I was at work today, and I was pretty exhausted, just going through the usual motions, and all of a sudden I’m imagining some pretty lustful stuff. So this goes on for like 6 seconds and I do dwell on it, and then I think to myself, “Oh wait, this is a sin.” and then I stopped immediately and tried to think of something else.
Did I sin mortally because I dwelled on the thoughts, or did I not sin mortally because when I recognized it as sinful, I tried to stop?
As long as disordered desires are neither desired nor willed and further detested the moment one comes to realization of such disorder, no sin is committed. Rather, one has been tempted. To continue upon realization would constitute approval of this temptation.
In your case, because you chose to immediately put it out of your mind upon recognizing it as sinful, you would likely not have sinned mortally. Only you, in your heart can know for certain whether you truly desired these thoughts or not. If you truly did not consent, there would be no mortal sin. Scrupulousness would be if you know in your heart you did not desire nor approve of these thoughts yet continue to doubt whether you sinned or not. In any case, it would be wise to seek the counsel of a trusted priest.
It seems like once the lustful thought has begun, my will can very easily give consent to it for even a split-second. That is still giving consent to it, even if it is for a split-second. Often, I don’t know where the line is drawn. It seems as easy to lift my hand in the air as it is to have a lustful thought.
And I really don’t know in my heart (whatever that means) whether or not I’ve committed a mortal sin. I just have to go by what the Church tells me. I wouldn’t ever know very many other mortal sins were mortal sins unless I was told so by the Church, i.e. masturbation. I did that for years and years without even a hint of an idea that I was doing something spiritually harmful.
I go to Confession just about every Saturday. When I dialed the parish for a confessor during the week the last time, the office lady acted like I was asking this huge favor. She demanded that I choose a confessor by name, despite not having a preference. When I did name one, she wrote it down (presumably), and I never got a return call. So I’m really supposed to just let my soul hang in jeopardy until Saturdays roll around?
shrug Sorry for the tangent.
But if someone could just clarify, when does a thought become a mortal sin? I am really lost on this one.
Most of us struggle with sinful thoughts or desires of one nature or another every day. I have always been told that it is how we respond to these thoughts, not the fact that we have them, that can constitute sin, particularly mortal sin. In order for it to be a mortal sin it must be 1) grave or very serious in nature, 2) you must be aware that it is a grave sin, and 3) you must give full consent of your will to do it anyway. What you have described does not seem to meet that criteria. It seems to be more of a temptation that you are battling with. On occasion, you may find it more difficult to contend with and incur some sin. But unless you choose to pursue these thoughts after the realization that they are sinful, you are not committing a mortal sin.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t confess it though. By going to confession and asking forgiveness for venial sins, especially ones we find ourselves in regularly, we train ourselves to avoid that sin and receive God’s grace to help us do so.
And no, you should not feel like you have to wait until Saturday. If you feel you are in mortal sin, you should immediately make an Act of Contrition and proceed as soon as is reasonably possible to the sacrament. Please note I said reasonable. For example, I should think that unless you are in danger of death, it wouldn’t be reasonable to bang on the rectory door at 3 am or something, but at our parish it is perfectly acceptable to go to the office and ask if a priest is available for confession during normal office hours or to call for an appointment. In fact, it is recommended if your confession is anticipated to be very lengthy. I suppose this may be less available in parishes where priests are in shorter supply, but most priests take this need of the faithful very seriously and will make an effort to accomodate you.
I agree with your post. I, myself struggle with desires of this nature myself, and always have a tough time figuring out “how far is too far,” especially when the hormones start to kick in - it’s especially tough to kick the thoughts.
Personally, I think if our mind starts to drift, then think “that’s enough” and try to resist the thoughts, it is not sinful at best and venial at worst. I mean, we can’t watch more than 5 minutes of tv and not see things sexual in nature. And, added to the fact that most of us are programmed with sexual desires, for obvious reasons. Since we are imperfect beings, we don’t have 100% control of our thoughts 100% of the time. So, getting thoughts about sex from time to time is “normal” (I know, probably not a good word here) but it’s how we handle those thoughts and desires that count.
It is when we realize that our mind is in the gutter and still day dream about it that we start to get into the realm of mortal sin.
See my previous post on what I think (just my opinion) on when I think it becomes a mortal sin. You can always tell your story to the priest and see what he has to say.
My take on your tangent is this: I normally go to confessions on Saturday at 3:30, that’s when all the local parishes have them. I normally don’t bother priests outside of these times for confessions unless, there’s some sort of serious matter. Most of the time when I sin (mortal or venial) I will feel guilty, ashamed, sorry, etc. If I happen to drop dead in the confession line, I’d like to think that:
My “contrition” will help me out.
That I go to confession on a regular basis and that when I felt I have sinned, I will be in line (or at least make every effort to) on 3:30 on Saturday.
I would like to think that God is just, and will take these two things into consideration and won’t “play gotcha”
Oh, i’m plagued by those sorts of temptations and thoughts. Without disclosing personal history, i recognize that a temptation is just that, and if we resist we overcome, and in fact that is very positive not a negative. It shows your committment to CHRIST. If you have more frequent problem prayer helps, pray to the BLESSED VIRGIN for help in overcoming if it is a more difficult thing. So no it isn’t a sin, because you did nothing willfully. If you give into the thought, and want it with all your heart, you have already done it in your heart. If you look to lust, such as at pornography on the net, it is a willful act of adultery or pornograhy. If you repent these things you’ll be forgiven. And if you keep doing these other things willfully eventually you’ll commit these sins of the flesh, probably, given temptation and opportunity. By continually resisting the devil, the devil will flee from us. By resisting temptation, when put to the test you’ll overcome and remain true to JESUS.