When Does Temptation Become Sin

I am preparing for a confession after a couple of years of not going. Yesterday, it was going pretty well, and I only had three or four things on the list, and I’m thinking, “This is easy! What was I so worried about?” Then I started thinking about it more, and now have a page and a half of material to go through. And I’m like, “That’s ok. I’ll just plow through it…”

Then I started thinking, “What about all those times I think about committing a sin, but then don’t?” I know ordinarily this is just temptation, and not a sin, but… Sometimes when I think about committing a sin, I feel this tremendous amount of relief. Like the idea of not having to worry anymore about whether something is a sin is such a weight off my shoulders.

For example, I generally get the idea of when something is lust. But what about when imagining how nice it would be to think about lusting after someone? Does that mean I have to confess to having thoughts about having bad thoughts?

Or when I imagine just skipping church or whatever, and how nice it would be, but I know I’m still going to go? Does that mean I have to confess to thinking about not going to church?

It is this circular logic that is just about driving me crazy, and why I just dread going to confession. Please help.

Don’t be too worried about these things, because really, a temptation only becomes a sin when we give in to them and act upon them.

However, when you say that you fantasize about not going to Mass and “how nice that would be,” those can be rebellious thoughts against God and His Church, which are sinful and should be confessed.

Some of this sounds like concupiscence

1264 Yet certain temporal consequences of sin remain in the baptized, such as suffering, illness, death, and such frailties inherent in life as weaknesses of character, and so on, as well as an inclination to sin that Tradition calls concupiscence, or metaphorically, “the tinder for sin” (fomes peccati); since concupiscence “is left for us to wrestle with, it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ.” Indeed, “an athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.”

Yes, I know at least some of it is. I realize it has to do with whether you consent to or “endorse” the thought… But it’s really hard for me to figure out the difference, especially given the passage of time and my current “confession” panic.

I would just say something like “I have had lustful thoughts and negative thoughts about the Church.” That would cover a lot of what you seem to be worrying about.

I commend you for your question. St. Francis de Sales writes an excellent exposition on the matter which I recommend. I am in the same boat as you. I would surmise you have not consented or you would clearly know about it

When the thought becomes the act.

Didnt God say even if a man lusted in his mind for a women,he is already guilty of committing the actual sin?

This seems kind of strange to me, it gives the person who uses self control and restraint, no benefit…thus, if they ONLY think about the women in their mind, it would be the same exact sin, if he had been with her physically.

So, in this instance, the temptation to sin sexually, would be as bad as committing the sin…?? How can this be right?

It’s funny you should mention him, because I’m reading Introduction to the Devout Life right now. I do remember a chapter in there about letting go of your attachment to sin.

Do you have a link or reference to the exposition that St. Francis wrote?

I also generally agree that most of the time I probably didn’t consent. But, at the same time, I wonder if I’m supposed to “police” my brain to that extent? Because part of me thinks it might be helpful to think some of these thoughts through and analyze them… And that’s where I get myself into trouble…

This wasn’t what I was referring to. However this is well worth a read. It is directed towards a scrupulous soul but most people can benefit catholicapologetics.info/library/onlinelibrary/scruples.htm


There are sins of thought - way before and independent of any exterior act.

The key is did one know what was happening and did one consent…

It is one thing for an unwanted thought to happen to one - “it would be nice to lust about them” that one does not consent to. All sorts of thoughts can “happen to us” without our wanting them…without our entertaining them. Such are temptations that we turn away from to something good. Sin is in then consent to one degree or another. So intentionally imagining something…that can yes be getting into sins to confess…

The Priest can assist you - remember all that needs to be confessed are mortal sins like lustful thoughts, murder etc. And they need to be confessed in number and kind…(and if one examines and does not know the number -one can approximate according to what one knows “around 3x a year for the last 5 years” “around 3-4x”, “many times”)

After you examine your conscience – Make an appointment and have the Priest help you.

If you innocently forget a mortal sin -one is simply to confess it in the next confession.

Know that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and he loves you! In him is true life!

Also it is important to note that various things that are written (or was written in the past) for those who are scrupulous are not for those who are not scrupulous.

And persons who struggle with such ought to have a regular confessor to give them various guidance.

Sorry, I shouldn’t have posted the link. It is geared towards priests assisting the scrupulous. Your priest would provide more suitable counsel and would be able to assist you in your deliberations . God bless

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.