Mortal sin versus temptation


#1

How do you differentiate between mortal sin and just being tempted to sin? If you are tempted and begin to desire it, is that a mortal sin (if the object is grave matter)? Or does it require full desire of it?

I know mortal sin requires grave matter, full knowledge and full consent. I guess my question is how you know when you’ve given full consent?

What if you feel as if you’re in a state of mortal sin but can’t tell why or what sin it is … have any of you ever experienced that? Often I feel as if I should not receive Holy Communion and that I need to go to Confession. Then I confess only to feel less peace.

Any advice?

Thanks in advance.

Pax Christi tecum.


#2

How do you differentiate between mortal sin and just being tempted to sin? If you are tempted and begin to desire it, is that a mortal sin (if the object is grave matter)? Or does it require full desire of it?

We are obligated to reject temptations as soon as we become conscious of them. Entertaining the desire to sin becomes more serious the longer we indulge in these thoughts and the more we consciously allow ourselves to derive pleasure from them.

I know mortal sin requires grave matter, full knowledge and full consent. I guess my question is how you know when you’ve given full consent?

Full consent is an act of the will, not just a feeling. Temptations are presented to us by the devil in attractive packaging, appealing to our senses. If they were not, they would be no temptation at all. I give full consent when I decide that I would commit an evil act if given the opportunity, or consciously decide to continue indulging in sinful thoughts, despite the fact that I know it would offend God.

What if you feel as if you’re in a state of mortal sin but can’t tell why or what sin it is … have any of you ever experienced that? Often I feel as if I should not receive Holy Communion and that I need to go to Confession. Then I confess only to feel less peace.

We often have feelings of unworthiness when approaching Holy Communion (who could possibly be worthy of such a treasure?). But unless we know that we are in the state of grave sin, we should not fear receiving Communion. The devil can place these thoughts in us to keep us away from this wonderful Sacrament.

The best advice I can give is that you discuss the specifics with a good priest in the confessional.


#3

First of all, Philothea, thank you for your post. It was very help to me. I’ve battled these thoughts and feelings for awhile, trying to make sense of them. I have a spiritual director now and hope to work through them with him too.

I think here is where I get stuck. If I feel an enticement to a sin then I think I must be sinning and willing it or else I wouldn’t experience that appeal of the senses. I think must be equating the appeal of the senses with sin, hence thinking that the feeling or drawing sensually as the sin when in actuality it is only when I willfully desire to commit the sin or think on the sin that it is sinful. Does that sound right?

Yes, I will discuss it. I have such a struggle because often times I feel so unworthy, as if I’m not even in a state of grace to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. I can’t shake the feeling and the uneasiness so I think it is Our Lord telling me not to receive because of some mortal sin that has kept me from being in a state of grace. But it seems when I do not receive then it only leads to despair or frustration since I can’t figure out what sin it is I need to rid my soul of. I’ve decided that if I don’t know what the mortal sin is or could be, and if I don’t know objectively that I am in a state of mortal sin, then I will receive Our Lord with all the love and devotion and contrition I can have at that moment.

Thank you again for your wise words and I’d like to hear any further thoughts you may have!

Pax Christi tecum.


#4

I have a spiritual director now and hope to work through them with him too.

Great! That sounds like a good plan.

… when in actuality it is only when I willfully desire to commit the sin or think on the sin that it is sinful. Does that sound right?

Yes, it does.

Yes, I will discuss it. I have such a struggle because often times I feel so unworthy, as if I’m not even in a state of grace to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. I can’t shake the feeling and the uneasiness so I think it is Our Lord telling me not to receive because of some mortal sin that has kept me from being in a state of grace. But it seems when I do not receive then it only leads to despair or frustration since I can’t figure out what sin it is I need to rid my soul of.

It sounds like you might be suffering from a bit of scrupulosity. You may want to raise that possibility with your spiritual director (or with your confessor, if your spiritual director is not a priest). If you tend to be scrupulous, it is best always to go to confession to the same priest, who is aware of the problem, and obey his instructions.

I’ve decided that if I don’t know what the mortal sin is or could be, and if I don’t know objectively that I am in a state of mortal sin, then I will receive Our Lord with all the love and devotion and contrition I can have at that moment.

That sounds like a wise approach.

Thank you again for your wise words and I’d like to hear any further thoughts you may have!

Pax Christi tecum.

You are very welcome, and may Christ’s peace be with you too.


#5

To put it simply, desire becomes sinful, if we would act on that desire if we had the chance.

Jim


#6

The problem with the approach of “if I am not sure I am in mortal sin then I will receive Our Lord” tends to in my mind to become “but what if I am in mortal sin?”

Yes, Philothea, I think I do have issues with scrupulosity. I’ve mentioned it to my spiritual director and hopefully we can work with that too. I’ve not been confessing to him but perhaps I can. I only meet with him once a month and try to confess weekly so I don’t know if that’d work.

Pax Christi tecum.


#7

Does “if we had the chance” mean “if God would let me without it being sin” or “if the situation presented itself to me”?

Pax Christi tecum.


#8

It means you desire the chance to commit the sin as well as desire the act itself.

Jim


#9

But what is desire? Is it the same as being drawn to it or attracted to it? I mean, this area is one place I get stuck. When temptation comes, it can be attractive or alluring - isn’t that a sort of desire?

Sorry for sound so scrupulous. I’m just trying to work through this all because it’s a huge issue for me. I can easily fall into despair or give up because I so easily think I am in mortal sin when I may not be…

Pax Christi tecum.


#10

strugglingalong

But what is desire? Is it the same as being drawn to it or attracted to it?

Well, you’re getting this from a 56 year old male, without formal training in this area, but lots of experience, so take it with a grain of salt.

There is a difference between sinful desire and natural attractions.

For instance, I’m a married man. When I see an attractive woman, all though the biological attraction is natural and not sinful, if I begin to desire a sexual encounter with her, and even begin to scheme how to make it happen, this is sinful.

On the other hand, a single male, who sees a beautiful girl who he is attracted to, has every right to desire her and to attempt to be with her. It becomes sinful when, the desire is merely for sex on a purely erotic level, and not for love. If we didn’t have desires for the opposite sex, being self-fish beings, the human race would’ve gone extinct long ago and we wouldn’t be having this discussion. :slight_smile:

Jim


#11

Yes, I see your point. I guess where I still get stuck is desire. So say I see an attractive woman and almost automatically I have a desire for her and certain impure thoughts enter my mind. Is that sin? Or is it just sin if I indulge and entertain those desires and thoughts instead of rejection any desire or thought of impurity?

Pax Christi tecum.


#12

Thoughts that enter your mind are never sin. How can you be morally responsible for what enters uninvited?

It only becomes sinful when you entertain those desires and thoughts rather than rejecting them.

By the way, if you are indeed scrupulous as you say, it may not be a good idea to hash out moral dilemmas in a forum such as this one. It may just feed your scrupulosity problem. It may be best to have these discussions with your spiritual director or confessor. (It’s not that we mind responding; I’m just thinking about what would be best for you.)


#13

Well I know its tough but, if you desire her in the proper context, i.e. in a loving relationship, not a problem.

If you desire her for erotic pleasure exclusive from a relationship, this is where it becomes a problem.

The thing is, getting into sexually entertaining fantasy’s, is so easy, especially when you’re young with raging hormones. Therefore great vigilance must be kept, in keeping yourself from feeding temptations which inflame desires which you may not have the strength to overcome.

The only thing I can say from my experience is, the older you get, the easier it gets.

Jim


#14

But sometimes it seems like the desire and thoughts come from me somehow, as if I am creating them … but I don’t think I am intending to do so.

I actually think posting here has been helpful for me. It helps to get objective views on things. But I will speak with my spiritual director for sure.

Pax Christi tecum.


#15

That’s encouraging :slight_smile: I’m learning a big part of it too, as with any temptation, is to distrust self and to trust God. It seems like the whole spiritual life almost is about growing in confidence and trust of Christ and distrust of self…the more we distrust ourselves, the more we rely on Christ for everything, including temptations.

Pax Christi tecum.


#16

The spiritual life consist in aligning our will with the will of God. This is acheived through humility which is developed through contemplative prayer.

Jim


#17

Agreed 100% :slight_smile: I am Carmelite at heart.

Pax Christi tecum.


#18

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