To stop sinning is very hard as we all know mostly because, like I said, our desire to stop sinning sadly isn’t really a true desire. When we still desire to sin, we still don’t truly love God. And the lack of faith we suffer from is because of many reasons. We still love sin and lack of true belief in our need to change because we don’t really understand the truth. If we really understood the consequence of sin upon us and Our Creator, we would flee from it with ALL of our strength.
Wonderfully however, once we loose all desire to sin, our sins no longer offend Our Beloved Lord, because our love has become a true wonderful love which heals all. Then our sins, the moment they are committed, are instantly forgiven and forgotten. This is the entire purpose for seeking to rid all of our sins to gain a true desire to sin no more–to gain true love for God–so everything we do is for love of God–not love of self. Then after we advance to this step in our spiritual life, we can work our way and grow towards perfection (not being able to sin) and become perfectly united with God, like Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.
“If we have died with Him [killed sin in our lives] we shall also live with him, if we persevere [in running from sin] we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him [because we prefer any sin] he will deny us [since we rejected his love from our desire for sin]” (2 Timothy 2:11-12).
In this article, I can’t go into depth too much about how we can increase our desire to change above what is on this web-site since it can be quite involved due to the depth of this topic and the vast ways we can seek out God’s grace for His mercy. However, Lifting Our Values has a book “How to Obtain Perfect Contrition” and it’s “Meditations on Christ’s Passion” that can help us along with countless books written by the saints. However, I will give a list of motives most of us have for seeking to take upon the challenging task of perusing Eternal Life–stopping our sins (seeking God’s will).
Main reasons souls finally open up their souls and are moved enough to work wholeheartedly to repent and change:
- Became seriously sick and pondered if we died where we would spend eternity based on the life choices we have made.
- Had someone we love die and saw how short life is and began to contemplate if we merited Heaven from our life choices.
- Became in great need and wanted God’s help but we knew our little faith would receive little help or understood God turned His face (we lost His help) from our willfully abandonment of the faith by choosing to live a life opposed to God’s commands.
- Suffered an incredible cross in which we chose to trust in God and found the truth.
- Lost some of our blindness and obtained incite to some of our true misery (sinfulness) and saw how greatly sinful we really are which needed to change if we were to truly love God.
- Gained knowledge of the true faith and came to understand we aren’t really saved by the little faith we do have.
- Felt God’s love from His healing, and help or by seeing His passion and death, etc. and we wanted to return His love by truly living to love Him in return.
- Grew in faith and began to see the incredible understanding, love and patience God has for us as He tries to show us the Way and finally realized we weren’t really living to love God above all nor to desire Him alone.
- Saw the injury we are continuously causing God by our sinfulness and wanted to stop hurting the One we should be loving.
As you can see the first five reasons to repent and change are based upon fear of punishment and the last three are based on love of God. Sadly, most don’t really take stopping our sinful ways seriously because of love for God, since we don’t have a strong enough of a relationship with God because of the very sins we need to amend. We might feel somewhat sad about our sins because we don’t want to offend God to a certain degree, but we are far from having true contrition as our lack of amending our ways proves. Most of us need a boost to open up our souls to hear God and that is done with the cross. Some people will need to suffer multiple crosses (many of those reasons) before we can loose our pride to really hear God calling us so to take the risk and exert the effort to repent and change. But when we do finally hear, for many it is a life changing experience, and if we continue, and not fall lukewarm again and forget our calling, then we can proceed to Eternal Life.
“Thousands seek Him only when all else has failed, and must be driven into the Arms which all day long are opened to welcome them with such ineffable tenderness” (Jesus to St. Gertrude the Great).
Like I said, most will change because we don’t want to suffer on earth, in purgatory or Hell and from those self-seeking motives will peruse the very difficult task of leaving the world and all of our sinful habits to peruse a saving faith. Wonderfully though, as we gain more and more grace from our continuous removal of sin, we will begin to see and understand God’s fantastic love for us more clearly, and that selfish motive to change will begin to dwindle away and a desire to change our entire life to truly love God will take over.
But we must understand, to begin this journey to stop sinning correctly, there absolutely must be some intense driving motive, well rooted, or it will end like any failed diet. If we want Eternal Life, we need to be willing to suffer, sacrifice and deny ourselves of pleasure to obtain the crown of Life that is waiting for those who truly love God, and to do this takes a real true driving burning motive to get started if we are to grow into a true faith that burns to love God for the sake of love alone.
If you feel you need more information or inspiration on how to gain a greater desire to change, please read the saints works like St. Alphonosus’ “The Way of Perfection and Salvation” or St. Peter of Alcantara who has a treatise on prayers and meditations designed “with the purpose to establish in our hearts the love and the fear of God and fidelity to His commandments…[which will help produce] the fear of God and contrition and hatred of sin.” The saints works are wonderful and can greatly help. Also, I have gone into much greater depth in the Lifting Our Values book “How to Obtain Perfect Contrition” and it’s complement book “Meditations on the Passion of Christ.” These two books should help us obtain a greater fire of desire to change as well. But even if you have just a little spark, that spark can be kindled into a great burning desire for God. If you grow and start to burn more intensely, but something happens and you loose much of that fire don’t let it burn completely out, get back up again…work to build that fire into a blaze of love. Give it time…keep on seeking the truth. God wants you saved.
One of the reasons we don’t seek to amend our life is many have been misled and think they can never stop sinning which makes it very hard to strive wholeheartedly to truly obey God if we think the goal of perfect obedience isn’t even possible. But it is. Unlike popular thinking, we most certainly can stop sinning just like St. Therese of the Child Jesus (St. Therese de Lisieux) did. She describes the day she became full of grace (full of God’s love-unable to choose sin) in her biography as she says: “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).
This life of perfect obedience isn’t just for “saints.” Actually it is just for saints…but God calls ALL of us to be saints. Not just some other “chosen” people we read about. If we want to be in Heaven with the saints, we need to sincerely make that our life’s goal. Being a saint isn’t some unreachable goal. Becoming a saint ins’t even becoming perfect, it is simply becoming a person who has true sorrow for all of their sins and has grown so much in love with God that their love has atoned for their sins taking away the punishment that is due from all sin committed after baptism. Being a saint is God’s calling for all of us who desire Eternal Life. Truly, you and me are “called to be saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2). If we love God and want to obey Him we most certainly will burn to be one of His saints, making that our daily goal. Sure some people are called to do greater works than others but literally ALL of us are called to sanctity. Only saints go to Heaven. And how is that going to happen if we don’t work hard to stop sinning…we must make our daily working goal–perfection–just like God has commanded of us “from now on sin no more” (John 8:11). It is possible! If we love God, we will wholeheartedly strive to perfectly obey Him.
Therefore, in accord with St. Bonaventure who teaches, “whoever wishes to ascend to God must first avoid sin.” We too, if we want to spend eternity with God, need to truly find Him on earth and that is done by ridding sin from our lives. Many of us are tying to find God, but we only have a taste of Him because we are going about it all wrong and haven’t made amending every sin our hearts desire. But if you can hear and want to stop sinning this article will hopefully help you do just that.
There is a real pattern to the removal of sin as listed below.
The Birth of Repentance that Leads to Change:
(all of the following is done through much prayer)
- Desire to change
- Learn what sins are
- Recognize we commit a sin
- Catch ourselves sinning immediately after we commit the sin
- Notice the temptation that leads to the sin
- Make a resolution and implement it
- Stop the sin from God’s grace
Then we look into our past actions and we realize we have been sarcastic in the past, but we are not really aware of how often we are sarcastic. So during our day, when we are examining our conscience to see our sins, we need to make a special effort to look into how we might have spoke sarcastically to another. Then from wanting to see this sin, we do. We will see the in perhaps in much of our behavior.
After we see we have done wrong, we go to the sacrament of confession to tell God we are sorry seeking His help to change. This is the important part that most people don’t realize they are missing in their life. To properly confess our sins in the sacrament of reconciliation and receive forgiveness of that sin and God’s actual (helping) grace to strengthen us to stop that sin we must want to stop our sins for the “right reason” and seeking to become a better person, isn’t enough of a reason to want to change, as atheists don’t want to be rude obnoxious people too.Our desire to amend must be to love our neighbor because offending our neighbor offends God who we desire to love. If we lack a true desire to change from a great disdain for sin because we are blessed with grace to despise sin, that is great the removal of sin well be much easier. However, if we don’t have a firm resolve to change, stopping the sins that are most ingrained into our behavior will be very hard, if not impossible.
Part of confessing ones sins properly is coming up with a resolution to not sin. Therefore, we need to become determined to not speak sarcastically again. But much of the time we don’t know what more to do outside of simply wishing to never do it again since there isn’t something he can remove or do differently, since speaking sarcastically has become a habitual choice. Therefore, he needs the power of God to strengthen him to stop this sin.
To strengthen us, there are countless whys God sends bound and bounds of grace. The most effective means is through God’s sacraments (especially confession and Holy Communion) to a souls that is properly disposed to receive the grace. However, if we were never taught the true Way to Eternal Life, we won’t have a true burning fear of the Lord and will only wanting to change because we want to become a better person, then Holy Communion won’t benefit him at all and confession will have very few benefits if we arne’t disposed to its grace nor will it forgive him of that sin or sins, but it can still send him some grace if asks God for help (even if he wants to change for the wrong reason).
“The most efficacious and indispensable means to keep our conscience clean and pure is the proper use of the Sacrament of Penance” (St. Joseph Cafasso).
To take action to remove a sin we need to recognize we commit the sin. But of couse we can’t know we have a sin, if we don’t even know what is sinful. After we look into our life choices, we can now see how we use sarcasm in our style of speaking because we are used to being a “fun guy,” and have chosen to incorporate the use of sarcasm a lot to poke fun or even insult others to make ourselves more “fun.” We then realize that this isn’t a one time fault but has become a habit that we are attached to this kind of use of sin. Therefore, it can’t simply be removed by willing it. We need grace, and much of it.
Wonderfully, some of us are trying to stop sinning; we hear the call from God to repent and change, but we don’t seem to be able to change and continue to sin and sin the same sins with practically no change. Sadly we have just proved our desire to stop sinning is so little that it can’t even move us to modify our life to stop hurting God whom we claim to love. This can be a source of great depression and it should. How can it not if we really understand the gravity of choosing sin over God. If we now understand, we love God so little and ourselves so greatly that we simply won’t change, and understand if we were to die, we would choose sin instead of God for all eternity, for anyone that should cause great concern. How can it not? However, don’t allow that depression to consume you and cause you to quit, thinking Eternal Life is just to hard to obtain. That is the devils trick to win souls that can hear. If you can hear you are so much more blessed than the rest–I promise you. God wants you in Heaven. If we only know how much our Lord longs four us. How much He pines for us to turn to Him with a heart that wants to truly love Him, we would never quit. Take that reality and have it move you to do more…literally think about it ETERNITY; you can’t quit. You just can’t. Eternity never ends. If we are tying to stop sinning and after persistence, what we are doing simply isn’t working, we need to change. If after moderation, it doesn’t work we must change what we are doing. What ever weakness is keeping us from changing: fear, stubbornness, lack of courage, laziness, etc. we need to acknowledge it, repent of it and do something different. If the approach we are taking to amend our ways isn’t successful please don’t continue to do what isn’t working day after day thinking this time things will be different. We must seek a new way.
Therefore, lets seek salvation by seeking to love God and follow His will perfectly.
What Can You See
To stop sinning we need to begin with the sins we can see that God’s Word tells us is wrong and sincerely work to amend them. For example: if we are living with someone outside of marriage, we need to work to either get married in the Church or move out (stop sexual relations). This is God’s command. “Be sure of this, that no fornicator [sexual relations outside of marriage] or impure person [participates in immorality]…has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5). We need to do what God wills…not what is easiest. Truly, with all sin, we need to do what God desires being willing to struggle and over come hurdles to stop sinning. We must be willing to carry our cross…if we want to truly love God. If we look into our life we can see what keeps us doing the same thing over and over again. Is it laziness, habit, craving… What ever it is, put a barrier between you and the sin. Remove the temptation if possible. Do what is necessary to see you stop be ready to suffer. Get creative. If one thing doesn’t work, try another. Remember if you really want something, you make it happen. Don’t keep repeating what fails thinking it will miraculously change the next time. No, it won’t. You need to change.
If you want something to go right, you get organized and make a plan. The same goes with stopping sin. Develop a plan. Before you go to bed have a realistic plan for the next day’s changes or should I say one small change to help rid the sin and no matter what (unless true illness or abnormality occurs) see to it that it happens. If you fail, learn…just don’t quit…keep on modifying your life until the sin is gone. If you really want to love God and stop hurting Him…make it happen. There are endless resolutions we can implement and countless ways we can get more help from God to stop sinning. I can’t go into too much detail in this article. But I do give very specific examples from the beginning of one’s conversion, with real resolutions that develop into successful resolutions, and how we are to progress from removing sin after sin…going from virtue to virtue, moving towards the Light in the Lifting Our Values book, “Out of Darkness into the Light.” But in this venue I have provided some general ways to receive grace to help us amend our ways below:
- Implore the saints for help: rattle off a litany of prayers begging the saints for their perfect prayers especially during times of temptation. ex: St. John the Baptist pray for us, St. Patrick pray for us…
- Call upon the Blessed Mother: with her power and closeness to Her son; she is sure proven assistance to help us.
Of course we must work on the most serious sins we can see first, but some times they are so habitual and have become such a deep part of our lives completely removing them will take much grace and time. Therefore, as we change our life little by little at a strong pace, in accord with our faith, running to God over and over again for help and we begin to remove our great sins, we also should pursue removing the less challenging sins that we can see at the same time. But don’t work on too many sins at once or we will surely fail unless we have much grace. One at a time is best and safest way. We will know our desire to stop them is true because we will be changing.
“Each one must realize that he will make progress in all spiritual matters in proportion to his flight from self-love, self-will, and self-interest” (St. Ignatius of Loyola).
The more we fly from self and focus on God and His will, the more we will have the grace to amend our ways since it is our lack of complete surrender to God that prevents His grace from moving us. Please understand, we might not stop the sin we seek to amend immediately, but we will be making continuous progress because we are correctly seeking God’s grace and our persistent true efforts. We must wholeheartedly loss self–and learn how to live for God. Then, after we successfully remove all of the sins we can more easily see other sins as we begin to more deeply examine our conscience.
Removing the Veil
Please understand our sins that are with in us are so deep, so buried, so great, so habitual and so terrifying, just bringing them to the surface one at a time is a very painful and challenging process. Yet, without this reality being exposed, we will die from a lack of humility (not knowing our sinfulness and our real need for His mercy).
The veil is removed by repeating four simple steps:
- Seeking the Truth
Underneath every thought, word or action is an intention or should I say a bunch of intentions. There are driving intentions and supporting intentions. Most of the time, underneath each sin are a bunch of sins that lead to the one noticeable sin we can see. There are intentions that are true (the real reasons why we do what we do) and ones we contrive (the false/deceptive reasons why we think we do what we do). The goal is to come to know our real intentions and to get all of our real intentions to be done to love God through loving His children. This is done by opening up our conscience to the sin behind the sin so we can remove the veil and seek God’s grace to eradicate all offences against God.
Surprisingly, nothing we do is perfectly “good,” not even the greatest act of charity. We can sacrifice the suffer incredibly to love our fellow man out of great love for God and our act will still be imperfect. God’s love must be infused perfectly within us for us to do anything at all that is truly perfect. Therefore, until we become full of grace and are truly “perfect” (not able to choose sin) like St. Steven (cf. Acts 6:8 ) nothing we do will be without some kind of sinful intention since we lack perfect love of God in our hearts. Therefore, in every act we do, sadly, it will contain some form of sin (lack love). We just don’t know exactly what that unloving intention is most of the time. The problem is not only that we are drowning in sin, but that we aren’t able to accept God’s grace to become perfect or even saved because we don’t have true contrition for each and every sin.
Even though true contrition is vital to Life, this article isn’t about how to stop sinning. Please understand someone can be filled with great sin and still be saved, by their contrite heart, since we aren’t saved by how few our sins are, but the sorrow in our heart. However, with that said, those with a truly contrite heart burn to stop offending God. Therefore, if our goal in life is to obtain that perfect love or at least to obtain true love of God, which gives us contrite heart,we will have a fervent resolve to stop sinning.
“When perfection is not in the soul, everything which the soul does for itself and for others is imperfect” (God the Father to St. Catherine of Siena).
Therefore, we know we have more than enough sins to work to remove. So if we feel we hardly sin, we simply don’t know what they are. To remove the blinding veil or should I say concrete wall we created between God and ourselves we need to turn to the Mother of God for help. The Word says Our Mother in Heaven is the one given the job to help enlighten the hearts of God’s children. “Simeon [a righteous man] blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “…(and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts [sins] of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35). Wonderfully, the Blessed Mother, if we pray to her with hearts that sincerely want to know our sins, will intercede to God on our behalf perfectly so much grace may be sent and the sins we have been covering may be revealed.
When looking to amend our ways, we don’t only need to look for the sin in our bad actions but we need to search even our “good deeds” too. Sadly, the devil can get into our good deeds, and we will think we are following God’s will and serving Him, but most or even all of our thoughts, words and deeds will be horribly tainted and sometimes nothing good at all will be actually in them.
Please don’t go overboard and become anxious and fret over your sins as some can become too scrupulous with examining their conscience. Removing the veil, when done correctly should help us have greater sorrow for our sins and a greater love for God and His mercy. The more sorrow we have, should result in greater consolation from God which brings wonderful peace. Yes, we will understand more perfectly how we deserve the eternal fires, but we will grow in greater trust in God’s never ending mercy too.
Stopping the Impulse
Before “my [God’s] yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Matthew 11:30), we need to stop our impulses and do everything with more deliberate thought. Yes, we need to slow down our actions and think and search for God’s will in every action. God’s grace, one day, will make following Him effortless, but until then, God wants our great efforts. He has provided us with the first move, grace: so we can see the need to change, and now we need to do our part and work to change. And between God’s grace and our desire, we can. Don’t worry God always sends much helping grace to support our efforts once we start to move. However, He wants us to love Him enough that we are willing to work–to leave our comfort zone to love Him and obtain His grace. It is our sinful habits that kill us, and until we receive more grace to be united more perfectly with Christ, we must stop and think before we do anything. We can stop our horrible sinful habits with God’s grace and our efforts…combined we can do this.
Then most important thing we can do to start this life of seeking God’s grace and to help stop our impulses is to give God our first fruits of the day and to end our day with a resolution for tomorrow. By first fruits I’m talking about giving God or first thought of the day.
We sin in our thoughts, by our words, and in our actions. If we can see any of our sins in our thoughts, then there is a very easy way to stop all sinful thoughts. If we find our self thinking revengeful thoughts or are in anger with someone we believe has does us wrong, or when we find ourselves thinking lustful thoughts when we see an attractive person, or find our self complaining when things go wrong, or have any unloving thought at all, if we can recognize our sin, all we need to do is pray for the person we are having issues with, lusting after, or praise God for the cross we are complaining about. If we can do this, we will eradicate those sins…guaranteeded. We can’t be unloving toward someone if we are truly praying for them. We can’t lust after someone if we are praying for God’s mercy to bless them, and we complain and reject the cross if we are praising God for our crosses. Of course, if we can’t humble ourselves to pray with a heart of love, then we won’t be able to really pray, we might say words but if our heart isn’t true, this easy fix won’t work. But if we have the grace to have a heart of love for others and our crosses then all we need to do to stop the sins in our thought is to praying for everything that is the temptation of our sinful ways.
St. John Chrysostom tells us, “for the Word, when it finds a man in fault, amends him [if man has ears that hear], when clear and free [after seeking God’s grace], sets him as far off from it [the sin] as possible.” Therefore, all the Word is used to guide us to see our faults so we can amend. Furthermore, as St. John Chrysostom continues, “the course of healing is the same for all [God’s grace] the medicines [the cross] are set forth for all, only the application is not the same…” Therefore, when truly follow Christ reading the Word
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