HOW TO STOP SINNING
THERE ARE CLEAR STEPS ONE CAN TAKE TO STOP OUR SINS
Many people ask, “How can I stop my sins?” or “Why can’t I stop sinning?” We see our sins or at least some of them, and we know they are ruining our lives, but we just don’t know how to stop them. We try but in vain. Well, there is a clear explanation and a direct way to stop all our sins. God didn’t allow us to bear this curse–the desire for sin–and not give us the remedy for it.
“Let me say that we have already received from God the ability to fulfill all his commands.”
–St. Basil the Great
We just need to learn how to obtain God’s grace to change.
Everyone Can Stop Sinning–Any Sin
Today, there are many of us, who have been deceived into believing we can’t stop sinning. I don’t just mean stop the few sins that we want to amend. No, I’m speaking about stopping ALL of our sins.
Why do we think it is impossible to obey God’s Word and “sin no more” (John 8:11)? If we think God can help us stop a few sins, why don’t we think He has the power to stop all of them? Surely God can do anything, IF we allow Him.
If we don’t believe, with God’s grace, we can stop sinning, we surely won’t be able to. And it is that doubt that will affect our ability to stop the sins we are seeking to amend too.
We can stop sinning–All of our sins. The Word commands us to do so.
“Do not be led astray:..stop sinning” (1 Corinthians 15:33-34).
We just need to learn how to accept God’s grace to do it.
Many of the saints were able to accept so much of God’s grace, God’s love was able to prevent them from ever sinning again. And if God can do this for others, what is preventing Him from doing this for us too?
Do you think God wants us to offend Him? Of course not. The only thing that is keeping you from stopping one or all of your sins, is YOU.
Therefore, if St. Theresa of Lisieux was able to obtain enough of God’s grace to not be able to choose to sin any sin again, we can too.
“From that day I have been penetrated and surrounded with love. Every moment this Merciful Love renews me and purifies me, leaving in my soul no trace of sin.”
–St. Therese of Lisieux
Why Do I Sin More When I Try to Stop?
Some people, who mean well but just don’t know any better, try to console others who struggle to amend, by mistakenly telling them the best way to stop sinning is to no longer try to stop sinning and just focus on God’s love for us.
Poor deceived people guide others in this way because sometimes the more we try to not commit a sin, when we go about it all wrong, the more we may want the sin. This is our rebellion showing its ugly head.
Oh, but there can’t be worse advice. The horror! Are we here on earth to take God’s love and not even try to love Him in return–to not work hard to not offend Him? Of course not.
Ignoring our sinfulness and not striving to love God (stop sinning) isn’t the advice of the saints, who know how to truly love God and obtain His grace, but from someone who doesn’t know The Way to change or Heaven.
Ignoring our sins doesn’t lead us to Heaven but to our doom. How can we ever be truly sorrow for any sins and accept God’s forgiving mercy for committing it, if we aren’t even trying to stop offending God. We can’t. We must work and work hard to “stop sinning” (1 Corinthians 15:34). Being complacent with sinning is completely opposed to God’s teachings. That isn’t how we love God, but sin.
“Be vigilant at all times [against sin] and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations [temptations] that are imminent” (Luke 21:36).
Sadly, by human nature, since we suffer from concupiscence: the desire for sin–wanting our will (CCC #405, #418), when we really love a sin or even if we just love control (not obedience), we will want what we can’t have…and sadly, some of the time we will even crave the sin all the more when we try to leave it. But not to worry; God’s grace is stronger than any craving we have. God can remove all longing for sin. Praise Jesus!
Just remember any struggle to remove sin we might have surely doesn’t mean we ignore our offences against God and quit trying to stop offending God all together because we think sinning less is better than more…well it is, but being resolved to sin (not working to stop) is exceedingly more deadly than working to stop sinning but failing to amend.
We must learn what we are doing wrong, because God expects us to not habitually offend Him at all and to habitually love Him instead. Habitual sins are deadly. To learn more please read, “What are the Mortal Sins.”
“Habitual sin binds down the mind, so that it cannot rise to uprightness [it can’t gain a state of grace].”
–St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, (Catena Aurea, 13:10-17)
What kind of love would we have for God, if we didn’t even try to not offend Him and only wanted to take His love but not work with all of our hearts to love Him in return (stop sinning)? We would have no true love at all. And most sadly, from being deceived, most only have this kind of love…a love that isn’t true.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
But now is the time to change and put loving God/working to amend our sins as our greatest priority.
Complacency with sin, thinking God forgives no matter what–sorrow or not (if we are trying to amend or not), is a huge problem. That mind-set, of forgiveness with out being resolved to amend kills. It makes us complacent with sinning–doesn’t put our faith in Jesus to take away our liking for sin–so we can truly hate them and love Him; that allows the devil to keep us in our sins. That doesn’t allow Our Savior to save us but allows the devil to damn us by removing our true contrition, because we surely can’t be truly sorry for any sin–so to accept God’s saving forgiving mercy–if we aren’t wholeheartedly working with God’s grace to stop sinning. God wants us the hate sin enough that we never habitually commit them again.
“Do not be deceived; neither fornicators (unmarried persons who engage in sexual intercourse) nor idolaters (persons who love anything above God or long for anything other than God and His will) nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
Those habitual sins listed above and all habitual sins must be removed by God’s grace if we wish to have Life. For Eternal Life, we need to grow in our faith to hate our sins enough–love God enough–to where we will sincerely do or suffer anything so to not commit our sins again or to avoid any offence to God (gain true sorrow/true hatred for sin). That is a heart, that truly hates sin and loves God, which can accept God’s forgiving mercy and not reject it for sin.
“God himself will not, and cannot, forgive anyone who is not [truly] sorry for his sins and fully determined not to offend Him again.”
–St. John Vianney
Oh, what grace it takes to obtain that kind of hatred of sin and love of God, since we desire so many sins as we can clearly see by our constant habitual sins. For most it takes a life time to get to this kind of saving faith. But how does it all begin, by striving hard to seek grace (mercy) and removing the sins we can remove with the grace we have, one at at time towards perfection.
Let’s learn how to do just that.
Stop All Sin
To start, if we don’t have a heart that wants to amend all of our sins, then we will reject bounds of grace from still desiring to sin. But to get our desire to amend to be true–to where we would rather suffer death than sin–takes much grace.
“Christians who has sinned and wishes to obtain pardon, must be so minded that he would rather suffer the most cruel tortures than fall back into the sin which he has just confessed.”
–St. John Vianney
But if we have at least some desire to amend all of our sins, then we can begin to receive grace and much of it and then grow into a true desire.
Therefore, if we want God to help us (to obtain great strength) to stop the sins we can’t stand committing, then we need to seek to stop all of them. Whatever sins we don’t desire to amend those sins can reject enough of grace to where we can’t amend the sins we want to stop. Of course we can’t stop them all at once, but we must be resolved to amend them one at a time.
Being OK with sinning any sin–mortal or venial–against God, is not the kind of heart that can receive God’s great merciful transforming help. We need a heart that doesn’t want to commit any of them and is really willing to do what is necessary to stop sinning or we reject much of His helping grace.
“You who love the Lord, hate evil [all sin]” (Psalm 97:10). If we truly hated our sins, then seeking to be perfect–to never offend God again–would be our goal. Then we can learn how to access God’s fantastic power to take away our sins.
May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
We must truly strive to obey all of God’s Word, especially when God tells us to “sin no more” (John 8:11). So, if we love God, lets do our best, by seeking His grace, to do just that. Let’s follow Jesus and become just like Him!
Basic Rules to Stop Sinning
Really there are only THREE BASIC RULES we need to understand to amend any sin:
- have a real desire to stop the sin (the hardest desire to gain)
- learn what we need to do to change — repent, make resolution (have sorrow, remove what is causing us to sin or do what will keep us from sinning)
- constantly seek God’s grace for help –seek help to obtain knowledge of what we are doing wrong and what we need to do to change, and the strength to do it
To accomplish these, there are many ways we can increase our desire and bounds of things we can do to change. Plus, endless ways we can seek God’s mercy for help. To learn more please read, “What is God’s Mercy and How Can I Receive It.”
For example: lets say you have a problem with sometimes getting really angry at others for their errors and you got really upset with a colleague at work. Now your manager said if you repeat this behavior again you are going to lose your job. Well, your boss just gave you a really good desire to stop the sin, which is a good start–but wanting to stop any sin because it is offending God is the best and really the only true reason to want to amend any sin (rule #1), which is how we need to seek to grow in faith.
Anyway, to amend this sin or any sin, once you realize you have sinned, you need to tell God you are sorry for your offence against Him and also to whoever you have offended and then ask God for help to change. After this, of course, go to confession and confess your sin, humbly admitting your wrong with sorrow before God’s consecrated priest for great strength/grace to be given to you through this sacrament (that is God’s main gift to strengthen us against sin).
Then look into why you allowed yourself to get so upset or what led you into that unforgiving intolerant behavior so you can do what is needed to change. After that, come up with a resolution you can implement so when you feel yourself being tempted to become angry, before the event happens, so you can do something so that explosive anger won’t happen again (rule #2). Finally, to have the grace (strength) to actually implement your resolution, seek God–especially through prayer–for much strength to change (rule #3).
This is it. But most people need much grace to have a true desire to amend (rule #1). Plus, even if we have a great desire to stop the sin, most don’t possess the knowledge and wisdom needed to perform rule #2 well, since most don’t know how to look into our lives to learn what we are doing wrong–to learn what caused the sin we can see–and most don’t know what we can do to successfully prevent the sin from occurring again. On top of that, the countless ways God offers us help are unknown to most too. But hopefully, when you are done reading this article, you will now have a much greater understanding as to what is needed to truly amend any sin and grow in your desire to do what is necessary to change.
20 Basic Things We Can Do to Stop Sinning
Below are the general means we have to accomplish the above three rules well. These are very helpful, but don’t think that is it. There is so much more which is discussed later in this article as well.
- Pray as often as possible–praying unceasingly is the greatest way to gain grace for the desire, knowledge and strength needed to amend any sin. To do this ask others to pray for us, attend Mass (the greatest form of prayer), read The Word (learn The Way), pray devotions, the Rosary, adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament (great way to come to see hidden sin), and ask the angels, saints and the Mother of God for help (great assistance to guide us towards The Way). To learn more please read, “How to Pray Humbly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-27).
- Look into Our Hearts to See What We are Doing Wrong and Why We are Doing it–if we want to put a stop to any sin knowing why we commit the sin can greatly help to make an effective resolution to stop. For example: if we talk badly about others (slander)…look into why we do what we do. Perhaps, we put down others because we are actually jealous of some other quality they have or maybe from our pride, we want to think of our ourselves as better than others, and we put down others to build ourselves up. Then we can work on amending our jealousy/pride which will directly help remove our desire to slander others (Proverbs 4:23)
- Avoid What Causes Us to Sin–how can we stop committing any sin if we don’t make resolutions to avoid what precedes the sin. For example: If you have immoral thoughts, remove the immoral TV, internet and clothing, etc. from your life…live pure if you want to be pure. But with that said, that doesn’t mean we remove our crosses because we see we become upset when they happen. The cross is good…it is to spur us towards seeking God’s grace for the strength to carry them for the transformation of our souls. (Romans 16:17)
- Focus Only on Doing God’s Will at Every Moment–we won’t fall into any sin if our eyes are constantly focused on God and His will…by stopping our thoughts that aren’t of holy things or over focused on doing what we want and only seeking to do what God wants us to do (Proverbs 3:6)
- Do the Opposite–the resolution/penance to amend any sin is in doing the opposite of the sin. If our impulses are that of pride, intentionally do acts of humility. If our impulses are that of being short tempered, intentionally perform acts that require patience. If we lack courage to do what is right, don’t do what is easy…choose to do what is hard; if we complain about the bad weather (don’t wish to carry our cross), intentionally do things in poor weather, asking for strength from God to carry our cross, etc. (Numbers 21:9)
- Confess Ones Sins–the sacrament of reconciliation sends fantastic grace to help us to amend our ways; it is God’s special blessing just for the removal of sin, but it must be performed well or it will be done in vain. To learn more please read, “How Bad Confessions Can Damn Us” (Proverbs 28:13)
- Receive Holy Communion according to the Law of the Church, if we are able to receive, since The Eucharist is meant to help those who desire sanctity to stop offending God. To learn more please read, “What Sins Can I Continue to Commit and Still Receive Holy Communion?” (Matthew 26:26-28)
- Perform Many Good Works and Donate Money for God’s Honor and Glory–grace is given to us through our works of love, no matter if they are corporal or spiritual works of mercy but they need be made seeking to love God through loving our neighbor (Galatians 6:9 & Tobit 12:9)
- Seek to Imitate Christ — desire to change our entire lives in every thought, word and action to become like Jesus, who we should be following, since with every area of our lives we don’t desire to amend, rejects God’s help in all areas of our life. (Romans 13:14)
- Practice Penance–choose the cross – apologize, make right our wrongs, fast, deny ourself of worldly pleasures–accept our punishment-fix our eyes on God, not the world and the strength of the saints will be given to us (Luke 9:23)
- Love the Cross – offer up our crosses (sufferings, challenges, problems) to God, for grace to be sent, like Christ did for us, for our sins and the sins of the world (1 Corinthians 1:18)
- Lose Your Attachments–remove your idols–the things you run to for happiness, peace, joy, that aren’t God so you can have room in your hearts to receive God’s grace (Seek to Imitate Christ — desire to change our entire life in every thought, word and action to become like Jesus, who we should be following (Romans 13:14)
- Trust in God that all He allows (the good & the bad) is meant for us to learn, change and follow Him–is to help us grow in wonderful faith and peace (1 Thessalonians 5:17-27)
- Look for God’s Lessons Especially through the Cross–if we want to learn what we are doing wrong, God is always teaching us during every struggle, pain or suffering we are experiencing so we can see what needs to be changed to become like Christ (James 1:1-27)
- Contemplate God’s Law–Read the Bible asking God to teach us how we aren’t living His Word; we can’t know what sins are leading us to other sins–so we can amend the source of the problem–if we don’t really know what is sinful or where we are going wrong (2 Timothy 3:16)
- Meditate on God’s Great Love for Us–His Passion–the pains His Sacred Heart suffers and the pains He suffered on earth and His death to provide us with directions to a saving faith and forgiveness of our sin, so after we see His great love, we will want to do all we can to stop offending Him. (Romans 5:8)
- Contemplate God’s Perfection and the Malice of Even One Venial Sin. When Perfect Love, who gives perfect love is offended by the ones He perfectly loves, that biting of the hand who feeds us…that injury to God is unfathomable (Matthew 5:48)
- Think of How Our Sins Greatly Offend God whom we have rejected and should be loving with all of our heart and develop a great hatred for them–fear of the Lord (finial fear) (Genesis 6:6)
- Think of God’s Just Punishments on earth and for all eternity for our unrepented unchanged sins and develop a great hatred for them–fear of the Lord (servial fear). (2 Peter 2:4)
- Contemplate Eternity; life is only a fraction of a second compared to eternity; to come to fully understand what not being willing to suffer torment rather than offend God–clinging to one sin–means that we are choosing to love our selves over God and choosing Eternal torment instead (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
“There is nothing that restrains man from sinning so much as the thought of death [suffering in Hell for eternity as a consequences of our sins].”
–St. Anthony Mary Claret
As the wisdom of the saints teach us, “Live in fear of God…to keep God’s law and commandments always before one’s eyes…The gift of fear of the Lord is definitely the basis [from the Holy Spirit]. It is fear of sin [to keep us from falling into error]”(Pope St. John Paul II).
With having fear of the Lord and God's strength, I promise you, you can stop any sin. God can do anything...if you learn how to allow Him. Believe!
There are two ways we can stop sinning:
- God’s grace
Many of us have a good amount of self-discipline. Some of us can successfully diet, perhaps exercise, hold a job or achieve any number of great goals. Many can stop doing, at least, some of our wrongs with little or even no helping grace from God.
We can see this in atheists. How does an atheist obey the law and choose to do good? Well, they didn’t do any of the above things I listed to help us stop sinning.
They decided they wanted to.
Atheists have rejected God and His helping and saving grace but from their own amount of self-discipline–which unknown to them, God gave them–they have enough discipline within themselves to say no to the negative consequences that comes from doing wrong and choose to do good–at least with some of their choices.
God gave all of us some amount of self-discipline (dispensed differently according to His will) and the ability to grow in discipline with or without His assistance. The reason many of us don’t have enough self-discipline to stop the sins we want to leave is because either we don’t “really” want to stop it or n vGod didn’t give us enough of discipline when He made us, and/or we have done things in our life opposed to discipline and have weakened our innate abilities or rejected God’s helping grace.
However, even for someone, who God gave the gift of great self-control at birth, we simply won’t have enough strength to stop all of our sins. To do this, we need great helping grace from God.
But this isn’t the struggle for most. Most aren’t looking to amend all of our sins. We are just mainly interested in amending the horrid sins that we see which bring despair and are ruining our lives. And to do this, we need to learn how we are rejecting discipline and God’s grace so we can gain all of the strength God has waiting for us so we can have the ability to change.
In this article, I will go through how we sabotage our own self-discipline and shun the fantastic helping grace God sends and desires to send. I will also show us how to use our own discipline and God’s grace to mend our ways so we can stop the sins we hate.
After reading this we hopefully won’t ask, “Why can’t I stop sinning?,” any more and we will know what we need to do to change, so God can take away our sins and guide us to a life and eternity of wonderful joy.
Like a city breached, without walls [who lets evil take over], is one who lacks self-control.” (Proverbs 25:28)
Different Guidance for Different People
Depending upon where we are in our spiritual life and our uniqueness, we will need to approach the removal of our sins very differently. Some of us will be at the very beginning of removing sin and others will be walking on the Path of Perfection.
We will need to remove sin in different order based on our different sins and varied personalities. God naturally gave some of us gifts of patience and others not so much, but whether this sin affects us greatly or not, it will need to be made perfect from removing our sins. “The admirable and excellent qualities which nature (God) has bestowed on you can only come to purity and perfection through true godliness.” –St Augustine, Doctor of the Church. We must seek true godliness for that is where grace is acquired which takes away sin and makes us perfect.
Going about changing from each person’s short comings and growing in gifts requires very different guidance for each person. This reality is what makes reading some of the saints advice, on how to amend our ways, a little bit challenging to understand.
Much of the time, we don’t know who the saints are advising and where that person or persons are in their spiritual life. Without this knowledge, we try to follow the saints instructions, but sometimes we simply aren’t ready for a certain step in our faith journey, because the next step in the removal of sin (growing in holiness) for us is quite different than what we chose to do….and as a result, we fail to change. Really, guidance to sanctity needs to be individually tailored for each person’s need. But since correct spiritual direction today is very rare, we need to use the saints guidance, the Word and this article to help us the best we can.
But there are certain steps that everyone needs to follow…primary rules, per se, that will greatly help us move in the right direction, which is what this article is going to address.
Be imitators of me [St. Paul], as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
Steps To Removing Sin
The removal of sin is comprised of steps. Do the above things I first listed to obtain grace and increase our desire, then follow the rest of the steps. It is kind of like learning math. We can’t do trigonometry if we can’t even multiply (not that these steps become difficult–actually they get easier with the more grace we obtain, but they build upon each other). We must take the steps in proper order, as we will learn from each step, so our efforts will accomplish great success.
The following are the first simple steps everyone needs to take to stop any sin. After we have successfully removed some sin and accomplished these (gained much grace)–for those who want to seek to amend all of our sins, that is, seek a saving faith–like I said, there are different steps for each persons unique spiritual growth as we travel away from sin and towards Life and then perfection, as I will explain later.
Below are the are steps an Olympic coach might tell his student, which don’t deal with God and His grace, and have all to do with our personal self-disciple, but someone can follow this guidance which produces much progressive change.
- Desire to change (seek the goal)
- Believe you can do it
- Have the main goal in mind but only focus on one step at a time
- Find the first thing to change
- See what you are doing wrong
- Learn where you went wrong
- Make a reasonable resolution (a specific plan) to change
- Implement the change into your life
- If resolution doesn’t work, make another
- Repeat the steps and never quit
We can apply those means of success into our life and see some improvement, but when our own natural abilities simply aren’t enough, since many of us weren’t given the discipline of an Olympian, as many many Christians have run into, we can clearly see we need God and His unsurpassable strength to truly amend our sinful ways.
Since we are Christians, we don’t only need to use our intrinsic strength to change; why would we want to? We have the power from almighty God! Wonderfully, if we have at least some faith in God, we can access that fantastic strength–or at least some of it–to assist us in our efforts to stop sinning so we can have great success, because “for God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
To successfully remove sin with GOD’S GRACE you must PRAY before, during and after following these steps:
- Come to Know Your Sins: Gaining self-knowledge by examining your conscience to see where you have gone wrong. Ask yourself, “why” I have committed that sin to learn the sin under the sin to see what you need to change;
- Have Fear of the Lord: From seeing your sinfulness, gain Fear of the Lord (fear of sin knowing it earthly and eternal consequences), then desire to do what is necessary to change (to stop all sin);
- Fully Believe, with God’s Strength, You Can Change; have faith
- Have Humility: Know how sinful and weak you are; know without God, you can’t do anything truly good;
- Know God is Your Hope: Seek God (your coach) for help to enlighten you of your sins and to His will, for guidance to know what to do to change, for strength to make right choices and for the purification of your sins;
- Humbly Repent: Confess your sins with all honesty and contrition directly to God and through a priest in the sacrament of reconciliation* to receive all of the helping grace from God you can accept;
- Make Right Your Wrongs: Apologize to the ones you have offended and make right your wrongs to the best of your ability, through penance and good works, seeking God for courage to do your best;
- Stop All Sins: Seek to avoid and amend all of your sins. What kind of love would you have for God if you still wanted to offend Our Lord with some of your sins?
- Make a Realistic Resolution: Come up with a specific plan and implement it into your life. If that plan doesn’t work modify it while continuing to work on receiving grace, and amending it little by little until God takes the sin completely away;
- Seek God and others for help: Seek God for additional grace for the strength to implement the above.
- Repeat steps until perfect 🙂
*the most valuable asset to change
If you remember, I did mention that the above list is the first basic steps to removing sin that we all need to follow…this will help remove our more serious sins (vices) and help us learn how to obtain God’s grace, and have our desire grow. But there is more. There are different steps after these at our different stages in our spiritual life, walking towards perfection, and I will get to them soon. But first, I want to embellish upon the steps above so we can have much success in our efforts to change. For without accomplishing these steps correctly we won’t even get to the other steps.
Fear of Sin
Many people want to change but most of the time it is for the wrong reasons…not from fear of the Lord. Fear of the Lord is the fear of sinning because of the horrid consequences it brings to us, others and God.
“The fear of the Lord is the hatred of evil [hatred of sin]” (Proverbs 8:13)
Sin has many grave consequences. Sin offends Our Creator, pierces His Sacred Heart, caused His crucifixion and separates us from Him and His most merciful love. Sin also causes great suffering/punishments on earth, in purgatory and in hell. Sin causes us to not properly care for our neighbor. Sin ruins our life and other’s lives on earth and leads us to our eternal doom. Sin should be greatly feared.
God motivates us to stop sinning through this fear.
Fear coming from faith:
- Fear of offending God
- Fear of receiving God’s punishments
This motivating fear, if it is directed by faith, can be from seeing God’s love for us so greatly, and from having an epihny from God so wonderful, that we now want to surrender everything to love Him and fear causing the slightest injury to Our Lord who is Perfect Love and should be loved perfectly.
This fear, which is also driven by faith but isn’t as pure, but it still comes from the Holy Spirit, is when we fear God’s punishments that will come upon us if we don’t amend our ways. This fear isn’t from fearing to offend God (love of God), but from fear of personal suffering (self-love). But God can use either to cause us to change and grow in grace and holiness away from our sins.
This, fear of punishment, is the most common fear that actually causes to get up, make resolutions and do what is necessary to amend our ways. We can easily see how many will hear God calling them to a religious order, or to do missionary work or to do some kind of good deed, but the deceiver gets a hold of us and makes us so excited to do the “will of God’ that we never actually seek to STOP SINNING, but are only excited and seek to “do the works.” Now, from our lack of hatred for our sins–a lack of real love for God–being driven mostly by pride, seeking success, all of our works actually merit us nothing…even if God has called and strengthened us to do His work.
“Anyone who is determined to reach his destination [Heaven] is not deterred by the roughness of the road that leads to it. Nor must we allow the charm of success to seduce us.”
–St. Gregory the Great, Doctor of the Church
Those who truly love God, truly hate their sins and seek to stop them all moments of their life and keep careful watrcho over their intentions to see all toey do is ruly for the love of God.
If we want to stop our sins we must come to know the great injury they are causing us and God. We need a horror of sin. And contemplating God’s passion (suffering and death) is a great start in understanding them.
Let’s go back to the atheist. Why does the atheist want to change? Atheists want to prosper; they don’t want to fail. Why? They want to do good for reasons of self-gain…not fear of offending God (love of God) nor fear of receiving His suffering/punishments (God’s justice).
Atheist want to change what they are doing if their actions are producing an outcome they don’t desire. For example: Let’s look at an atheist, who was created with a heart of love, just like all of God’s children, who is married. He loves his wife and since he knows innately right from wrong, he knows hurting someone you love isn’t good and will produce a bad outcome.
Therefore, when an atheist sees he’s doing something that hurts his wife, most want to change. Atheists want to do good…they like to love, desire to be good persons, enjoy seeing good happen, and desire to be loved in return… “a happy wife is a happy life”…as the expression says. Atheists want to feel happy. They want a happy life. But, they do nothing out of Fear of the Lord…just for personal gain and satisfaction.
“For if anyone during this life are changed out of fear of God and pass from an evil life to a good one, they pass from death to life and later they shall be transformed from a shameful state to a glorious one.”
— St. Fulgentius of Ruspe
Sadly, many Christians approach God for help with the same self-love reasoning as an atheist. Many see our sins and run to God knowing how our addictions to sex, drugs, alcohol, food, and bounds of other things are ruining our lives. We want a better life, not because we want to grow in Christ (want God to truly dwell in us and not our sins) and no longer want to offend God, but mostly we run to God because we want to be happy.
Frankly, most tragically, most aren’t even thinking of how we are hurting our Creator and loosing His love even as we are seeking His help. Sadly, we are so self absorbed, we can’t look at God with concern for Him, since we have a great lack of Fear of the Lord and only see the injury our sins are causing ourselves and perhaps others around us. We might believe in God, somewhat, but not enough to put valuing Him–not wanting to offend Him–above all into the forefront of our conscience.
“Men are not easily cured of habitual sin except by severe punishments [because we will hate the injury the sin is causing us either on earth or for eternity first before we hate the sin enough to stop it out of love for God].”
–St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church
That is why the very first quality we must have (the first step) in the removal of sin, to be truly successful with receiving God’s grace, is “Fear of the Lord.” Without it there is no hope for obtaining the strength we need from God to really change.
Removal of Fear
Yet, very tragically so many of us have been deceived and think it is loving to remove someone’s fear of sin and death and replace it with trust in God…but that isn’t faith. We truly trust in God when, from great fear of sin, we go to Him and greatly hope in His mercy (help) can guide and strengthen us away from the sins we love, so we won’t suffer from the consequences of them.
We should NEVER lose our fear of sin, as there will always be consequences if even a single sin is left unrepented and unatoned for, and even if we do repent and atone for them, they still offend Our Lord, whom we should be loving. We must fear sin. Unless we obtain so much grace that we can never sin again…and have perfect love of God. The wise and learned saints ALWAYS feared sin.
“The Scripture says: Be not without fear to sin and say not, His mercy is great.”
–St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church
Furthermore, we should know even with little or no fear of the Lord, God can have pity on us when we cry to Him for assistance, and He might mercifully send some help. God allows us to take His love (grace) even when we don’t want to love Him in return. But God does this with the hopes we will see His great love and decide to truly love Him in return (want to stop all of our offences because we don’t want to offend Him again).
But please remember if we want GREAT HELP from God to stop our greatly addicting sins or to amend our horrible habits we have had our entire life or to seek perfection, we need GREAT “Fear of the Lord.”
The greater fear of sin–especially, at first, servile fear (fear of suffering from our sins)–we can obtain the better. Sure we might feel like we have a great desire to stop a sin that we just can’t stand committing, but our lack of effort to change, which is shown in our lack of change, proves our desire simply isn’t true. We have been deceived. When we truly desire to change, we do…perhaps we won’t have enough grace to remove the sin completely, but when there is a true desire to amend, there is constant change.
“Come to a sober and right mind [focus on God and what is truly good], and sin no more; for some people have no knowledge of God [from your sins].” (1 Corinthians 15:34)
Now, in all fairness, I do want to mention, if we have succumbed to the devil through mind altering drugs, it is just that much harder to change since our ability to utilize our innate discipline God gave us is greatly weakened. From weakening our natural gift of self discipline, we mostly need to find God’s strength (grace) to change. This is our ultimate goal for complete change too, but it is hard to obtain God’s help when we don’t know how to accept God’s transforming grace. But honestly, just one true humble cry to God for help can change all of that. This is true.
Gaining a true desire, from great fear, to stop any or all of our sins, is the hardest resolve to obtain in our efforts to amend our offences against God, but without it, how can we stop anything if we don’t really want to? Please read the Lifting Our Values book “How to Obtain Perfect Contrition” and read it’s complementary book of “Meditations” to grow in wonderful Fear of the Lord. For those who have a weak fear of the Lord, this is a must read.
“A wise man will fear [sin] in everything; and in the day of sinning he will beware of offence; but a fool will not…”
When we gain some fear of the Lord, we will want to see our sins and put forth effort to avoid and change them. Then we will obtain God’s grace and if we seek to grow in fear of the Lord, we will receive even more grace. The greater the fear of the Lord we can obtain, the greater our desire to change we be and the greater change will occur, which will result in obtaining greater grace.
If we grow in humility too, we can accept so much of God’s helping grace and we will grow and grow in faith and hopefully into obtaining a great desire to amend. Then if we persist, we will develop a true hatred for each and every sin. With time, as we pursue God’s mercy, we will still grow in Fear of the Lord and humility and into the faith we need to obtain fantastic grace. Hopefully, we will grow so much that we accept magnificent grace like St. Theresa of Lisiux.
To learn more about what true “Fear of the Lord” really is, so we can leave the deception of the evil one, learn and know how we grow from servile fear (fear of suffering God’s punishments) into filial fear (fear of offending God whom we should love), please read the “Fear of the Lord” article on this site.
“We should praise highly the fear of His Divine Majesty, for filial fear [fear of offending God whom we should love with all of our heart] and even servile fear [fear of suffering on earth, purgatory or Hell from God if we don’t seek His grace to amend our ways] are pious and most holy things.
When one cannot attain anything better or more useful, this [servile] fear is a great help in rising from mortal sin, and after this first step one easily advances to filial fear [perfect contrition] which is wholly acceptable and pleasing to God our Lord, since it is inseparable from Divine Love [accepts His saving forgiving mercy–removes our mortal sin].”
–St. Ignatius of Loyola
The reason athletes and any really successful persons achieve great things is because they are driven…greatly driven. They are able to motivate themselves to do fantastic things because they believe they can. They don’t see failures or others success as an obstacle (an excuse to stop) or a threat; they see it as a challenge, and mostly from their pride, they drive themselves to accomplish amazing achievements.
However, if we want to remove our sins and have Eternal Life, we need God’s merciful grace–our great strength–to take away our sins. To do this we need to let go of all of our pride and solely rely on God’s strength, as pride is death for the Christian (or anyone for that fact).
Yes, we most certainly can still use our intrinsic strength to change, but we absolutely must let go of control and allow God’s grace to power that strength in which He gave us and to envelop us with even more fantastic grace so He can work fully through us. Because without God, we can’t do anything–nothing truly good, as our life of sin has proven.
“When pride comes, disgrace comes; but with the humble is wisdom [knowledge of the Way]” (Proverbs 11:2).
Therefore, when an athlete is talking to himself to build up his self-esteem to motivate himself, we need to do the exact opposite. Christians, who want God’s help, don’t build up ourselves at all. Instead, with great humility, knowing our great sinfulness and weakness, we tell the Lord we can’t do anything truly good and without Him; that we are nothing.
Christians, who want the unfathomable strength of Christ, rely on GOD ALONE. To learn how to become truly humble please read “How Can I Gain Humility” because without having at least some real humility, we will only reject the grace God tries to send. The more humility we can acquire the greater grace we will be able to accept and the greater change will occur.
Our Stumbling Block
If we want to remove our sins and have begun, but now find ourselves at a stumbling block—not able to move forward with the removal of sin and are staying the same–that is because we either we don’t really want to change or we aren’t doing what God wants us to do.
There are certain steps, unique to all of us, in which, through prayer or the guidance of a knowledge spiritual director (which is a very rare find today), we must figure out what they are in order to remove one sin at a time according to God’s will towards perfection. God has certain sins we need to remove first before we will have the strength to remove the others, and God has certain things we must do and resolutions we must make, to assist us, in order to walk with Christ towards Life.
Sometimes God will tolerate us not doing things according to His will and we can still grow a little, but there will come a time when God’s paitence with us will wear off and God won’t allow us to move at all unless we let go of our will and go about doing things His way. God may even allow us to fall into a time of dryness (not feeling God’s presence), as a consequence of our disobedience, if we take too long to learn.
If we neglect to do what God wills, for most, right away we won’t be able to move at all. Oh, the devil will trick us into thinking we can stop our sins without doing the “hard” things that God wants of us…and from our pride, we will try and try to do things our way, all so we don’t have to struggle and humble ourselves, but we won’t succeed. Oh, we will think, the next time, I will try something different and then change, but unless we stop doing things our way and humbly submit to God’s plan, we simply won’t move forward and die from a love for our will.
“To go on gaining and advancing every day, we must be resolute, and bear and suffer as our blessed forerunners did. Which of them gained heaven without a struggle?”
–St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
But once we repent and pick up our cross and humbly do whatever God wants of us, we will begin to remove sin again and grow closer to God’s image. Praise God. But this cycle will repeat its self, if we fall back into this error with any of the next sins we are seeking to change.
Have Great Humility
Therefore, having great humility–knowledge of our sinfulness and also knowledge that we can’t do anything “our way”–is the way we will obtain God’s knowledge and strength to reject our sins and choose to do good.
Remember, pride rejects grace but humility obtains it. The more we can humble ourselves and come to know our incredible sinfulness, unmistakable weakness–that we can’t do anything good without God–the more of our nothingness we can truly believe about ourselves–the greater strength of God we will accept because we will truly know our great need for God’s mercy.
This humility that we need to obtain great grace is a calling out from the depths of our heart for God, knowing what vial creatures we are…nothing but corruption and a horror of sin. Truly believing we are absolute nothing as we beg God to take our hand and do everything through us, is the way to Life; for without Him we can’t learn to hate the sins we love so to get there.
Our opinion of ourselves should be nothing but a misery. But sadly, in today’s day and age, we simply don’t know how to gain humility as we run from such honesty about ourselves thinking that is some form of low-self-esteem and brings depression. Or if we do declare ourselves to be a misery, for many, it is only a cry of self-pity…not true humility. But this must change if we want God’s grace to amend our sins. We must know our sinfulness. This is the beginning of everything and will bring on fear of the Lord (fear of sin)…the fear we need to begin to walk towards the path of Life.
Plus, this declaration of our wretchedness can’t simply be in word alone, like so many of the other lies we tell ourselves, we must truly believe it.
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:6).
The lukewarm (those who participate in Church but don’t truly desire to live the faith) will have a very hard time obtaining enough humility to accept sufficient grace to change, because of their hidden pride. To learn more please read “How to Regain My Faith” but without growing in great humility we simply won’t accept an ample amount of God’s grace to take away our sins…our unknown pride will still reject it.
Again the book “How to Obtain Perfect Contrition” and it “Meditations” along with the book “Remove the Obstacles” will help bring us to the humility we need to know just how miserable of a sinner we truly are and how much we truly need a Savior.
We Need A Savior
Hope! Oh, when we truly walk on this journey, to remove all of our desire for sin for Eternal Life, we will need great hope that God will show us the Way to stop our sins. Yes, amending our ways and truly coming to hate what we love–sin– is hard, but we must believe God “wills everyone to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). If we don’t turn from Him, He will show us the Way. This we must believe.
He loves us. This He has so clearly proven and even after we sin over and over again; He still wants us in Heaven. Therefore, if we implore Him for assistance again and again, always persisting, learning, and growing (even when we fall a lot), we will make it to a happy end–the goal of our life–The Crown of Life–Heaven….Praise God!
But we have to sincerely pursue Him. If we are living a lie, thinking we are perusing Him but not truly, we will die. Sadly most are deceived and living the lie, so beware! It is better to have great guilt and fear of death that we are not doing our part, so to spur us to do more, than to not be afraid, and trust in Christ to save us if we think we might not be giving our all in turning from sin. Eventually the weary soul, who is truly steadfast in seeking God will eventually remove their guilt for not doing enough, but if they don’t ever greatly fear they are killing themselves from their lukewarm efforts, they will most likely die.
“By steadfast loyalty guilt is expiated, and by the fear of the Lord evil is avoided.” (Proverbs 16:6)
But even if we are honestly going to God daily for grace and spending our day seeking to perfectly love/obey Him, we are never to loose the fear that we can’t turn from God and become lukewarm again. For at any moment the devil can sneak in and steal our true desire to change from our souls. We must be vigilant!
As long as we truly desire His assistance–even if we don’t “feel” or “see” His help–we must have trust in Him to always be there to guide us, in all circumstances to Heaven. This is true trust in God. This is faith.
“We must all confidently hope for the assistance of God; for as God has begun the good work in us [enlightening us to our need to change for Eternal Life], He wills to complete it [bring us to a saving faith], provided we make use of His grace.“
–St. Aquinas, Doctor of the Church
If we still lack a true desire to amend–we aren’t really seeking God with our whole heart and changing–then we shouldn’t hope in God to stop our sins or save us; He won’t because we are still rejecting Him.
Telling someone they will be fine and to trust in God, when we aren’t doing our part to obtain grace and stop sinning only leads someone to presumption of salvation, complacency in our sins and death. We should live in fear–great fear–if we aren’t amending our lives. If we don’t change we will suffer eternal torment.
But to not despair, we should know, even if we have rejected God’s assistance (helping grace), God will always want us again when we decide we want Him. He will never turn us away. There is no sin too great that isn’t pardonable by His Divine Love, as longs as we truly want Him and His forgiving mercy. But we do have to sincerely seek Him with a truly contrite heart before Judgement–death. Or we can think we have a great relationship with God, and we will call out to Him and He will declare, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.” (Matthew 7:23).
Therefore, if we want to begin to seek Him for grace to try to develop some kind of real desire to amend, there are many many ways to seek God’s mercy to grow grace so one day we can obtain enough grace to truly want to change which is mentioned later in this article and in this web site.
Learn What Our Sins Are
To move forward, if we want to stop our sins, we must be able to see them. We have become so good at hiding them, but they need to be brought to the light. “Grace must uncover sin so as to convert our hearts” (CCC # 1848).
We commit our sins in our:
- thoughts (chosen thoughts/not temptations),
- omissions (things we should have done but didn’t do).
To be able to amend one habitual sin we do see, we need to come to see the temptations that lead us to want the sin, the many other sins we commit that lead us to that sin, and the excuses we make to try to justify why we must commit the sin, which are leading up to that one sin we do see if we want to get to the core of the sin and amend it.
But the devil blinds us. He doesn’t want us to see, so we can stay in our temptations and excuses that lead us to death and continue to delight in the evil desires that bring us to great sin. We need to really look if we want to change. But we can look and look, and if we don’t really know what is sinful, we won’t see. To learn more please read, “How to See My Sins.”
To come to know what our sins are, what is already in our conscience but we just can’t see, we need to know in-depth what God’s commands are; we need come to know what is sinful and what isn’t…especially the “mortal sins.” Please don’t say, “Oh, I understand this.” The devil has deceived most, beware! He doesn’t want us to know our sinful ways, which is anything we do at all that isn’t for God’s honor and glory. I speak about them in depth in the article “What Are Mortal Sins.” Please read it.
Sadly, the evil one has darkened our understanding as to what is sinful and what isn’t so greatly, many have a very hard time knowing what is actually wrong.
If we don’t know what is sinful, we won’t be able to recognize that we’re being tempted to commit a sin. Then we won’t know we need to do something to avoid falling into the sin, and we just sin and sin and sin…living blind to our crimes against God.
Oh, how many people never recognize a single temptation before we commit the sin? Yet, in our conscience, if we could see, we would know God has most certainly told us what is sinful and what isn’t.
For example some don’t realize watching pornography is seriously sinful, but others most certainly know doing anything that isn’t perfectly pure is most offensive towards God. Also, others don’t know if we give any of our time to doing anything that isn’t to love God, it is wrong, while other are enlightened with God’s grace and know anything we do that isn’t to know, serve or love God..for His glory is sinning.
It isn’t until we gain more knowledge of right from wrong–especially with the sins we commit–from gaining a real desire to see them and not want to commit them that we will even begin to feel ourselves being tempted and be able to avoid many sins.
Without recognizing temptation in our thoughts/desires or from people or things such as: music, books, tv, internet, video games, cell phones, etc. we won’t have the ability to implement self-discipline to remove, avoid or be vigilant around such a temptation in order to not sin.
If we can’t see the temptation, we can’t denounce the temptation and avoid sin, since seeing the temptation prior to the sin gives us a moment to PAUSE and think so to not respond to impulse but discipline. We must be prepared to fight off the temptation.
“Stand fast in fear [of sin] and in [seeking] righteousness, and prepare your soul for temptation.”
–St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church
If we see the temptation, we don’t need to rush in and commit the sin. We now have awareness of danger and can stop and turn to God, His Mother, the angels and the saints for much needed help through prayer. Then strengthened by the grace they send, we will do what is necessary to not chose the sin.
The temptation won’t last forever if we turn to God.
“Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
To overcome temptation of course we need to stop and pray for strength, but when we are being tempted with a sin that we are continually tempted with and fall into, when we are being tempted isn’t the time to come up with a plan on how to avoid the sin.
Any resolutions and strategies we need to implement must be made when we aren’t being tempted so the plan is already in place and in our mind. Without much grace, overcoming temptation is hard and if we don’t have a plan on what to do, it is very very hard.
We need to do what anyone else would do to stop the sin, and that is come up with a plan that we are to do in case the temptation were to come again. It is kind of like having a fire escape plan that we would follow just in case there was a fire. Or a meal plan that we would follow if we are on a diet so we know what kind of food is good to eat if we were to become very hungry so to not binge on what ever our impulse calls us to eat. That way when we lack discipline like during temptation, we can resort to the plan we have in place and be less likely to fall into our sinful wants from not being strong enough to find an escape at the moment.
When we recognize we are being tempted to sin, to stop the temptation and prevent the sin, we should never restrain ourselves in action alone, but quickly remove our desire for the sin–by choosing to stop thinking about it.
For example: lets say we are single or have taken the vow of chastity or are even married, and we have a desire for sex–which isn’t sinful.. Our bodies naturally desire to procreate, which is good, but with this desire/temptation, since we aren’t animals, we are supposed to implement self-control and discipline and only act on that urge when it is holy and according to God’s will. To learn more please read, “What is God’s Plan For Family and Friends.”
“Live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly” (Titus 2:12).
If we choose to implement self control and restrain ourselves from gratifying our sexual desires, when it is driven by lust, to satisfy ourselves, or is sinful in any way–not for God’s honor and glory–then we have avoided a sinful act, which is great.
However, if we take that desire for sex and allow it to remain in our minds instead of doing all we can to avoid thinking about it, that urge will lead to mental sins (thinking of ways we can satisfy our desire or even growing in our desire through lust) and then it will become a longing for sex making it an attachment, which, if left uncontrolled, will most likely lead to some sinful act of self-gratification to satisfy our desires/longings.
Therefore, even if we have the strength to reject committing a sinful act that we are being tempted with, if we continue to desire/think about it in our thoughts, we can reject so much grace–from desiring something sinful–that the next time we are tempted to commit the sin, we will now not only desire the sin in our thoughts but probably commit it in our actions.
Then after feeling a great loss of ability to change/control ourselves, we might even grow into despair and quit trying to avoid or amend our sin and commit the sin over and over again losing bounds of grace and causing untold harm to ourselves and Our Lord.
We must pause when temptation is recognized and seek HELP. Then take our thoughts off the sin, turn them into prayer and fully reject it.
In time after seeking help correctly, we will really see God’s grace in action, as sins we didn’t have the strength to stop–from just pausing during temptation and praying for help–from God’s grace helping us–we will have the strength to not chose the sin. In time, we will see right before our eyes, God’s grace, taking away our sins. Praise Jesus!
If we never feel ourselves wanting a sin before we commit it, then we are most likely blind to ourselves and our wants. From our pride, we have become so good at not recognizing our desires we probably can’t even recognizing sin itself…surely much of it is covered. We need much help. To learn more please read, “How Can I See My Sins.”
Learn What is Gods Law:
Pope St. John Paul II has spoken greatly about our blindness to what is sinful and what isn’t in today’s world. Therefore, we shouldn’t, from our pride, assume we truly know right from wrong, since most of the Church today sadly doesn’t. Even if we weren’t living in the time of great darkness, would any of us fully understand the magnitude of the Law? Of course not.
Always growing in knowledge of what is sinful and what isn’t is essential to amending our ways. To come to see our sins, on top of reading the article “What Are Mortal Sins,” we should read spiritual books from the saints (many noted on this site), and of course we must continuously read God’s Word…with the desire to see our failures and learn The Way correctly. If we are so proud and think we already know everything, we will reject knowledge and still remain blind to much of God’s law of love we don’t know and grow confused with what we do know.
“One has to reflect constantly on moral law, analysing every commandment and counsel in the light of the Great Commandment [so we can live it].”
–Pope St. John Paul II
The law is more profound than we can understand and if we were to study it everyday of our entire life our mere human minds simply couldn’t contain the complete truth. It is from humility that God will enlighten us little by little to what this law is…so we can learn what is truly sinful in us and give us knowledge of how we are to change so to live The Way.
We can go to school to learn and that can help, but true knowledge that includes understanding the Law through wisdom comes from God through great humility.
Please don’t make the mistake when reading the Word, to find where you are failing to live God’s commands, and say “I do obey,” with some command of God, when we really only obey it sometimes or neglect the command to a lesser degree. All of God’s commands, we must obey all of the time, PERFECTLY. That is the goal. That is God’s will.
Honestly, we break all of God’s law to some degree. We just need to learn the fuller definition of each command and learn how to see our great sinfulness to recognize our offences. Remember, the times we do good isn’t what we are looking for but all of the times we don’t.
Look At Our Emotions:
To find sin that is robbing us of grace, look into our life as to why we are outside of peace. That alone will enlighten us to many sins which we need to rid. The only reason we are outside of peace: frustrated, annoyed, in despair, offended, angry at others, wanting love, seeking pity, depressed, suffer anxiety of any kind, etc., is from sin. Unless of course we have a true mental disorder that wasn’t induced by our own wrong choices, then we might suffer some of these symptoms outside of sin. But for most, it is our sins that cause us, directly or indirectly, to not love and trust in God and live outside of perfect peace.
For example: If someone insults us or does anything against us, if we have much grace, their words and actions will melt off us like a grain of salt. We will have pity for them, and their lack of grace to love. We won’t have pity for ourselves or become disgruntled over the cross we must suffer, but will understand their weakness and truly love in return.
Or perhaps, we make a big mistake in our job and it caused huge problems with our employer. Instead of embracing our imperfectness with humility, doing the best we can to rectify the problem and accepting any consequences as God’s perfect will–what is truly good–as we learn God’s blessed ways in wonderful peace, we prove our great lack of trust in God’s will as we stress out and become overwhelmed with despair over our weakness, seeking everything to go well according to our will.
Truly, God’s grace keeps us from sinning because our mind is focused on God, loving the cross and not being distracted from love with self-pity (self-love), or distressed when bad happens (wanting our will) which is all from our pride–rejection of the cross. However, if we lack grace, we become angry and dwell about how others mistreatment us. Then, we speak or think poorly about them, forgetting we are called to love–like Christ loved–especially during the cross.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
Oh, we want to endure so little and run from love (the cross). If we experience anything outside of love/peaceful care for someone, who sins or has sinned against us, that is because we are suffering from some amount of prideful unforgiveness, which must be repented of and stopped. Unforgiveness rejects bounds of grace from God which could be used to remove other sins.
To begin to amend this sin pray…ask God to give us a heart of love and teach us how to love in all circumstances. Then pray for the person we are not truly loving looking for the Child of God in that person…look for the good in them and seek to help them obtain Eternal Life througth our prayers and sacrifices for them.
If we feel outside of peace in a situation, pray and don’t respond until we find peace either from giving our bodies’ a chance to calm down or from accepting God’s most calming grace. But to avoid additional sin we must restrain ourselves from saying or doing anything until we can act with love.
Oh, but our blinding pride can cause us to say, “I forgive everyone.” I tell you, if we allow our minds to re-live the wrongs that have been done to us, or if we allow ourselves to think of how we are going to prove our innocence, or how we are right and they are wrong, then from our pride, we are suffering from much unforgiveness. Those aren’t thoughts of love for our offender, but of self-love. Don’t be deceived.
Living with unforgiveness upon our souls kills, as God will only “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Unforgiveness is a horrible habitual sin we must rid so we can truly love how God loves us. Praying for our offender with a heart of pity and sadness for their loss of grace and God’s love, hoping for their greater conversion to benefit themselves, while understanding their weakness (lack of grace) is true forgiveness, which brings us and our offender to to a life of wonderful peace.
It is true, having real complete forgiveness for someone, who has repeatedly injured us, is challenging because we are prone to self-pity, rejection of the cross and holding on to grudges (unforgiveness), making our ability to let go of the sin of unforgiveness even harder. But the larger the injury against us, the greater the transforming grace God sends us when we do truly wish to let go of evil and truly forgive with a heart of love.
Test Ourselves to See Our Sins:
If we think we truly and fully forgive, watch out, the devil deceives most of us. Look carefully into our thoughts and actions to see if our faith is true. God will test us or we should test ourselves, so we can see if our faith is really what we profess it to be.
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in faith. Test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 2:13).
Perhaps God will allow our offender to come in our presence. Then look to see how we are feeling so we don’t remain in darkness, because if we want all our sins forgiven, we can’t harbor unforgiveness of any kind as the Lord’s Prayer clearly explains. Covering that sin or really any sin is deadly. We must gain true sorrow for all our sins and STOP at least our habitual ones (the ones we don’t seek and accept God’s grace to amend). We can’t be forgiven of what we aren’t truly sorry and continue to commit?
If we forgive, truly forgive, we will truly love our offender, not relive their misdeeds in our minds and think negatively about them; we will see them how God see us. The expression “I can forgive, but I will never forget” is a lie. Don’t be deceived. We can forget…that is true forgiveness. God tells us He remembers our sins no more when He forgives us, and He expects us to do the same. Do we think God looses His memory? No, that isn’t the kind of forgetting God is talking about, but He speaks of a forgetting our sinfulness the allows Him to love us–like the disciple He loved–perfectly regardless of our offences. God looks at us with eyes of love, not seeing our vast sinfulness, but seeing our potential and desiring our change and growth in union with Him, as He works hard to help us….that is, if we really want His help.
We, who are great sinners ourselves, with God’s grace, will have no upsetness at all from anyone’s sin against us…just kindness, understanding and pity for our offender and their lack of grace, as we pray for them.
For example: Someone can steal our car, and we won’t go off complaining, “Oh my, someone stole my car..how can they do such a thing to me?” as we feel pity for ourselves. No, we will feel badly for the thief, not ourselves, as a true Christian is selfless and thinks always of how they can help others. A true Christian, thinks…”Oh, that poor soul, with so little grace to resort to stealing to satisfy his evil desire,” as we pray for helping grace (mercy) from God for him. That is what love is. We need to test ourselves to see if we are really loving How God loves us.
Of course we won’t approve of the sin either..stealing is wrong. We might even prosecute him in a court of law, if that seems best for his conversion, so he receives the consequences of his actions as a deterrent to not sin again…to spur him towards that straight and narrow path to Life.
If we fail to love Him like Christ loves us, then look into why we don’t instantly forgive and pity him…this may take a while to understand (at least to see the root of the issue) since some reasons we have unforgiveness towards others offences is from resentment–from many many acts of lacking forgiveness–we have allowed to built up over time in our hearts or from much hidden self-love. I provide us much guidance into how we can see various sins that cause us to not forgive and how to remove them in the Lifting Our Values book, “Remove the Obstacles.”
Also, don’t forget to thank God for the person who hurt us and for even allowing us to fall into sin and not love our offender in return. Yes, give thanks to God for allowing us to sin. That was God’s will too. Not that we want to sin; we surely don’t, but that sin opened up our eyes (or has the potential to open our eyes) so we don’t have to remain blind to our great need for grace. Then we can seek God, rid the unforgiveness that lives within us and for the wonderful humility which was gained from falling into sin (knowing our weakness). That way we can run to God more fervently, with a crushed heart, more greatly contrite and humbled, so to receive even more grace–trusting in Him to take away our sin– so we can one day truly love how Christ loves.
All Sins Are My Fault:
One of the main reasons why we can’t see our own sinfulness is when we act outside of peace, we cover our sins and blame others for our unloving and untrusting behavior. However, please don’t blame others or make excuses. Other people or being sick, tired, hungry, running late, etc. aren’t why we sinned. When we have much grace nothing causes us to act outside of love and trust…not even the worst disaster or pain.
Those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble” (Psalm 119:165).
From a lack of loving the Law and choosing sin, we rejected God’s strength from disobedience, which is why we fall. Truly, it is through MY fault, through MY fault, through MY most grievous fault that we commit any sin.
Sure someone can tempt us, give us a bad example or even dispose us to bad genetic dispositions…we can have everything against us, yet, with much grace we will still love.
Any act against love, for any reason, is still through MY fault. We can clearly see this with the lives of the saint as they–who have much grace–act with love in the most horrible of circumstances. With God’s grace there is always love. Seek to gain it and don’t blame others for not having it.
But thanks be to God that, although you were once slaves of sin, [from God’s grace] you have become obedient from the heart to the pattern of teaching to which you were entrusted. Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).
In time, after we see some of our “big” sins or our “habitual” sins, we will need to work on coming to see the sin under that sin so we can stop the other sins that lead us into the sins we can see.
For the most part, it isn’t too hard to see at least some of reasons why we choose wrong and fail to do good. But we are very prone to lie to ourselves, since we don’t like the truth and try to justify why committing a sin is needed or unavoidable. Please don’t get lost in our lies. All sin leads to bad, no matter how we try to make it appear needed or good. We never need to sin. Try to explain that to Jesus.
Let’s look at the sin of anger. This is a complicated subject as there are different kinds of anger, but most anger is quite sinful and deadly. “All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31).
There are many reasons why we become angry. If we just lost our patience with someone, we might be tempted to say, “I did it because he didn’t listen to me.” No…that isn’t the reason. Don’t blame others. Sure that is what triggered our anger, but that isn’t why we were angry. We were angry because we rejected God’s grace to love in all circumstances, because when we have much grace nobody can listen to anything we say, and we will be perfectly fine with whatever God wills. But when we lack much faith, which rejects grace, we lose patience when things go wrong (not how we want). But why? Perhaps the better question to ask, so our pride does’t blind us, is “Why did I fall short of loving another?”
Perhaps we are a repeated complainer (a lower degree of anger) with our spouse. We need to learn WHY we do that. Don’t say, “she did something wrong.” That is an excuse to try to justify our sins. God calls us to love…no excuses and complaining isn’t love. With God’s grace, we can stop any sin and love and respond to any situation like Christ would. But we need His grace and that is found by seeking God and wanting to amend our sins.
So ask ourselves, why did we complain to our spouse…what is our temptation or sinful reasoning as to why we committed that sin? Perhaps it is because we seek to be served, not to serve and lack understanding and tolerance for another’s imperfections from our great pride.
Ok, that is a good self-examination…now lets look to correct those selfish attitudes by following the rest of the steps in this article. After time, implementing the proper steps in this article, we will have improved greatly in the removal of this or any habitual sin, but if it still lingers on, that is because we still have an attachment to the sin. Even if we are improved, we aren’t good enough. We are still repeatedly offending Our Creator from a love for sin.
Learn what that attachment is. It is imperative we learn what we are doing or desiring–even the slightest thing–that is still keeping us attached to that sin. Staying in a sin…even a little is deadly. Chances are the reason why we are attached is something we already know. We have just justified it as not sinful or we are unwilling to let it go. But if we are really honest with ourselves, we would see and know what it is that is keeping us in death. We just need the courage and strength to let it go–to pluck it out–and say “no” to what we love (sin) and its temptations., and say “Yes,” to loving God.
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna” (Matthew 5:29).
To let go of what we really desire (sin) and do what is truly good is sometimes oh so very hard for us to do. Some habits have been with us for a life time. However, if we still, after we put forth our best effort and persevered with partaking in the sacraments, making resolutions and prayed many prayers, but we can’t see what we might be suffering from which is causing us to sin (so to remove it), like sadly many do from a deep longing for that sins, and/or we just can’t seem to stop, we need to stop looking so intensely and trust God to take it away, when and how He wills.
Now this doesn’t mean the sin will remain the same–unchanged. If we truly want to amend a sin…it will lesson in intensity but for many sins that we have made part of who we are, a small part of it will still linger even after great progress and efforts have been made to amend it.
Perhaps God will give us the strength to completely leave the sin when we remove other sins, as much of the time it is another completely different sin that is preventing us from receiving the grace we need. Maybe God will give us the strength through a great penance. Perhaps God will want to give us the strength through relenting our will and doing what He desires…Yes, God can hold back the grace to remove a certain habitual sin because of any number of reasons not even related to that sin. But when we do what God desires, then wow…the sin just vanishes. Praise God!
This desire for some habitual sins can be something so deep we just can’t see why we would do such a thing but trust in God. He simply doesn’t see fit to enlighten us just nor give us the strength to remove it yet.
Nonetheless, we still want to learn our reasoning for our sin, to the best of our ability (if God wills), persist in seeking grace to grow in great hatred of the sin and trust in God to teach us how to remove it. To learn more please read, “How to See My Sins.”
Even for sins that have changed greatly but still linger on, weather we can see the reason for the sins or not, if we grow in much love with God, without even using our strength to try to remove the sin, or even knowing why we commit it, God can take away all liking for that sins and it will stop, when He wills. So there is always hope if we are growing love/hatred for our sins. And the main way we grow in love with God is by loving Him with our actions. Please read “How to Love God” to learn more.
“He who says that he has repented of a sin ought not only to be pricked with compuction [guilt] for his sin, but also to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance [bring virtues of goodness/not sin]…[He who] received pardon, if he sins again prepares for himself a judgement of wrath worse than that former.”
–St. Basil the Great
See A Sin:
If we see ourselves committing a sin, never continue in it saying, “I will stop in a moment” (after I’m done filling my will) or I’m not going to die today, so I will work to amened tomorrow.
If we catch ourselves sinning pause greatly wanting to stop offending God, turn to God and the angels and saints for help, then immediately change what we are doing…stop the sin.
If we are committing a sin we don’t think we can immediately stop like if we are living with someone outside of marriage. We can express to our intimate partner that you want to change and remain abstinent until marriage, and that you no longer want to continue to offend God whom you should be loving and must change. Then sleep in separate beds. Next make plans to move out–since the temptation of staying in the same house together might be too great to not commit great sin. We must avoid what leads us into death.
We must be willing to carry our cross and suffer inconvenience, pain…anything at all to stop sinning.
Confession is a most fantastic gift from God, designed to help us stop sinning but sadly only very few benefit from it.
CONFESSION IS THE GREATEST MEANS GOD HAS GIVEN US TO AMEND OUR SINFUL WAYS. Even if we don’t follow any of the other directions I give in this article, attending confession, while wanting to change, will give us unfathomable strength. Please attend confession.
We can start with one sin–our greatest sin (if possible)–that we need to amend. Once we commit that sin, repent to God and then humbly go to confession as soon as possible. With all honesty confess our sin to God through the priest and be resolved to never commit that sin again…follow the other directions I give on this site on how to do that.
If we fall back into the sin, go to confession again, then repeat… watch the sin dwindle away. What we used to commit everyday, will reduce to every week…then to once a month…then maybe once every six months…then never again. Praise Jesus! God took away our sin.
While we are seeking to remove that one big sin, also work on other sins using the same method until they are gone too. We will be constantly changing and growing as one sin leaves and then another until they are completely gone.
If we can’t successfully stop more than one sin at a time (from a lack of discipline and strength), still confess multiple sins (always our mortal sins, perhaps all the sins we can see or the ones we feel God wills us to confess). This will give us greater grace of humility and desire so one day soon we can start actively amending those sins too. Please read, “How to Make a Good Confession” to learn more.
However, if we are too embarrassed or proud to state our sins to the priest exactly what they are, then we lack the humility needed to accept the great grace from God to remove our sins and obtain a saving faith.
We must become humble–greatly humble to amend our horrid sins, and God provides us the sacrament of reconciliation help bring us to the humility we need to gain a faith that can save and the contrition that can embrace His helping mercy to stop sinning.
However, the devil tricks many of us into being so embarrassed, thinking we have to be someone we aren’t, and we lose sight that we are confessing to God. The man is their to make us humble, guide us and deliver us the grace. If we become more concerned about what man thinks than God, then we won’t portray ourselves as the miserable grievous sinner we are. “What would he think?” we say as we hold back on the whole truth of our sinfulness to the priest…thinking the priest expects us to be good enough to not commit such a sin, we reject grace.
From a lack of real humility, we don’t humbly confess to God, since we are more concerned about ourselves being seen as bad or avoiding problems–than admitting our guilt–and we reject God’s forgiveness and helping grace so to not be embarrassed. We lack true sorrow for our sins.
The more religious we become, the greater this problem can be if we grow in pride and don’t want to humbly be seen as a miserable sinner still struggling with many sins and want to be seen as holy. Or if we can’t bear misunderstanding or ridicule from a priest–as not all priests are able to correctly guide us–they are human too. Some lack the grace to speak with correct guidance from the Holy Spirit and can actually say harmful things to us.
If we allow these deterrents to keep us from confessing with all honestly to God, we forfeit the grace God has waiting for us. The main reason we go to confession is to confess to God and receive His grace. Therefore, to remove our sins, and accept God’s fantastic helping grace, we must want to be seen as who we are, a miserable sinner, and carry what ever cross God wills us to bear.
Confessing our sins with all humility straight to God seems to be something people feel we do well, but if we can’t do the same before the priest, with the same great humility and honestly, then the humility and sorrow we think we have for our sins is nothing but a lie (as we care more about man than God)…and we reject much helping and saving grace that was meant to help us in this sacrament.
We can see this clearly when we are embarrassed we have sinned as will look for another priest, one who doesn’t know us, to confess to. Or we won’t really state our sins as it really is because we don’t want the priest to see us as a great sinner. Or we will tell ourselves we don’t even need confession to a priest. This is all done because we want to protect our pride, and are concerned with what others think because we don’t want to be seen as the great sinner we really are. But if we want Life, we must humble ourselves; our pride is what kills us.
Lacking humility is just one of the many ways we don’t accept God’s helping or forgiving grace through confession. The deception of the evil one is great in this sacrament since it is so powerful, and we have fallen into his traps leaving many of God’s children, who even attend confession, not benefiting from it at all. To learn about the ways we reject helping and saving grace in the sacrament of reconciliation please read “How Can Bad Confessions Damn Us.”
If we want to receive great benefits from confession, attend this sacrament monthly to start (if we see few sins from still coming to know our sinfulness and have little desire to amend), then as we grow in faith attend weekly or better, that is if we are blessed to be able to attend and provided we are able to recognize and stop our sins. However we should know, attending this sacrament frequently will provided no benefit if we still can’t accept God’s grace to see or change so to work towards stopping our sins. We must have grown in faith and obtained some horror for sin, enough to give us a desire to do what is necessary to change or frequenting reconciliation will provide little or no benefit.
However, since we live in a time of great darkness, finding a priest who understands the gravity of sin and can guide us correctly, who wants to give of their time to help save our souls and knows the great need to focus on amending our violations–even the smallest–against Perfect Love is hard to find.
As St. Teresa of Avila tells us, “I had confessors who knew no better…What was a venial sin, they said was no sin. What was a mortal sin they said was venial. They did me much harm and I want to warn others against this evil.”
Sadly, many will mistakenly guide us poorly away from sin or actually steer us towards sin. They may even discourage frequent confessions or the confession of venial sins. We might not be understood, told we are scrupulous and even mocked for our passion to remove sin…but numerous saints attended confession daily so they could receive God’s fantastic mercy to assist them in the race for the Crown of Life, as they eradicated their sins working towards perfection. If we advance to this point in our faith and God so wills it, we can frequent confession too. But we must be willing to carry whatever cross God intends us to bear too.
“Go to confession no less frequently than twice, or at least once, during the week.”
–St. Alphonsus, Doctor of the Church
Of course if we are growing in anxiety or despair over our sins with each confession, something is wrong…our knowledge of our sinfulness, hatred for sin, sorrow for our offences, love for God and personal peace should be increasing, not anxiety. If our anxieties are increasing please read, “How Can I Remove My Scruples.”
Make Right Your Wrongs
How can we ever become humble enough to amend our ways, if we are too embarrassed, scarred or proud to apologize when we have sinned against another? We are constantly hurting others, yet, we care more about ourselves and our pride than to try to correct what we have done. As long as we are still trying to impress man and protect our pride, we simply won’t be able to accept enough of God’s transforming grace to change.
There are so many benefits for us and the ones we have offended if we simply state our guilt, our sorrow and our desire to repair any damage (if possible). Even if we think everything is fine, apologize. We will be surprised how some people harbor unforgiveness…even if they don’t look angry and are simply waiting for an apology to let go of anger. We don’t want to hold someone back from moving forward in life from not apologizing to them. So apologize.
Also, God might we waiting for us to humble ourselves, before He sends us grace, so we can have the strength to to amend another sin (not even related to the offence we are apologizing for). God sends grace through making right our wrongs. Learn how to become humble–admit our wrongs and do what we can to correct them.
Most tend to forget who we have offended the most–God–and His infinite goodness. Many can see how we have hurt others, but it is not so easy, for some, to see how we offend God most. Yet, the smallest sin is of infinite injury to God. God is greatly offended by all of our sins.
How can we make right for our injuries against Perfect Goodness? We can’t. It isn’t possible. One sin is of infinite malice. We need God’s mercy but even with mercy there is justice so we are still accountable.
It is true God died for our sins and took away our sins and punishment, but that is only for our sins committed before our baptism. After we are baptized, we are accountable for every sin we have committed, and we will receive its due punishment. We must atone for our sins. See “Why Jesus died for My Sins” to learn more.
We can have this punishment–to atone for our sins–upon earth, in purgatory or in Hell (depending upon our faith when we die) but our time on earth is supposed to be spent trying to sanctify ourselves. That is done through PENANCE. No saint was sanctified outside of great penance.
Choosing to suffer for our sins is very pleasing to God (that is what He did for us), proves our sorrow and helps us grow more in love with Him–into a love that can atone (remove our punishment) for every one of our sins. It also sends fantastic grace to us and others for the promotion of salvation.
There are many different kinds of penance, but it is all done to increase our love for God and sorrow for our sins so we can grow in faith to atone for them all through love. To learn more please read, “What is Penance?”
Work to Stop All Sins
If we notice a sin and want to amend it, we need to meditate on why we committed that sin. We must look into every aspect that leads up to that sin and see the sin under the sin and the temptations that caused us to lose restraint and how we justified committing it. Yes, we justify every sin we commit, weather we can see that guilt or not, or we wouldn’t do it.
We justify our sins by:
- Thinking we need to sin (as if it is going to benefit us),
- Refusing to see the sin so to not have guilt for committing it,
- Refusing to learn God’s law so to pretend like we are’t accountable to know it,
- Thinking we can change tomorrow,
- Thinking we are too weak to amend.
All sins we commit, we justify for the first reason. If we thought–truly thought our sin was real true poison–we would wholeheartedly run from it. But we don’t because we think it will bring us some temporary pleasure or fulfill some need. We lack a horror for sin, nor truly understand its consequences. Please read the book “How to Obtain Perfect Contrition” and its “Meditations” to gain a greater hatred for sin. We need to find what the pleasure or perceived need we put over loving God is and beg God to give a real desire to leave it…to truly love Him.
Our “refusal” to see or learn about sin, for most, isn’t a conscience act but rather a lie we live with that is hidden within us. If we don’t examine our conscience and constantly learn about the Law, wanting to see, we will chose to stay blind to the guilt that lives within.
From having a liking for sin and from suffering from presumption of salvation, we think we have another day to amend,when we just might not. We also don’t understand the malice of each and every sin.
When we don’t allow God’s grace to assist us (or even if God hold’s back on His grace to test us), we might feel we just can’t stop…as if we have no self-control and make all sorts of excuses why we just can’t stop the sin as we prove our great lack of desire to amend.
Lack of Effort–Sloth…Lover of Sin
A lot of people want many things, but we don’t want to work for them; and it is the same with salvation. If we want salvation, if we want to love God and stop sinning, but we don’t want to work hard to amend our ways…if we don’t want to suffer and give up our sinful or indulging/distracting pleasures to obtain it, how much do we really want it?
We must avoid what leads us to sin like it is the greatest of toxins…because it is!
“I want to stop sinning!” someone will profess, but I can’t give up my wardrobe which makes we feel sexy and that tempts me and others with sexuality immorality; I like it too much. “I want to stop sinning” but I can’t give up my unholy or time wasting TV, internet, music, hobbies etc. (things I do that aren’t to know, serve or love God); I will be horribly board. “I want to stop sinning” but I can’t let go of my comforts and live for the cross; I need the world’s pleasures to be happy–God doesn’t fill me. “I want to stop sinning” but I won’t give up my longing for love and attention from my family and friends; longing for God alone is just too hard. I could go on and on and on.
We do so much that isn’t holy…that a saint wouldn’t spend their precious time doing, but we justify our actions since we don’t really want to stop. We tell ourselves, “God wants us happy” so to justify how giving only part of our life to God is just fine as we indulge in the world for the rest. As if giving our complete life to God would mean unhappiness.
Since the devil has blocked out our understanding of The True Way, we prefer to pretend like our actions are not really sinful or think we just can’t amend them now so we can stay in our sins, since we like the sin very much. But if we aren’t willing to discipline ourselves and suffer to relent our sins, we won’t ever stop our habitual sins.
We must keep careful watch over our thoughts, what we look at, the words we speak and the actions make…and remove from our presence, if we can, what leads us into sin so to avoid or stop the sin. Every sin counts. Each sin hastens us towards eternal doom and every sin we avoid keeps our grace and/or accepts additional grace to move us towards the Light.
Our priorities must be in God’s order to successfully remove sin. Some people will be all caught up amending a lesser sin, all the while ignoring a much greater sin. For example: someone will not want to eat unhealthy foods, since we are supposed to nourish our temple so to be as well as we can be (according to God’s will) for serving Our Lord. We will be vigilant in seeing we don’t commit that sin, but we will have little to nor regard to the fact our sexual life is filled with impurity and lust–a far greater sin.
We simply can’t focus our efforts on lesser sins, ignoring the sins that are greatly keeping us from God.
We see this in all aspects of life. Some will be all concerned with getting to Mass on time and change and modify our lives to see it happens, but pay so little care to the fact we don’t adore Christ, in the very child of God He has given us–our spouse–as we practically ignoring the fact we seek them to serve us as we argue and complain to our spouse, who we are to love and serve.
We must gain a sincere desire to amend all of our sins, especially the mortal ones or the sins that lead us to mortal sin or any sin greater in injury than an other.
Obtain a Great Desire to Change:
For every want we have there are different degrees of desire that go with it. Some will say we want to stop sinning, but that desire doesn’t extend past our words, while others would rather die than sin and will do anything to stop.
If our desire isn’t true…we won’t do what is necessary to change. We simply won’t want to stop our sins enough. Our desire will be in thought alone or very weak, not enough to change. If we don’t grow and find a true desire to become perfect, a “willing[ness] to endure any suffering rather than offend” (Baltimore Cathechism), we will die from loving sin over God. Gaining a true desire to sin no more is essential to stopping sin.
“We should be content to do nothing else [but] weep for our own sins and work as hard as we could to correct them.“
–St. John Vianney
The desire to change is mostly moved by:
- Fear of suffering in Hell for our sins (Servile Fear of the Lord),
- Fear of being caught (which isn’t moved by faith-not from Fear of the Lord),
- Fear of suffering on earth from our wrong choices (which isn’t moved by faith-not from Fear of the Lord, unless we are fearing God’s punishments He will send us on earth to deter us from sinning),
- Fear of having to confess that sin and being seen as greatly sinful (which isn’t moved by faith-not from Fear of the Lord),
- Fear of offending God whom we should love (Filial Fear of the Lord).*
* The fear we must grow into, for ALL of our sins, to accept God’s saving grace to Live.
Even if we desire to change, so to not sin for reasons not driven by faith, God can use that untrue desire to motivate us to do good (since at least we won’t lose grace by sinning) so we can hopefully grow and move into wanting to amend for reasons of faith, which produces real sorrow, accepts grace and can obtain forgiveness.
But to be able to honestly desire to suffer death than sin–to want to become a true saint, working to stop every sin–is overwhelming to some, but it doesn’t have to be. Like with any large task we need to under take, it needs to be done one step at a time. Please read, “How to Become a Saint” to help.
When someone goes off to school to become a doctor, they could just as easily become burdened with despair with the magnitude of classes and skills they need to acquire to do the job. But if they believe they can do it and have what it takes, they will relax and take one class at a time, growing in knowledge and skill until the goal is achieved.
We need to do the same with seeking to obtain perfection (the goal needed to find a saving faith). It will be so much easier than becoming a doctor, because we have everything we need to obtain the goal Jesus–Our Savior. We don’t need to be smart, organized or successful. We just need to learn how to access God’s power so He can teach us everything we need to do and change so to give us the strength we need to achieve the goal.
To accomplish the goal, God might make us smart, organized and successful. Who knows what is His will, but to do this, it is accomplished through much prayer as we work with God’s grace to remove one sin at a time, learning and growing in faith.
Remember, it won’t be us, in our great weakness becoming a saint. No, it will be God. God can do this. BELIEVE! But of course, even if we have the greatest coach in the world (Jesus) and if we have all of the strength and ability we need, if we don’t really want to do what is necessary to obtain the goal, we won’t. Laziness and a lack of discipline doesn’t obtain Life. If we suffer from being a sloth or responding to impulse (lacking discipline) then beg God for grace to remove those sins. Start to amend them right away. They can take much time to over come.
“We should be diligent in striving to become perfect, so that tepidity and laziness may not serve as excuses for some to say: “God must help me; I can do only so much for myself.”
–St. Alponsus, Doctor of the church
Start the Race-Begin to Remove Sin
To start the race to Life and grow in faith, we should seek to remove our most grievous sins first. However, if we are too weak to move forward with changing our most serious of sins, work to change a sin we do have the strength to amend or at least make progress with. We must move forward, but we mustn’t strive for something too great for us. We must be honest with ourselves.
But we must always remember the atheist wants to improve too. They have self-improvement books and want to become the best person they can be. Therefore our intentions for what we do MUST be to love God out of “fear of the Lord” AND we must be striving to “be pure and blameless” (Philippians 1:10)—perfect (to stop sinning all sins) or at least out of fear of suffering in Hell or on earth from God’s just punishments.
The Word tells us, “The kingdom of God is at hand [near]. Repent, and believe in the gospel [enough to truly live it].” (Mark 1:15), so we can truly want to follow Christ. Simply striving to become a better version of ourselves doesn’t lead to Life. We must strive to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
When we start to remove sin, a lot of the time the most effective and successful change we can make to start, if we lack much desire and grace, is correcting our sins of omission (the things we should be doing but don’t).
Making the sacrifice to:
- go to Mass (daily if possible, praying each word said),
- examine our conscience (in moderation through out our day–especially at the end of the day–to find our sins, then repent and come up with a plan how to avoid them again)
- pray our prayers (start small and grow into unceasing prayer, praying fervently–focusing on each word and praying them to God with love and humility),
- read the Word (hearing God speaking to us, truly wanting to live it),
- donate money (to where it is a sacrifice),
- help the needy (happily give up our “free time” or our planned work for someone else),
- sacrifice worldly pleasure* (deny ourselves of our will for the cross: fast, avoid comfort, reject the finer things in life, choose manual labor, practice silence, etc.),
- do our daily tasks/responsibilities well for God’s honor and glory, etc. (don’t procrastinate or neglect any duty).
*If we want to be filled with God’s grace, we need to stop filling ourselves up with everything but God–deny ourselves of the world and find God’s love.
With each change–even the smallest prayer we pray–we will receive more grace that is if our hearts aren’t completely hard and of course if it’s God’s will.
Then over time, depending upon how much we open up our heart to receive grace and God’s will, we will gain greater enlightenment and strength to take the steps necessary to amend our most grievous sins, along with other easier to amend sins. With this additional grace, God will guide us to what to amend next along the way towards transforming us into the image of Christ.
But don’t expect to experience this grace immediately. Much of the time God does reward someone quickly if it is their first time seeking Him to motivate us to continue in our faith. But much of the time, especially if we aren’t new to the faith, God won’t rewards us with experiencing His grace right away, as He knows we simply must learn perseverance in good or bad or to learn some other lesson or we simply won’t become saved.
Perseverance is key in seeking and obtaining a saving faith and stopping our sins. We must, “persevere in running the race that lies before us” (Hebrews 12:1) as this race and the steps it takes to obtain the goal will take our constant efforts to over come failure and push forward like an athlete does to win the gold.
After perseverance is learned, sometimes God is very quick to respond to our efforts to obtain His grace…we can even experience–almost tangibly–His great love when great grace is accepted. But weather we experience His love or not, obtain much grace or a little, He gives it all according to His will–what is best for us to serve Him and grow towards obtaining our salvation.
Make a Realistic Resolution to Change
Making the best resolution to change can be one of the more challenging steps in our removal of sin. This is where a wise and learned coach (outside of Jesus) could really come in helpful. We need someone who knows the lives of the saints and what they did to achieve success and has successfully modified and is continuing to modify their own life towards perfection. That would be fantastically helpful. However, that is a rare find.
Not everyone has the wisdom to see what would be the best action to take to modify our life in order to find the best path and next step towards successful change. Everyone will need to change differently. Most of us will either expect too much, take the wrong step or go about seeking to amend in a slow or painful manner or lose motivation altogether. Like with any goal in life there is an easy way and a hard way to get there. But all of it takes work, much work, but there is certainly a more direct way to perfection.
What we are capable of doing correctly to promote our spiritual growth, perhaps our neighbor can’t; but what they can do, perhaps we can’t. We are all very different with different abilities and different short comings. And because of our uniqueness, there is no specific pattern I or anyone could give. We have to discern that on our own.
But not to worry, God will tell our hearts what we should be doing, we just need to honestly listen and do it. Yes, deciphering God’s will can be challenging some times, but even with no help–learning the hard way–in time through failure after failure, we can figure out what works and what doesn’t using plain simple logic and reasoning and becoming even further enlightened and strengthened with God’s incredible grace. We can stop our sins, if we truly want to.
There is a good rule of thumb that holds true for many sins if we want to change… “do the opposite.” Going back to the sin of complaining; the next time we catch ourselves wanting to complain or we are complaining…stop. Correct the issue ourselves or silently tolerate a cross.
Perhaps we want to complain to our spouse about why the dishes aren’t done or question why something is out of order. Don’t. Be a silent servant and simply fix the problem ourselves. Don’t seek for our spouse to serve us or brag that we are doing their job or doing so much more than them. Don’t look to be appreciated or to work equally. Worry about ourselves and if we are pleasing God. Are we seeking to love and serve no matter what, just like Christ did for us? Learn how to truly follow Him. This will bring a fantastic marriage…a marriage like Christ intends. This is just one of the many many ways we can resolve our sins and grow in the true image of Christ.
In the book, “Remove the Obstacles,” I give many real life examples of sins from sexual sins to gluttony and everything in-between so we can learn how to see them; how to see the sin under the sin; how to see our temptations and justifications of the sin, and may other aspects that keep us sinning as well as giving us real resolutions we can easily implement into our lives. If we want to stop sinning, this book is a must read.
Learn from Failure:
If we want Eternal Life, with God, we can do this. But don’t be too upset if we fail to change at something right away, we are very weak and stupid. There is GREAT learning from each failure to amend, that is, if we want to see God’s guidance and lesson in everything. When we see ourselves commit a sin, repent immediately to God. Then ask Him to teach us the way to never commit that sin again. He will.
Plus, there is fantastic grace waiting for us through our crushing humiliations especially when we have changed so much of our life and now people expect much of us, but sadly some horrid habitual sin, we are still working to amend, comes blundering out of us for all to see. Yes, if we don’t try to cover our sin, it is this kind of humiliation which can, if we pursue God correctly, humble us enough to accept God’s great transforming strength to change, that is, when we run to His mercy through a truly humble confession knowing our great weakness and misery and need for Him.
Seek God and Others for Help
If we have done the above steps in an effort to amend our ways, but we just can’t seem to make any improvement; or perhaps we tried and only stuck with our resolutions for a little, like a failed diet or broken exercise routine; or perhaps the more we try to stop, the more we wind up sinning; or maybe we were only successful in amending some sins and now we are stuck with no change. What are we to do? We have heard the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1-13. Is it hopeless? Do we just surrender to the reality of eternal torture from not hating our sins enough to change…no way.
It is true we reject grace from our sins. That is why we are so weak. And it is true when we rid sin we gain much grace. Therefore, if we can’t rid our sins, then we can’t obtain grace from the removal of sin. So we need to seek help by other means. And boy has God provide us with endless opportunities to receive His grace. His love is unfathomable and there is helping grace to be accepted every second of our lives if we learn how to obtain it. I speak in depth about this in the article “What is God’s Grace and How can I Obtain It?” But I will briefly explain some of the ways we can receive wonderful grace to assist us in the removal of sin.
The greatest single means of receiving grace is from God’s sacraments but if we don’t have a true desire to amend (and we don’t if we won’t even do what is necessarily to stop committing our sins) then we can’t receive Our Lord in the Sacrament of Holy Communion worthily and even if we do partake in Communion unworthily, we won’t accept grace but actually we will reject even more. So we don’t want to do that.
The sacrament of reconciliation, like I said, is the fantastic sacrament God gave His Catholic Church to help us to sin no more. It can help greatly but it will only provide us with helping grace–based upon our desire–and if our desire is weak, we won’t obtain much grace and of course we won’t be forgiven either unless we obtain a true desire to amend and real contrition (imperfect or perfect contrition) during confession. So of course attend confession, as long as there is some desire to amend, but don’t rely on this alone. You probably won’t obtain enough grace to move forward, especially if we have such a small true desire to change.
Actually, the greatest means to obtain continued grace is though continuous prayer, but if we can’t amend our sins surely we aren’t even close to unceasing prayer either. But any prayer we can pray with humility, realizing our great weakness and sinfulness, will greatly benefit us. So pray as much as we can.
But if we are not really moving forward, God has also provided us with special devotions, meditations and wonderful assistance from His angels and saints in Heaven. We want to pray the devotions, partake in the meditations and implore the angels and saints for help.
I can’t recommend enough praying at 3:00pm–the hour Jesus died. That is the hour of great mercy and if we really want help, God sends great grace when we implore His mercy at that hour. Please see www.The3oclockChallenge.com to learn more.
Plus, everyone should know the perfect Mother of God will go to Our Lord on our behalf, if we ask for her assistance, with a more perfect prayer than we could ever pray begging for mercy for us too. Constantly seek her. Her help is invaluable!
But, if we can’t even find the desire and discipline to pray then there is still more help. There are faithful people who will pray on our behalf and healing Masses we can attend to help soften our hearts so we can accept God’s help and have the discipline–from fear of the Lord–needed to change.
If we believe in the fantastic power of prayer, then seek the assistance of others to pray for us. Persist, never stop seeking help. If we don’t receive what we need immediately, don’t quit…it is through perseverance that we will get to the end. There are many more ways to obtain grace, but this is a good start.
“But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13).
This help isn’t just for those who are failing, it is for everyone who wants to succeed. We must learn how to obtain great grace to fight off the devil and win the crown of Life by the removal of our sins (growing in love with God).
Remember every real prayer we pray, we obtain grace. Therefore every prayer we miss, we don’t receive grace. Everything we do effects us. God wants to send us the grace. Use our time well according to God’s will and seek His mercy. These hours and days were meant to help save our souls. Don’t lose them to the pleasures of the world. He will save us if we allow Him.
His divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for [what is needed for] life and devotion…[this is obtained] after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire…[therefore] make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue [goodness], virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection [of all], mutual affection with love” (2 Peter 1:2-8).
As we can see following the above steps are really teaching us how to accept God’s grace mostly from focusing on the removal of sin. Because if we can’t open up ourselves to accept God’s grace, we can’t accomplish the next steps towards perfection. Please make sure we read and accomplish the goals in the article “What is God’s Grace and How Can I Obtain it?” to help assist us too.
From God’s grace, after we have accomplished all of the above well and have removed many sins, and now we can finally see ourselves as just hideous in sin and have a great horror for sin from wonderful self-knowledge (we have humility) and Fear of the Lord, then we must be careful as we move on.
Remember the devil wants to kill us and if at first he can’t take us with the sin of presumption (assuming we are saved or thinking we have tomorrow to change), he will try to kill us with scrupulous despair.
Some people can suffer from a preoccupation with sin even before gaining a correct understanding and usage of the above necessary steps, but that is rare. A lot of people won’t even know what true over scrupulous thinking is, and will mistakenly steer someone away from wonderful Fear of the Lord, into complacency with their sins, thinking they are over concerned with sinning, when they aren’t, so beware. To learn more please read “How Can I Over Come My Scruples?” But being truly over consumed with sinning is much more prevalent after one truly gains much humility and a terrific horror of sin.
Since today most people have such little Fear of the Lord and such little self-knowledge this section of steps doesn’t apply to most. Also, someone doesn’t need to be over scrupulous to move forward (we don’t want to be too scrupulous) but rather we must have removed many sins, grown in much humility and in fear of the Lord (grown in a horror for sin)–basicly we have learned how to obtain much grace.
If we feel we never had many sins to start with so this is the path for us, then we are still suffering from much blindness, and lacking self-knowledge. Do not move forward but instead go back and learn how to properly examine our conscience more in-depth as we commit more sins than we could fathom. We just need to begin to see them. Then learn the above steps correctly. We must have mastered the above steps before moving forward. We must learn the primary skills first before walking in the Way of perfection.
For the few, who have grown in our faith and understand the consequences of sin and have successfully removed much sin, who can now see more clearly, then we need to proceed to the following steps to more successfully move from darkness into Light.
Ascend to God’s Heart
Before we have gained much humility and successfully removed much sin, our hearts were far from God since we have rejected Him so greatly through sin, but from God’s mercy and our desire, God has removed some of the veil from our eyes, and now we can see much more clearly. We used to see only a few sins we have committed but now, we see so many it is simply unbearable at times.
Wonderfully, God has removed many of our most grievous sins, but in doing that, our blinders, which kept us ignorant are gone too. Now that we can see, we can see into our heart and notice a vast quantity of additional sins that we never new even existed…things we never even new were sins we will clearly understand are horrible atrocities.
This reality is horrifying. Yes, terror and horrible sadness, will fill us as we see God continually abused mostly by ourselves, and it will hurt. But God doesn’t want us to live continuously in this pain.
If we are on the right path, we will always have terror and horrible sadness, suffering for the unbearable atrocities committed against God, which is good, but it must be moderate and can’t consume all of our thoughts and actions and not remove our fantastic peace.
If we become too terrified over the realities of our sins or the sins of others, that stifles us from ascending to God’s Heart of love and pulls us away from perfect peace and down into hopeless despair especially when we are consumed with our own misery.
Some over scrupulous thinking (too fearful of sin) can be from a great fear of suffering eternal punishment (imperfect contrition) due to our sins, but if that is founded with mastery of the above steps, that shouldn’t last for long because even being over scrupulous in thinking is far better than under and can spur anyone towards Life into perfect contrition and building up great hope in God’s mercy to save us…as long as it doesn’t go too far and freeze someone in their progress.
However, when one arises to this level in faith, mostly their selfish fear of suffering in Hell is greatly reduced and a horrible agony for Our Lord’s suffering develops. This great pain is good, but the devil can use it against us…like he tries to do with any blessing.
Seek God’s Will
So instead of falling into the devil’s trap of despair over our sins, God wants us to let go–to a certain extent–focusing so much on the removal of sin. Yes, we will always live by the first steps, they will never leave, but our main focus–now that we can accept God’s transforming grace more greatly–is seeking to grow in love with God by conforming our will to His. We are to try to do His will in every moment seeking to become truly like Him serving Him perfectly.
Now, from God’s grace, our more grievous sins are banished but from a lack of grace we are still committing many venial sins…sadly some might still even be habitual, but our greater acts against love are gone. So instead of our minds being focused so much on removing individual sin, it needs to be focused on doing everything in conformity to God’s will as we grow in love with God.
The individual lesser grievous sins we still have can drive someone crazy if we try to amend all of them individually. Many of them, we will need to leave up to God, trusting in Him to take them away–remove our desire for them–as we grow in love with Him.
Therefore, our confessions will change too and much of our sins we confess will be the various ways we aren’t conforming to God’s will instead of poking at every moment we didn’t do something for His honor and glory or thought of something outside of love for another..even though if those sins are repeatedly a problem, they certainly can be mentioned.
Now that doesn’t in any way mean, God wants us to forget about wanting to remove sin. No, that will always have a place in our life we will just remove sin slightly differently, and for some sins we still might have to apply those first steps perfectly until they are gone or far reduced, as the transition from the first steps to this conformity of our will to God’s is not precise; it’s progressive. But for most of our habitual sins, if we have correctly accomplished the first steps, they will have become greatly reduced or left.
Hate Sin – Want God
When we get to this point in our faith, our hearts will be transformed; we won’t have to pray or avoid sin from perseverance and discipline so much like we used too, we will have so much more grace, we will now have a burning desire to pray and do good. We won’t have to “make time” for prayer, we will look for time to pray and love it. We won’t have to work hard to stop sinning, we will hate sin, crave the cross and burn to be perfect. We just won’t want to sin; our heart will burn with a great desire to know, serve and love God perfectly. Such great joy will fill us.
When we are at this level of faith this great joy and grace varies with all people and grows or decreases (from sin) as time progressives. We will continue to take steps sometimes forwards towards perfection, but sometimes backwards from not noticing a sin, then lacking repentance and/or continuing in it. Therefore, we must be vigilant and always have a thorough examination of conscience.
Sadly, even at the height of faith or growing there, we can still have lingering habitual sin we don’t see or sins we think are removed but they are still there. We just won’t want to sin most sin, but there can still be residual hidden sins God still want to amend so we can obtain a saving faith and then move on to sanctity and then perfection. But for the most part, we will detest all sin.
Yet, because we still lack true contrition for them all, we still don’t have a saving faith. But that devil is so cunning and wants us to think since we are so close to God and have grown so much in faith, we are closer to God and holier than we are, so please beware.
Living the Word is Easy
When we finally have access to God’s transforming power since we removed many sins and developed a life which habitually runs to God throughout our day obtaining grace after grace after grace, working towards praying unceasingly, so we can fulfill God’s will at all moments and have grown in fantastic trust, we now have the GREAT POWER OF GOD–at least to a much greater extent than we had (depending upon our faith), and wonderfully we don’t need to work so hard to amend sin.
Actually, when we are at this state in our faith, living the Word (for the most part), which used to be horribly challenging, is now easy. Since we no longer live for the desires of the flesh, we live for God’s will. Yes, obeying the law will be easy.
“Those who live “by the flesh” experience God’s law as a burden”
–Pope St. John Paul II
We will see fantastic proof of God’s strength taking away our sins, without us needing to pray at temptation or making resolutions and implementing them anymore. The sins we used to have to “try” really hard to not commit, now, with no effort at all, we just won’t commit them again–nor want too. We have lost our liking for that sin. It is GONE. People can yell at us and call us all sorts of names and we will just look back at them with such sadness/pity for their lack of grace and pain they suffer because of it…our self-pity, anger and lack of love will be gone.
God’s fantastic love has consumed us and just took many of our sins away without our effort. Wonderful! Our goal is to accept this amount of love for every sin…then we will be a perfect saint. 🙂
God Will Allow us to Be Tempted and Fall
However, when God’s love removes a sin that horrid devil is around the corner looking for a way to kill us, so he will try to get us to think we can’t commit that sin again, which is from pride and a lack of fear of sin. Therefore, if God wishes to humble us and teach us, He can strip us of some grace and allow us to fall. Most likely pretty quickly after we think we can’t recommit a sin again or if we are deceived into believing He took away the sin when it is still there (just to a lesser degree).
This is done to humble us so we will never lack the fear of sin again nor live in the dark (not knowing our sinfulness). God will allow us fall right back into sin to help save us, if that is the greatest good. Also, we could fall into a sin that was once gone, if we have done something or many things that rejected grace, weakened us, and now we don’t have God’s strength to live the faith. To find out why we have re-fallen into a sin that God seemed to take away, we need to properly examine our conscience…God will tell us, if we want to hear.
The Next Step
In order to see which sins we need to still stay vigilant with in utilizing the first steps to stop sinning or which sins we need let go and allow God’s grace alone to take away our sins is different for everyone.
I want to say, the first steps do seek to conform our will to God’s will, as God wills us to stop sinning, but second steps don’t do that as directly. The first focused more on the removal of habitual and/or serious sin, which, for the most part, takes learning how to obtain much grace.
But once we gain much grace and even true sorrow for every sin, or should I say, once we believe we might have true sorrow for all sins, because our habitual sins are now gone and we would rather die than commit a single sin again, then we know for sure our focus should be away from working so hard to amend each sin individually and more towards a total attitude of doing God’s will perfectly.
But even before we gain such a great hatred for sin, we should transform from the first to that later, because we certainly know how to accept God’s great transforming mercy, if He has taken away many sins, and we fully believe He will take away all of the rest of our smaller imperfections if we just let go of our will.
Therefore, this second step is simply uniting our will with God’s and allowing Him to take away our sins.
To do this we must:
- Learn what is a want or a need
- Learn what God wants us to do in every moment
- Learn how to surrender our will for God’s–deny ourselves of our wants and do God’s will
- Learn how to love God–be God’s perfect suffering servant
Each of these steps are done individually but also together. We may grow in our ability to do one step better than another. But we will grow and change in all of them together moving from the first to the last towards victory–the Crown of Life.
Even though God does use our minds, however, like with anything in faith, these steps aren’t accomplished by our brilliant intellect. They are accomplished by God’s grace. Therefore, we can be rather stupid and grow wonderfully in any and all of them. That is why we needed to learn how to obtain God’s grace to even begin to correctly take these steps, since His grace is what saves us.
Want or Need
Ok, we want God’s help, but when we have little love for God and great love for ourselves we want and want and want. Our minds are’t consumed with wanting God and His will, they are consumed with wanting love, comfort and pleasures of this world.
How can we even accept God’s help if our eyes aren’t set on Him, but the world?
“The Lord will deliver you from them all [temptations] if your heart has not abandoned Him.”
–St Augustine, Doctor of the Church
If it isn’t one thing it is another. We want to satisfy our desires and not reject them to learn how to desire God alone. But if we want to follow God and His will, to obtain much grace, so God can take away our sins, we must rid these from our life and learn how to accept God’s grace so to desire Him alone.
Desires (our longings) opposed to God and His will:
- want to be loved (by anyone other than God),
- want to be happy (with something other than God),
- want to have friends,
- want to be respected,
- want to feel valued,
- want to be appreciated,
- want to be entertained,
- want to relax,
- want to be successful,
- want to be financially secure,
- want to be attractive,
- want to be desired,
- want sexual pleasure,
- want to feel healthy,
- want to eat delicious food,
- want a vacation,
- want to do fun things,
- want sports,
- want hobbies,
- want a better stuff: clothes, shoes, phone, computer, car, etc.
- want a better job,
- want to do what we want.
Ok, those are just a few of the billions of desires we have that pull our hearts away from wanting God and His will alone. Now some wants can sometimes be true needs and some wants could never become needs. Needs aren’t sinful…only things we long for that isn’t God and His will.
For example, if we are very thirsty, we will long for water. That isn’t sinful since God wills for us to drink when we are thirsty to maintain our health. But lets say if we just went on vacation (to rest our weary bodies after serving God) which can be good, but when it is over, we can’t wait for our next trip to make us happy. Now that is a longing for a fun trip is sinful. We should only seek God to bring us happiness and if we repeatedly desire anything, that is idolatry. We should only rest if truly needed and even then if God calls us to work, we should surrender our rest to serve others.
Having any of those things listed aren’t necessarily sinful either–just longing for them to bring us happiness is. But the problem is once we taste most of them and if we find much pleasure from them, sadly most develop a longing for them, especially seeking to be loved or sexual gratification. And then we spend our time seeking them and not seeking God who is wanting to fill our every desire. We need to place our eyes on Jesus the perfecter of the faith…not the world.
“Let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Those countless things we want, that we long for, are the desires of our hearts…our idols. They keep us from knowing God and from accepting His saving mercy since we desire those things instead of God alone.
We see this with many material possessions. Perhaps we will see something someone else has or something that is advertised; then we covet it [want it]. If we have a great desire for that item, we might even go so far as to get it. However, if we honestly looked into what is God’s will, we would clearly see we don’t really need what we have been tricked into getting.
Perhaps we know loving anything in the world is wrong. So in order to justify our actions because we don’t want to knowingly sin, we will lie to ourselves, convincing ourselves that this item we want is truly needed and it will actually help us love God. We do this because our desire for that item is so great that we want to stay blind to our love of it so we can get what our hearts desire. We will have to learn how to be on guard against the lies we tell ourselves until we develop a TRUE HATE for the things of the world. Then rejecting the world will be easy.
Even after we have wonderfully grown in faith, from God’s grace, into having no liking for anything of the world, we can still fall. If we have to partake in a worldly pleasure…please keep alert, as one taste can be like a mind altering drug and catch us into its trap.
I do need to be clear, if someone has taken the beautiful vow of chastity (the easiest way to salvation for most) or isn’t married, then choosing to partake in anything that produces sexual pleasure is of course sinful.
We Need Love
The desire to be loved and happy are innate desires within us. We crave them but without discipline and knowledge of the Way, we will crave love and happiness from practically anything and everything that provides us with pleasure, when we are supposed to be seeking them from God. To learn more please read “How to Reject the World and Live for Heaven.”
When we were young, we desired our parents love and wanted to be happy with them, our toys and friends, and there was no sin in that…but as we matured, and came to know God (or should have come to know God), we were supposed to have learned how to let go of childish things (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:11) and seek what our hearts are truly longing for–Our Creator. But most don’t even know we have to mature in faith and desire God alone to be saved and sadly, we continue to crave all the desires we had from our childhood and even more, even if we are people of faith.
“But what is My [Jesus’] will, except that you should want to love Me above all things and not desire anything but Me” –Jesus to St. Bridget of Sweden
However, after we deny ourselves of those things listed and alike, we can come to grow in wonderful love with God and not want anything (truly want God’s will); then all of our habitual sins will leave, and we will habitually want to love God. We won’t desire a single thing and would rather die than commit a single offence against Perfect Goodness. Now, we have a saving faith, and can work towards atoning for our sins and sanctification and then perfection. Praise Jesus!
Steps to Surrendering Our Will
To get to the saving faith we all long for, we must learn how to surrender our will and have our entire being be directed to God.
Below is a typical example of the steps in letting go of our will so we can desire God alone.
We must let go of our liking for things we used to enjoy, do, want to do or get–things that kept our minds from knowing, serving and loving God and following His will alone.
To grow in holiness we must let go of the following:
- good food, nice clothes, more money & unnecessary or finer things (anything that keeps us from wanting God),
- doing “fun” things for entertainment such as: TV, video games, internet, sports (things that waste our time and keep us from serving God for the salvation of souls),
- desire to be served, want things our way, want financial comfort/more income, (things that keep us selfish..not following Christ),
- wanting to be attractive, seeking success (vainglory), or desiring to be in control, smart, liked, (things that boost our pride),
- wanting pleasure, comfort, no problems, good health, sexual gratification, (things that keep us rejecting the cross and lacking trust in it),
- wanting love, approval, attention, praise, appreciation (things that reject God’s love for love of another),
- wanting to do things we want, not living every second according to God’s priorities (things that keep us from following the correct path to Heaven).
I have pretty much just reiterated the first list of wants we have that keep us from God and made them the things we want to rid. We just do the opposite. If we want it, the we should deny ourselves of it. I don’t mean we deny ourselves of everything all at once. No, we take one step at at time, doing what ever our natural God given abilities and God’s fantastic transforming grace can. Then in time from our growing denial and other means of obtaining grace (see “What is God’s Grace and How Can I Obtain It?), we will receive much grace, and finally with no effort at all, we will simply no longer want those useless worldly things and our heart will truly long for God alone.
“Until a man shall have so habituated his senses to the purgation [removal] of sensible joy [worldly pleasure], that all things rise him up to God, he must refrain from all joy in them, in order that he may wean his soul from the life of sense [love of the world].”
–St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church
Some people can be so blessed, to even skip the self-denial part of transformation and receive so much grace all at once from their wonderful fear of the Lord, honest humble desire and great trust that they instantly have a great hatred for some or many things of the world and maybe even all the pleasures of the world. They are blessed with a huge leap in transformation from surrendering their will–opening up their hearts–for God through love.
“For the fear of the Lord is wisdom [knowledge of the Way] and discipline [willingness to follow Christ]; faithfulness [living the faith] and humility [from knowing our sinfulness that without God we can’t do anything] are his delight” (Ecclesiasticus 1:27)
But for most, since we don’t open up our hearts much and reject scores of grace, even after we learn how to receive grace, we will still have to work hard to deny ourselves and learn how to accept enough grace to truly reject the world and live for God and His will alone. To do this we will need to persevere, learning from our successes and failures, trusting in God to guide us and eventually take away all of our liking for the world.
Desire One Thing Lose So Much
I mentioned that the desire for good food, nice clothes, more money, etc. keeps us from wanting God, and that is true, but desiring those things and alike also keeps us from serving God because our minds are focused on those things and not God and His will. They also keep us from following Christ since Christ chose no pleasure just the cross, and increases our pride causing us to think we deserve such things, which prevents humility, and also rejects His love because it is sinful and convinces us that what we desire is actually good, causing us to not see.
What I mean is, just ONE want of anything other than God has ALL of those negative attributes attached to it. I only displayed the one attribute with each sinful want to show the greatest loss in each category but we are afflicted with all of them with every sinful desire we have.
Hate but Like
I also want to mention that even though we might no longer have a liking for something that doesn’t mean we don’t still like it. Let me explain. Lets say every Satuday night we go out with our family to get ice cream sundays together. We really enjoyed that time with them and the sundays and looked forward to it every week. But after we received much of God’s grace, and fell deeper in love with Him, we no longer want to go out or indulge in sundays. We lost our complete desire for either of them.
Does that mean we no longer like our family? No. Does that mean we no longer like the taste of sundays? No. That means, we now understand those things we were once excited to do are not truly good and kept us from knowing, serving and loving Our Beloved Lord. And now that we want God above those things things, we no longer want them and see what a hindrance they are to Him.
However, to be part of our family and love them where they are in their spiritual life (sadly still loving the world), we might still go out for sundays, but we will just abstain from eating one. This is what the removal of our desires for the world means, we just won’t want them any more and hate them (hate what longing for them has done to our relationship with God). We will want God and Him alone.
We All Change Differently
While it is true some might lose our liking for those things listed in that specific order, but since we are all quite unique with our shortcomings and with the things that tempt us, it will also differ with everyone how we go about changing. There are certain attachments to things that might stick around and be more difficult to let go, which will need much grace to surrender and then there will be things that are easily relented that we are only mildly attached to. But regardless, we will all have to work hard to change and seek God’s will alone.
But once we learn how to surrender to God and His will, He will do everything. The hard work will be over and loving Him will be effortless.
Vigilant or Death
Even after we gain a fantastic faith from God’s grace and are now wonderfully faithful and truly hate the world, if we aren’t vigilant and fall lax in our desire to perfectly love God and neglect to look for and avoid evil, and we let our eyes sway wanting another love, even a little (desiring anything in the world), we most certainly can loose it all.
Just say, we are tempted and then we sin. We have now rejected some of God’s grace from sinning. If we don’t notice the sin (don’t correctly examine our conscience), then we never repent of it (unless of course we obtain the state of perfect contrition). Now weakened from losing grace, we start missing some prayers or skipping the sacraments. Now weakened even further lacking more grace, we can fall even more. At first, the fall might just be a little, but if we don’t notice, before we know it, we will have fallen and fallen into great sin and far, far from God.
“Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
The greater the plan God has for someone, the greater the devil wants us, so the greater we tend to plummet if we get caught in his trap. The further away from God we fall, the harder and harder it is to recover when or if we do gain some awareness of our sin. Sadly this happened to the wisest man every created, King Solomon (cf. 1 Kings 11:3–13). Oh he was so wise, but after he lost grace, he was oh so blind to his misery. We want to avoid this at all costs. The punishment we face is worse then what we would have had before. To learn how to stop falling or how to begin growing again, please read “How to Regain My Faith.”
“It would have been better for them [us] not to have recognized the road to holiness than to have turned their [our] backs on the holy law handed on to them [us], once they [us] had known it.” (2 Peter 2:21).
Perfect Love Drives Out Fear
All of this growth in faith from the removal of sin produces continuous perfect contrition (a saving faith). We want to spend our life in Fear of the Lord, always seeking to grow and grow in faith. If our contrition is really true as we might come to feel in our hearts, God certainly will forgive us of all sin for this we trust and believe. This should give us great hope.
Nonetheless, it is only until we perfectly love God–can no longer choose to sin–and have God fully in us that all fear of possibly going to Hell leaves because when we can’t sin, we will only follow God and do God’s will and we can never lose Him again (cf. John 10:25-30).
“Perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
Perfect Contrition Leads to Perfect Love
After that point when we grow into continuous perfect contrition, we will strive to give every single second of ourselves to God seeking to do only what He wills and work to become His perfect servant…not for our salvation but rather as a selfless act of sacrifice for the salvation of others.
I should mention, that this desire to give up everything and serve God perfectly first develops at the beginning of one’s conversion. It just isn’t properly understood nor correctly lived until we grow in maturity with our faith. When we are still immature in faith, we will think we are doing things that are truly good and God’s will but we are still being deceived. It isn’t until we grow and grow in the light of truth that we can truly see God’s true will and learn how to surrender completely to it. This maturity in faith gives us terrific trust in all that God allows knowing it is truly good and needed at that moment to help move us towards the salvation of our souls.
Then, with such a pure heart, from a mature faith–yet still sinning but not habitually–as we continue to seek God and grow, in time we can accept so much grace from God to where His love completely removes our ability to sin…and we come to perfectly love Him by way of the CROSS.
There is much more involved in conforming our will to God’s than what I have just written, and I go into greater detail in the article “What is God’s will?”
“We shall find ourselves at the end of our journey…unless we make a total surrender of our will to the Lord, and put ourselves in His hands so that He may do in all things what is best for us in accordance with His will [for our salvation], He will never allow us to drink of it [drink of the living water from the fountain of Life].”
–St. Teresa of Avila
This total surrender of our will that we need, so we don’t trust in ourselves but fully in God to save us–to guide us away from sin and towards salvation is the Way of sanctity–we all must take if we wish to be saved. To learn more please read “How to Become a Saint.”