I have been a fully initiated, practicing Catholic for almost five years now; I’m a convert in my early 20s. Since coming home to the Church, I have struggled immensely with overcoming masturbation and the occasional use of pornography. I know enough about my faith to realize that when I fall to those sins I’ve made a huge mistake and I have no excuse. Furthermore my hatred of these sins often leads me to despair and want to leave the Faith when I fall. I suppose I feel like a Christian should be completely dedicated to Christ after coming to know Him in the sacraments and, therefore, should be free from mortal sin…and certainly habitual mortal sin. I’ve worked with a spiritual director for years now trying to overcome these sins and I still fall to them at least once a month. I go to confession regularly, I follow all the Church’s commands, and I pray from time to time (though I know it’s not near enough).
And so now I’m coming to realize that there’s no point in despairing or thinking of leaving the Church when I fail to live up to the demands of chastity. I feel like I need to learn to be gentle with myself in the sense that when I fall it is often the cause of my age and the sexual tension that builds over time. That’s not to say that I think it’s okay to masturbate or view pornography (by no means!!) but rather that, if I fall, I should simply recognize it, resolve to do better, confess, and try again. This understandings expands to what I used to feel was a “wasted life” after I came into the Church…that is, I was still falling to these sins. I now think that they were not wasted years because I did grow and learn a great deal despite the fact that my sins held me back in other ways. Plus my sins aren’t near what my coworkers and non-Christian friends report, and while I know that doesn’t mean that I can commit my own vices, it does seem to provide a perspective.
I guess what I’m trying to ask is whether or not it’s okay to “be okay” with one’s struggle with vice? I mean is it okay to recognize that one’s vices are rooted deep from a past life and that the biochemical dynamics of a young man tend towards these areas, while at the same time striving as much as possible to overcome these sins and be free of them?
I just feel like now that I need to re-evaluate how I respond to myself and to God when I fall. I feel like I should be more gentle with myself and allow that gentleness to lead me to try harder but not with the super-declaration to be sinless in the future. Recognizing, as it were, that I’m going to fall from these sins more before I finally conquer them and that that’s, in some way, okay (i.e. it’s a part of the journey rather than a deviation out of it). To put it in yet another way: I feel like I need to accept that I am still a weak child in the realm of virtue and Christian living…that I have a great deal to learn and that this struggle is somehow a part of it.
The problem of course is I don’t in anyway want to suggest that these sins are not serious or that the decision to engage in them is justified in anyway. That is to say that I want to find that balance between the gentle and truth that is a part of Catholic morality.