What is lust/ when do you lust?

Matthew 5:28 says that anyone who looks a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in their heart, but what does it mean to look at someone with lust? I once found myself noticing an attractive woman, I turned away, not wanting to draw myself into sin, but, without really thinking I glanced back. Again, as soon as I did this I looked away. Afterwards, I prevented myself from thinking any lustful thoughts yet still felt great guilt at this. Is lust always accompanied by thoughts?

Let’s look at the definition of the word according to a dictionary yes?

1. very strong sexual desire.
“he knew that his lust for her had returned”

synonyms: sexual desire, sexual appetite, sexual longing, ardor, desire, passion; 
                 libido, sex drive, sexuality, biological urge; lechery, lasciviousness,
                 concupiscence; informal horniness, the hots, randiness.
                 "his lust for her"

Theology: a sensual appetite regarded as sinful.

 plural noun: lusts
    "lusts of the flesh"

verb: lust; 3rd person present: lusts; past tense: lusted; past participle: lusted; gerund or present participle: lusting

1. have a very strong sexual desire for someone.
"he really lusted after me in those days"
synonyms: desire, be consumed with desire for, find sexually attractive, crave, covet, ache for, burn for; informal have the hots for, fancy, have a thing about/for, drool over
"he lusted after his employer's wife".

As you see, glancing at someone cannot qualify as lust. Lust requires that you engage your will in the actions described above. After all a “verb” describes an action even when that action is not material but inside your brain.
Hope this helps you,

Our Lord warns against looking lustfully, thereby making a distinction between sinful glances and innocent glances.

“Bold [daring] looks are forbidden, because they lead to sin, just as a parent forbids his child to play with edged tools.” (‘The Catechism Explained’, 1899, p. 393)

“Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.” (# 2391, ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’)

If we are honest with ourselves and with God, it is easy enough to make the distinction. My general rule is to not stare at women’s bodies. Like St. Therese, I like to look at people on occasion :slight_smile: When asked by a Sister why she was looking so intently at her, St. Therese answered: “No, I just love looking at you!”

Try to be childlike. If you are tempted, look away. Try to see others’ beauty as a dim reflection of the Uncreated Beauty. It is also commendable to - at least sometimes - sacrifice looking at those we find attractive.

"… the smallest acts suffice [to save souls]: a step taken, a straw picked up, a glance restrained, a service rendered, a cordial smile… all these offered to Love are in reality of great profit to souls and draw down floods of grace on them”

  • Jesus to Sr. Josefa Menendez

“Souls are not saved if nothing is done for them. I died on the Cross to save them—I ask of thee no great thing—only a word withheld, a look repressed, a pleasant thought banished, in a word all that restrains and mortifies nature. These little things, united to My infinite merits, acquire a great value."

  • Jesus to Sr. Benigna Consolata

In moments of temptation or uncertainty, invoke the intercession of Mary e.g. with the aspiration: “Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.” St. Alphonsus assures us that those who call on Mary during temptation can be certain that they did not yield to the temptation. (He assumes good-will on our part, of course).

Lusting after someone who you really ‘fancy’ can be hard to stop. Best thing is to think immediately of Jesus or some other image. Can be very hard though.

Bold and daring looks are forbidden. What is a “bold and daring look”? Telling someone you think they’re attractive? Is that a sin? Geesh. You don’t even know them. What can you do other than look? Now sparking inappropriate thoughts maybe. Beauty can’t be a sin. I tell women quite a bit “You are very pretty”. I go on they do. I might even talk to them later and what I said I don’t really dwell on. These things still confuse me. There can’t be anything wrong with Beauty. Nor procreating in the right situation and time. Like within a marriage. Seeing Beauty shouldn’t make you want to copulate. There’s no connection. Am I making sense? Am I understanding? This is a good topic and though repeated many times should always be answered. So many are confused by this.

Was it a sin to make the glance, even though I turned away before I gave myself a real opportunity or would it only be a sin if I prolonged that glance for my pleasure?

I wouldn’t think as others have said; that noticing beauty which is divine would be a sin. Attractiveness as you call it. Staring at someone is not polite and could get you into trouble. We are human striving to become more holy. What would your thoughts normally be? I wouldn’t really have any after noticing. If you would use this as a situation to go and masturbate that night, then there’s a problem.

:twocents: worth.


I get “pleasure” out of the countenance of a lovely lady. That doesn’t mean I am “lusting” after her. God created all beauty; there is no sin in appreciating it. The sin comes into play when you engage your will and allow yourself to sexually desire the lady.

Those who claim otherwise are either scrupulous or prudes.

I didn’t even give myself time to admire them. It was no more than a split second glance, hardly a stare. Usually when I’m confronted with these sorts of situations I ignore it, and turn my attention elsewhere yet for whatever reason I found myself looking back for a split second, and felt guilty that I had tried to do so even though I didn’t harbour any thoughts, I’m not sure if lust is applicable in such a glance.

An example of a bold, for me, would be to fix my eyes on a half-naked lady’s body. If I do so, I am fairly confident that I will be tempted by impure thoughts and the like. As such, this constitutes a near occasion of sin, and it would therefore be sinful for me to expose myself to such temptation. “He who loves the danger will perish in it.”

Beauty is never a sin; but misusing beauty is (e.g. dressing immodestly and “flaunting it”), as is lust, which is a perverted appreciation of beauty.

Complementing someone’s beauty is not sinful, in itself. The mystics say that Jesus and Mary are very beautiful. We can appreciate beauty without sin, as I implied earlier.

In his work, ‘The Ladder of Divine Ascent,’ St. John Climacus writes: “A certain man (St. Nonnus, Bishop), on seeing a beautiful woman, thereupon glorified the Creator; and from that one look, he was moved to the love of God and to a fountain of tears. And it was wonderful to see how what would have been a cause of destruction for one was for another the supernatural cause of a crown.”

If you are prolonging the glance for sexual pleasure, then yes, it is sinful. But from what you have said, this does not seem to be the case. You seem to be speaking a different kind of pleasure, such as that which arises from looking at a beautiful art work.

I am sure that Our Lady is quite beautiful, and I don’t hesitate to say that she would be pleasing to look at (in a chaste way, obviously). A holy priest and mystic, Pere Lamy (Servant of God), was once given a statue of Our Lady, which depicted her with her head bent. Pere Lamy asked the sculptor why this was the case. “She looks mystical like that,” was the reply. “Oh,” he said; “Well, she does not look at all mystical. She stands there. She looks at you straight in the face; and that is as it should be, straight in the face.”

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What I’m assuming is that the second glance would not be sin in itself, but perhaps I was careless in exposing myself to a temptation, which I ignored and didn’t turn the second look into a lustful stare.

Your response and the OP’s question makes me think of this scenario. Say you wanted to go to the beach on vacation with others. You know what to expect. There’s going to be partial nudity and you’re going to see it. I don’t think this would be sin in my opinion. As for looking at a woman who is dressed slightly “immodest” that I would think would be venial. But these things can add up and pollute the mind. If one is not careful it could even lead to masturbation. Or intentionally looking at nudity. There’s the mortal sin. The act of masturbation anyway. At least I would think.
But back to the beach, you can’t control what people wear and it is the beach. People have to remove some clothes.

What I believe that it is not a sin to look, but rather to gaze and cherish these temptations. I presumed that it was not a sin to take a second glance,as sometimes I am attracted to something, and without real thought, my eyes are drawn to such temptations. From there you can cherish that thought and become enticed by lust, or look away, without gazing or getting lured in even further. I’m not sure if the second glance is a result of giving into temptations, for sometimes there are none, but my eyes seem to become attracted to something for whatever reason, or if the second glance/look is a temptation in itself, that if conceived to and indulged in leads to sin, so if you turn away this second time you are not in sin. As for the vacation scenario, I know that you must not make provision for the flesh, as it is likely that you will succumb to temptation. By going to such a beach, perhaps it is rather risky, and perhaps temptations will be stronger yet if you do not allow yourself to give into these, no sin will have been commited? But then again, this may be too great a risk.

To clarify, in my case, the second looks was not out of temptation. After initial temptations subsided, for whatever reason I looked back up.

I don’t think IMO you were tempted to sin. Looking at a pretty woman isn’t sinning. It’s the thought of carnal actions. And doing.

You’re right - you can’t control what other people wear; I still love the beach. I said it would be wrong to “fix my eyes” on immodesty, because that would be an occasion of sin for me.

I’m still not sure as to whether the second glance was temptation, or giving into temptation.

:hmmm: Well can you tell us a bit more about your state of mind. I don’t think you did anything wrong. If you are in doubt you probably didn’t. You have to know something is a sin to commit sin.

Well, after the initial temptation subsided, within a split second I looked up again, and couldn’t understand why. Possibly out of curiosity, or because I was attracted (or even tempted?) sometimes I find this happening as an instinct, without really considering what I’m doing. Sometimes I will look back at something, before turning away. I know it is a sin to lust, but I’m not sure as to whether this “glance” back, my eyes being drawn away is where temptation is conceived, or if it is only when I fix my eyes for a prolonged period of time, then sin starts. Perhaps I am being scrupulous but I have since heard of the “sin of the second look”, which makes wonder if the sin is in the glance, or the sin is what I choose to after I make the second look, but the look may result in provision for the flesh, not lust in itself but the basis for lust?

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