What does it mean to hate sin 'above all things'?


The Act of Contrition in my prayer book says:

“O my God, I am truly sorry, and repent of all my sins,
and detest them above all things
because they deserve your dreadful punishments,
because they have crucified my loving saviour Jesus Christ
and most of all because they offend Your infinite goodness,
and I firmly resolve, by the help of Your Grace,
never to offend You again and carefully to avoid the occasions of sin.”

What does it mean to detest my sins above ALL things?

If I think of something that would really make me want to hate, like some neo-nazi serial killer who also molested small children. Does this mean, to have true contrition, I would rather be locked in a room with the neo-nazi pedophile than commit my sins (even the venial ones) again?

If that’s the case, I can honestly say all my confessions have been invalid up to this point, and it might be a long while before I can honestly make this Act of Contrition again. I’ve never really thought about the meaning of those words until yesterday.

Can anyone suggest any spiritual exercise that will help me to find true contrition for my sins?


You are being WAAAAAAAAAAY over-analytical here.

An Act of Contrition is a prayer expressing sorrow for your sins. Saying you detest them above all things is expressing GREAT sorrow for them. Many prayers, and even some scripture passages, contain what might be called ‘hyperbole’ or flowery language, exaggerated for effect. Think Jesus saying ‘if your hand causes you to sin cut it off’ - it’s not to be taken absolutely literally. Neither, possibly, is this line.

If that phrase causes you problems, by all means leave it out. We’re talking a prayer here, not Holy Scripture. Here’s a little secret: it is in no way necesary to hate your sins above all things to have sufficient contrition to be absolved of them in confession. Here’s another little secret: saying an Act of Contrition at all is NOT a required part of confession, nor does absolution depend on your saying one, although it is necessary to HAVE contrition (sorrow) for your sins.

Exercises? True contrition? If you want you can spend time in front of a crucifix or reading accounts of the Passion in the Gospels or watching Passion of the Christ and meditating on the fact that Jesus suffered all of this for your sins - and that if you had been the only sinner in the world Jesus would’ve had to suffer all of it for your sins alone, that is how much they hurt and offend God.

But truly and honestly, the fact that you go to confession at all (unless it’s because your mom makes you go or something) in itself means you have sufficient contrition for the sacrament to be effective. By the simple act of walking into that confessional you’re freely and voluntarily acknowledging the hurt your sins have caused God and taking the best of all possible first steps to put your relationship with Him at rights.

Contrition, like love, is more often a matter of doing the right thing than feeling anything, and it’s often more meritorious to DO the right thing when you DON’T feel like doing it, as an act of self-sacrifice and self-discipline.

Remember Jesus’ story about the two sons - both asked by their father to work in his vineyard? One said he would do so and then ended up not going, the other said he wouldn’t and ended up going and working.

Point is it was the second son who was in the right, because he purely and simply did what the father wanted . By going to confession you are being like the second son, simply doing what the Father wants. Focus on that all-important fact and don’t worry so much about what you ‘feel’ - feelings are often transient and deceptive.


The point about the second son though, is that, even though he doesn’t say he’ll go and work, he still does go and work.

So whether or not I say I hate my sins above all things, I really must hate them ABOVE ALL THINGS to have true contrition, right?


A wee bit of perspective is in order here. Which thing will cause you to lose your sanctifying grace…the neo-nazi or your mortal sin? Being locked in room with the former is certainly unpleasant, but it’s temporary. Being outside of God’s communion has eternal consequences. So in that sense it seems logical to detest those sins that take you out of God’s grace more than anything else.

I would suggest you compose your own act of contrition. If you were sitting next to Christ apologizing for your sins…what would you say in your own words?


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