(from previous posts of mine)
Regarding unwanted thoughts
While Jesus makes it clear that one can sin in ones thoughts…just cause some lustful thought happens does not mean that one sinned…
(and one can have a sufficiently good reason to think about sexual matters…for instance studying moral theology…but care must be taken to avoid things that would be a problem…but that is another question)
What should we do with* unwanted* sexual thoughts or other bad thoughts…thoughts against God etc? Those pesky temptations that can come …even though we are not seeking them etc…
(there are of course some things we should avoid that cause them…and there can be sin if it is something one should reasonably avoid…but often they come uninvited)
First…Relax. Do not worry.
Now are they mortal sins?
For a mortal sin one needs a grave matter …full knowledge AND deliberate consent!!!
A. If you do not want the thought…it the thought displeases you: it can be a sign actually that you did not give consent or do not give full consent.
B. Even if you felt a temptation for the thought – and were drawn to it —but rejected it and maybe even turned to God : again a sign not full consent.
C. But what if one has a tempting thought --say of a sexual nature and even hesitated for a moment…but then rejected it for one did not want to sin? : it can be partial consent perhaps (and thus a venial sin)-- or it may be no sin at all but rather a strong temptation that drew you but then you saw what was happening and turned away.
D. A temptation can even be very strong or the thoughts very often – but this does NOT mean one has consented! so worry not…even it they go on for a long time…
remember --for it to be mortal there must be that deliberate consent!
What to do? on the spiritual side–relax first of all and remember the above.
Next – know that the more one fears the thoughts the more likely they are to come… or said another way --the more a person seeks to avoid the thoughts the more likely he will have a problem with them. (but do not worry about this either!)
for example: for the next 10 seconds try NOT to think of an apple.
tick tock …
Ok what did you think of? Most likely an apple.
So it is best to ignore them and just not consent and then turn your attention to some other good thing…for instance whatever you are doing. Simply do not consent and move on. and do not worry
another point – thoughts can just happen --they are the stuff with which we think…it is up to us to consent and take them further or not. and just because they are REAL VIVID and almost “think themselves” does not mean per se that one has given ANY consent.
they can be annoying…but need cause no actual harm …
(Now difficulties with thoughts can happen to anyone…and has for centuries…nothing new!..but I will note too that “some” have a condition known as OCD (I knew someone with this once…it was a painful experience)…and thus should seek further professional help to work at overcoming it and to live a more peaceful life)
Another help…is the distinction between “first thoughts and emotions” (as Baur calls em) what they call the prima of the prima…“the first of the first” (as one of my Professors called em…he was a Dominican)…these are involuntary things that just come up…such are not sins. They can tempt one of course to sin…or one can then proceed to some sin…but they are the stuff of the mind and emotions which “happen to one” …and really the are opportunities for growing in virtue etc as well…
How to deal with these? First of relax…don’t scruple…don’t fear them…to try to swat them all as the come…just simply turn to other things…or the thing you are doing…or to God…(of course do not consent)…but if you are too defensive against them…they may get worse actually…and confuse you more…instead turn to God or again other good things…accept that hey…somethings wild thoughts will come to you…
There is a story from the desert of the early Centuries of the Church where a younger hermit when to an older one with the problems of thoughts happening to him all the time…the older hermit told him to go outside open his cloak and catch the wind.
The younger hermit said such is not possible…
the older hermit replied --neither is it possible to stop all the thoughts that can come to you…your choice is to say “yes” or “no”.
So relax about “unwanted thoughts”…sometimes they just come…you know like unwanted phone calls from politicitians and salepersons etc…but you can always say “no thank you” or just ignore the call and go about your business