to maintain anonymity. Sometimes, I have envisioned a bad guy (not necessarily myself) who is some high-up in the Catholic hierarchy (i.e. an Archbishop) who is either a terrorist mastermind/zealous regional dictator in his own right or simply a murderer or something who is being investigated. In another idea, I thought of like a character who helps/rescues the Pope from terrorists. Sometimes, not related to the Catholic Church, the characters use crucifixion as a punishment or whatnot and I also worry that that is sacrilegious.

Is this kind of escapist imagination sinful? I worry that it falls under hateful thoughts (i.e. when thinking of either being an evil character), inappropriate thoughts, fixations (is this even a sin?) or sacrilegious thoughts (i.e. the terrorists who uses a Confessional as part of his issuing of orders to maintain anonymity or the evil Archbishop). If it is sinful, would it fall under mortal or venial sin?


#2

I don’t know whether it is so or not, but I understand the problem exactly!

From my earliest childhood days I have had a very active imagination, and have often worried that I dwell more in my head than in the flesh. Sometimes I am certain it has overflowed into sin, though I do not think it is sinful in itself.

I think that imagining that we are important or well-loved can easily turn into pride or rob us of our freedom, because we start to be really concerned with how others view us, and can be pushed to make decisions based on how we imagine we might appear…that’s been my struggle anyways.

I try to put all this imagery and energy into creative projects, like poetry, hand written prayer books, my shrine (ect.).


#3

Overactive imagination and scruples aren’t sins, just crosses - shares in Jesus’ Cross. We can offer them to Him.

If you desire to be a priest, you should look into a seminar. You’ll know God is calling you to the priesthood when you become a priest. Til than, trust in Him!


#4

Nsper7, you can use your imagination creatively to benefit others, and to experience empathy for them, and so be batter able to contribute to their loves and needs.
You can also use your imagination to deepen your participation in the scriptures, and in the meditations of the Rosary. Read a passage of scrpture and then use your imagination to take you deeply into it, and to more powerfully engage with the Lord.

Regards, Trishie

One time I was giving that question some thought I wrote the following.
Imagination

God, thank you for the gift of creative imagination, with the colour, richness and remembrances that surprise, uplift and teach us! Thank You for the inventive talents it contains for the enjoyment and convenience of others and me. Thank Your for its usefulness to the commitments of vocation.

I repent misuse of my imagination and creativity. Please do not allow my faculties and sensitivities to slip into activity that dishonours You or that denies blessing to other persons. Let my mind and heart lead me to loving, creative service of others.

To You I consecrate my imagination, with my talents and intellect. Let them become more creatively Yours, to honour You and bless others, and to deepen the giftedness that we shall bring with us into heaven.

I offer myself to You in union with Jesus’ suffering and humanity, so that I rise with Him. If my will and imagination are filled with Your Spirit, then I am as a rocket blasted from a narrow orbit, drawn towards You by the magnetism of Your love.


#5

Oh dear! I’ve not specifically answered your question again! And it’s past the time allowable for editing!

Your imagination is a gift. Its use is sinful if we allow it to lead us into sin eg against chastity.
Or if you hone it or use it for creative purposes that do not betray gospel principles, it isn’t a sin unless you are neglecting other responsibilities because of it.

Nsper, you’re so anxious to please God, so eager to avoid sin, I can’t imagine that you offend Him very often.

Conversion: Your way

God, if You wish, You can cure and convert me instantly. All goodness comes from You, so any ‘merit’ of my life is already part of Your holiness. Therefore, so that no moment of my life is wasted in sin or emptiness, please transform me with Your holiness now, as a channel of grace to others and a delight to Yourself!

That You do not hasten to grant this prayer reminds me that You are God who creates in gradual progression, moulding Your masterpieces, no one like any other. You hold each creature in profound love that touches and moves each instant of life!

Help me to accept the quiet evolution of my life to wholeness as You seek my cooperation, while respecting my free will. Your wisdom neither transforms souls on demand nor coerces the unwilling person. Like the greatest silversmith, Your love delicately forms each tiny second and each unique shape of holiness and wholeness in our lives. That is Your glory in us, to form us in our prayerful obedience to the fire of love and the sharp tools of effort and tribulation.

God please grant me patient faith to accept Your fashioning. Yet, if anyone can persuade You to purify and sanctify all in my life from this instant, please let it be so! If not for me, please grant it to my dear ones, to some other soul.

And Nsper, fashion you He will.


#6

Jesus says, “I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” [Luke18: 17]

Therese of Lisieux elucidates how to live as child before God. “The only way to advance rapidly in the path of love is to always remain very little” “‘Remaining little’ means—to recognise ones nothingness, to await everything from the goodness of God, to avoid being much troubled at our faults; finally, not to be worried about amassing spiritual riches.” “There is but one means of compelling God not to judge us, and it is—to appear before Him empty-handed…spend your treasures as you gain them…All my earnings [merits] are spent immediately on the ransom of souls…Our Lord is justice Himself, and if He does not judge our good actions, neither will He judge our bad ones.”

In response to a novice who was discouraged by her faults, Therese said, “You make me think of a little child that is learning to stand but does not know how to walk. In his desire to reach to top of the stairs to find his mother, he lifts his little foot to climb the first step. It is all in vain, and at each renewed effort he falls.” “Well, be like that little child. Always keep lifting your foot to climb the ladder of holiness, and do not imagine that you can mount even the first step. All God asks of you is good will. From the top of the ladder, He looks lovingly upon you, and soon, touched by your fruitful efforts, He will Himself come down, and taking you in His arms, will carry you to His Kingdom never again to leave Him. But should you cease to raise your foot, you will be left for long on the earth.”

To another, Therese said, “You want to climb the mountain, whereas God wishes you to descend it. He is awaiting you in the valley of humility.” “It seems to me that humility is truth (honesty).” “If the greatest sinner should repent at the moment of his death, and draw his last breath in an act of love, neither the many graces he had abused, nor the multiplied crimes he had committed, would stand in his way. Our Lord would see nothing, count nothing, but the sinner’s last prayer, and without delay He would receive him into the arms of His mercy.”

Nsper, you touch my heart with your ongoing struggles and efforts. How much more so God!


#7

Many good answers - I hesitate to add my own. (but will anyway:))

As others have said the active imagination in itself is not a bad thing. How we utilize it is what determines whether it is sinful or not.
For example I take Christ’s words regarding adultery. "Whoever looks lustfully at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
In another place Christ is discussing purity - The pharasees are incenced that Jesus disciples do not wash their hands before eating. Jesus expalins tot he Apostles that it is not what goes into a person that makes them impure but every utterance that comes from their mouth for that is formed in the heart.

In both of these cases Jesus is refering to whether we are focused on God and the Eternal or are we focused on Ourselves and the Natural.
If you enjoy “playing the good guy” then certainly you are not sinning. This can be a way of building up your self esteem and preparing yourself for possible situations where you might be calle dupon to defend the faith.
If you enjoy, “playing the bad guy”, including causing pain and injury to others, committing various sinful acts in your imagination, then it would likely be sinful in my opinion, for it is taking enjoyement in sin just as the person who “loks lustfully at a woman…”. Best to ask your confessor.

Of course this all can get quite complicated. Just try to think of what you are imagining as being real and then ask yourself if Jesus would consider your actions in the “scene” to be sinful or not. This should give you a good idea of whether what you are imagining is sinful.

Peace
James


#8

How much detail should I go into when Confessing this (I usually Confess it because I’d rather be safe than sorry). Usually, I Confess it as:

  1. Unrighteous anger and hatred (“thinking thoughts of being unloving, unmerciful, uncaring, evil, misogynistic and being brutal, vindictive, a dictator, etc.” --usually that is how I might Confess it, words similar to that, not exact phrase everytime)

  2. “Thinking jokey thoughts about the Church, Sacraments, teachings, etc.”

  3. “Thinking about Crucifixion”

  4. “Fixations/desiring validation from clergy, Sorority girls and other individuals that I personally, or society, views as important”

  5. “Escapistic thoughts/sins, which would include lust, pride, self-righteousness, unrighteous anger and hatred, etc.”

I usually give those five things as part of my Confession. Is that going into enough detail for the issue?


#9

I would suggest that this is something you should discuss with your confessor.
Without knowing your specific situation we cannot, nor should we try to, give an adequate response.

Peace
James


#10

My dear friend
You have too much spare time on your hands. If you use your imagination wisely and for a good purpose it’s fine eg. to write a good novel or meditate. But if you let your imagination run rampant like this you can commit a venial sin of wasting time or it can be serious ( mortal ) if you let your mind wander onto more serious matters. It’s a challenge for all and me, but you must mortify your imagination. This means you make a sacrifice of not flying off into fantasies like this. It will get easier with practise of course. Below is the catholic dictionary def-
IMAGINATION. The internal senses that can know absent sensible things, but not as absent from the particular sense that experiences them. There are six such internal senses: of sight, sound, taste, touch, smell, and a general somatic sense of feeling.

St Josemaria Escriva says it best-
Furrow > The Struggle > Number 135http://www.escrivaworks.org/images/misc/pixtrans.gifhttp://www.escrivaworks.org/images/misc/pixtrans.gif135http://www.escrivaworks.org/images/misc/pixtrans.gifIf your imagination bubbles over with thoughts about yourself and creates fanciful situations and circumstances which would not normally find a place in your way, then these will foolishly distract you. They will dampen your ardour and separate you from the presence of God. This is vanity.

If your imagination revolves around others, you will easily fall into the defect of passing judgement when this is not your responsibility. You will interpret their behaviour not at all objectively but in a mean way. This is rash judgement.

If your imagination hovers around your own talents and ways of speaking, or with the general admiration that you inspire in others, then you will be in danger of losing your rectitude of intention, and of providing fodder for your pride.

Generally, letting your imagination loose is a waste of time, and, if it is not controlled, it opens the door to a whole string of voluntary temptations.

—Do not leave off the practice of interior mortification for even a single day!

God bless you friend:)


#11

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