the key to a saving faith
Accepting God’s Forgiveness
Having TRUE sorrow for all of our sins ever committed is needed to accept God’s saving forgiving mercy for Eternal Life. Yet, obtaining this kind of sorrow is sadly rare.
“See how rare such [true] repentance is. Alas, it is as scarce as a good confession.”
–St. John Vianney
Most like to think we are truly sorry for sinning, but in reality the kind of sorrow we most likely have isn’t true. Having true sorrow takes much much grace from God and most of us simply haven’t been toiling away seeking God’s mercy (help) to obtain it.
Possessing some kind of sorrow for at least some of our sins is normal. But to accept God’s complete forgiveness and His sanctifying–saving–grace into our souls, we must have TRUE sorrow for each and every sin we have ever committed or we still prefer sin over God’s love and chose eternal death.
“Thy death will not save me, if I do not do my part and detest every evil, and have true sorrow for the sins I have committed against Thee.”
–St. Alphonosus, Doctor of the Church
We must understand, if we aren’t truly sorry for a single sin–just one–because of the infinite injury a single sin causes to our infinitely perfect God, we reject God’s gift of forgiveness that He died to give us. This is because not being sorry for offending God, with a mortal or venial sin, is a mortal offence that rejects mercy for sin. Then we choose our sin and eternal punishment instead of God’s saving merciful love. Tragic!
“There is a sin which is always “unto death” (1 John 5:16): the sin for which we do not repent.”
–St. Mark the Ascetic
In this article, I will explain the different kinds of sorrow there are and show us in the Bible where God gives us perfect examples of what a person looks like who has the kind of sorrow we need to be saved.
False Sorrow, Some Sorrow or True Sorrow
There is a big difference between having just some sorrow and having true sorrow…even though to the surprise of many, bounds of people believe they are truly sorrow for sinning, when sadly, they are quite deceived and actually have no real sorrow at all (not some or true sorrow). We must honestly examine ourselves to learn the truth.
“Examine yourselves, oh my friends, and see how rare such a [true] repentance is.”
–St. John Vianney
But we, who don’t see our lack of contrition, don’t have to die from blindness. If we honestly want to know our failures in contrition, God will give us the grace needed to gain true self-knowledge. Then we will gain humility and fear of the Lord and be able to change.
After such blessings are obtained, we will be able to run to God, who is waiting for us, to send us much needed grace, so we can increase our sorrow and grow into a saving sorrow for all of our offences committed against Our Most Merciful Lord and embrace His saving mercy and LIVE!
But we need to know, there are different kinds of sorrow:
- False Sorrow
- Some Sorrow
- Imperfect/Perfect (real) Sorrow For One Sin (during confession)
- Imperfect/Perfect (real) Sorrow For All Sin (during confession)
- True (Perfect) Sorrow for One Sin (outside of confession)
- True (Perfect) Sorrow For All Sin (outside of confession)
- Continuous True (Perfect) Sorrow For All Sin
False sorrow is when we lack any of the qualities that are needed to have some sorrow.
To have some kind of sorrow for a sin that can accept grace–not forgiving mercy but to accept grace/help from God–we must have:
- some kind of regret for having offended God out of fear of the Lord: fear of offending God out of love for Him (finial fear) or fear of receiving His punishments from our sin (servile fear),
- some amount hatred for the sin committed, and
- some real desire to stop the sin.
If we feel sorry, but we are lacking any one of these three qualities, we don’t yet have any amount of grace receiving sorrow not even some of it. Then we can’t accept God’s grace (help) He sends to the contrite of heart to grow in holiness from either our confession or from the sadness we do feel for sinning. To learn more please read, “What is Fear of the Lord?”
This lack of even some sorrow is sadly the reality for most. It is an incredible problem. Bounds of people “say” they are sorry for offending God; they recite an act or contrition, but from being deceived, they are actually sorry for different reasons.
Some reasons why we are sorry for sinning that aren’t from Fear of the Lord:
- Sorry for getting caught (feel embarrassed),
- Sorry because we want to be better (from low self-esteem or tired of messing up–self love not love of God),
- Sorry because we want to be a good person or to do the right thing (remember even atheists want to be and do “good,” but they don’t do it out of fear of the Lord),
- Sorry for the hardships our sins are causing us or others (which is good but even athiest have this sorrow),
- Sorry for offending/hurting another (again, this is good but if it isn’t driven from wisdom/fear of the Lord it is in vain).
Now those reasons are not necessarily bad (if they can move us to true sorrow), but none of those reason for having sorrow for sinning are above the intentions of an athiest. Therefore, none of those reasons proves we are really sorry for offending Our Beloved Lord.
If we don’t want to die into eternal torture from refusing to see, the next time we sin and feel guilty (sorrow) ask our self, “Why” we feel that way…are we ashamed, are we disappointed in ourselves, do we want to please others and we haven’t, etc….is our sorrow truly because we can’t bear offending God or for some other reason?
Honestly, is our love for God and sorrow for sin so great, because Our Beloved Lord has given us so much and we have hurt Him so greatly, that we are now HORRIFIED TO SIN against The One we should be loving with all of our hearts? If not, we need to run to God’s mercy to help us change. He wants us saved! However, if we can’t honestly answer this question because we can’t stand to know the truth about ourselves, we will die from living a lie.
However, to have just some sorrow, this fear of the Lord we must have doesn’t need to be true (that we would rather suffer even death than sin out of love or fear of punishment) but it must be existing to some degree in our conscience. We must think about it when sorrow is felt for our sins if our sorrow is to be enough to have at least some sorrow worthy of obtaining grace (help) to amend our sins.
Also, many lack any kind of sorrow because our hatred for sin is sadly very small. Much of the time it has no real value at all because there is little if any real resolution and/or working effort put into stopping the sin, as our constant habitual sins prove. Therefore, the sorrow people believe we have simply isn’t real sorrow most of the time but just a guilty or bad feeling over sinning.
However, even if we lack any kind of real contrition, God can still send us grace (help), if it is His will, to help move us to grow in faith, but grace won’t be coming from our broken sorrow for our sins, but strictly from God’s desire to bring us into obtaining a perfect saving faith for eternal life. To learn more please read “How Bad Confessions Damn Us.”
“Among the penitent’s acts [the person confessing their sins] contrition [sorrow] occupies first place [since it is needed for salvation]. Contrition is sorrow of the soul and detestation [hatred] for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again [a resolve to become a perfect saint]” (CCC #1451).
Imperfect/Perfect (Real) Sorrow for At Least One Sin
For our sorrow to be Real, so we can accept God’s forgiveness for at least a single sin in the sacrament of reconciliation (not perfect saving/forgiving mercy but forgiving mercy for the sin or sins we are really sorry for) we must have:
- a great regret for having offended God out of fear (fear of offending God out of love for Him or fear of His punishments from our sins–fear of the Lord),
- a great hatred for the sin, a hatred so great we would rather suffer any pain than commit the sin again,
- a great desire to amend the sin,
- a great desire to do penance to make right our wrongs.
When we grow in faith correctly, we will see our sorrow grow too. Some sins we will be willing to do or suffer anything rather than commit those sins against God, because we want to love God and not offend Him or at least because we don’t want to be punished from those sins. And for these sins, when we confess them, we will be forgiven of them. But our sorrow won’t yet be real for all of our sins, since we still pay little, if any attention, to some other sins (we are not truly resolved to amend ALL sins).
However, as we accept more of God’s grace, through frequenting confession and growing even greater in faith, our hatred for sin will increase too. We will go from truly hating just some of our sins into truly detesting every one of them. To learn more please read, “Can I Be Forgiven of Some Sins and Not All of Them.”
Imperfect/Perfect (Real) Sorrow for All Sins
To accept God’s complete saving forgiveness for every sin, in the sacrament of reconciliation and accept His sanctifying grace we received from baptism back into our hearts, at least for a moment during absolution, we must have a:
- great regret for having offended God out of fear (fear of offending God out of love for Him, which is also true contrition or fear of His punishments from our sins, which is also known as attrition–imperfect contrition),
- great hatred for our sins, a hatred so great we would rather suffer any pain than commit any sin again,
- great desire to do penance to make right our wrongs,
- great resolve to stop sinning all sins, –working resolution to become a perfect saint.
As the Baltimore Catechism teaches:
“Sorrow for sin is true contrition when it is interior, supernatural, supreme, and universal…
1. Interior: Our sorrow is interior when it comes from our heart, and not merely from our lips.
2. Supernatural: Our sorrow is supernatural when, with the help of God’s grace, it arises from motive which spring from faith and not merely natural motives [when we are sorry for having offended God with the desire to do penance (make right our wrong), not sorrow for being caught or some other reason.]
3. Supreme: Our sorrow is supreme when we hate sin above every other evil, and are willing to endure any suffering [even death] rather than offend God in the future by sin.
4. Universal: Our sorrow is universal when we are sorry for every mortal sin [or any offence against God–we can’t lack sorrow for any crime against God, because not being sorry for sinning is a mortal sin] which we have had the misfortune to commit.”
It is possible for someone to have a true determination to not sin again during confession and habitually re-commit the same sin they just confessed, even though most are scoffers (not truly sorry). But someone can be given such great hatred for sin during confession, it is possible they can be moved into true contrition during the sacrament, but they will just not be able to keep that contrition past the moment they received absolution.
True Sorrow for All Sins Not During Confession
To accept God’s saving forgiving grace at the moment of our death or outside of partaking in the sacrament of reconciliation we must have:
- a great regret for having offended God out of mostly finial fear of the Lord–perfect contrition–(fear of offending God because we can’t bear offending God whom we should be loving with all of our hearts),
- a hatred so great for sin we would rather suffer any pain–even die– than commit our sins again,
- a great desire to do penance to make right our wrongs,
- a great resolve to stop sinning all sins (mortal of venial)–working to become a perfect saint.
Since we don’t die at the same moment we are confessing our sins, we need true (perfect) contrition (finial fear) in our hearts at the moment of death to be saved since imperfect contrition (servile fear of suffering from our sins) still loves one’s self over God. This is because we are more worried the injury we will receive from our sins rather than the offence we are inflicting upon Our Creator from our misery.
Therefore, we must possess finial fear of the Lord–perfect contrition–mostly in our hearts for it to supersede servile fear. Finial fear must drive our sorrow. Even though, unless we are full of grace and with perfect love for God (can no longer sin), we will have the fear of punishment (servile fear) to some degree, since as long as we can still sin, there is punishment (at least in purgatory) and we can loose it all. That should be feared. But a horror for offending Perfect Goodness must supersede that fear and drive our sorrow if we want choose God’s saving mercy at our death.
Because of the infinite injury of one, even slight, sin causes our infinitely loving God, the slightest desire/liking for sin is enough to damn our soul for all eternity if we don’t truly hate it. Therefore, if we lack true contrition at all, if our desire–lack of resolve to amend–any sin still exists in our hearts, we reject God’s perfect infinite love and choose sin (Hell) instead. We MUST TRULY HATE ALL SIN because we can’t bear to offend God, and would rather suffer anything than sin, to be saved.
“[A] venial [sin]…becomes mortal,” when someone “fix[es] one’s end in that venial sin [isn’t truly resolved to amend]”–St. Aquinas, Doctor of the Church
Obtaining this kind of sorrow for every single sin is so very hard to obtain, since sadly we desire sin. Don’t be deceived!
“Yes, my brethren, a Christian 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
Continuous True Sorrow For All Sin
After we obtain a saving faith–true love/true sorrow–once, like during confession, then we need to continue to grow in our sorrow to obtain it constantly in our hearts. Then we can live life in the state of grace and begin to atone for our life time of sins and grow towards becoming a saint.
This doesn’t mean we are constantly walking around with excessive sadness over our sins. That is only for moments of reflection and when God wills, but it does mean there is such a deep hatred for offending God (great love for God) that constantly drives all of our thoughts, words and deeds that we would rather suffer death than offend Our Lord.
“They preferred to die rather than to…profane the holy covenant [God’s law]” (Maccabees 1:63).
However, until we have such a great hatred for sin constantly moving our actions, we simply don’t love God enough keep His saving mercy in our souls nor are we able to atone for any of our sins. If we are so blessed to regain our true contrition at our death and die in the state of grace, we will still need to suffer greatly in purgatory to purify ourselves for our life time of offences. To learn more please read, “How To Become a Saint” and “Heaven, Hell and Purgatory.”
When we have this sorrow dwelling in our hearts constantly it is great and drives our life’s choices. It causes us to pray unceasingly, choose the cross (reject pleasure) since we greatly burn to do penance for our sins and send grace to help our neighbor’s salvation, since we seek to please God perfectly (never wish to chose our will or to sin in any way).
Such a horror for sin does sometimes have tears of sorrow with it, but tears can also be deceiving as they can come from any numerous feelings. This sorrow can also produce a sensation of great sorrow in our hearts, but that too can be deceiving.
The greatest way we know if we would honestly rather suffer greatly and even die than sin, is in HOW WE LIVE. Even though we should never fully presume we possess a truly contrite heart, as we can’t read our soul, we can know the state of our souls the best, like I said, from how we live.
When we are with true continuious contrition, the knowledge of our sinfullness will cause us to seek punishment not pleasure. We will run from the finer things in life and the joys we once sought for happiness and live a life seeking the cross as a penance for our sins. Nobody with true sorrow constantly in their hearts chooses a life of seeking to be happy with the pleasures of the world or habitually chooses any sin. They seek the cross. For the cross is the way to Christ.
“If any man has been in a state of contrition, he knows that the soul is punished by this [knowledge of ones sinfulness] more than anything.”
–St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church
Those who finally possessed enough hatred of our sins for our sorrow to be true, will have “led a life of great penance afterwards” as St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church explains and have done whatever is necessary to strive to stop all sin.
Truly, from our destain for sin, we won’t habitually choose any sin again. However there is one exception, for those of great faith, which I only speak about in the article “How to Become a Saint” since the devil uses this reality to deceive us from understanding the truth.
“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
Therefore, if we don’t have a horror for sin driving our actions to love God by way of the cross then we have much to grow towards a saving faith of true sorrow and true love for God.
True Sorrow is Hard to Obtain
As we can hopefully see, this kind of sorrow isn’t easy to obtain, and sadly so few actually acquire it before their death, because we don’t truly seek God for it..
Therefore, it is imperative, if we have ears that can hear, we spend our life seeking God and learning how to grow in our contrition to obtain this level of sorrow or all will be lost. Don’t despair, this contrition is possible to obtain…that is why Jesus came and died for our sins. He wants us saved. He will show us The Way. But we must approach Him correctly. To learn more please read, “Why Did Jesus Die for Our Sins?”
Our goal is to make our act of contrition become a reality in our hearts.
True Sorrow = True Faith = True Love for God
True sorrow is a gift from God given to us by His grace alone to those who truly want it.
It is the only ingredient needed to obtain salvation because when we have true sorrow, we have true faith and true love for God. The saints possessed true contrition for all of their sins but, as the saints say, so few of us know of our need to change, or are even trying or are willing to let go of our desire for sin so to desire God alone to obtain it.
St. Catherine of Genoa receiving the gift of True Sorrow
We can see this gift of true faith being given to St. Catherine of Genoa in her biography. During confession she was “wounded so forcibly with the love of God, and received so clear a revelation of her misery and faults, and the goodness of God…Overpowered by these emotions and by her sense of the offences she has committed against her dear Lord, she was so drawn away by her purified affections from the miseries of the world [lost her desire for anything of the world], that she became almost beside herself; and without ceasing, internally repeated to herself in the ardor of love: ‘no more would, no more sin.’ And at that moment if she had possessed a thousand worlds [everything she or anyone could want], she would have thrown them all away [to love God].”
As we can see she lost the desire for anything that wasn’t to know, serve or love God and was horrified by her sins so greatly she swore to never sin again. This is the true sorrow, true love, true faith we need to obtain too, at least at the moment of our death, if we seek salvation.
There are three ways God sends His grace to us for us to receive this kind of saving faith:
- great infusion of grace
- smaller deliverances of grace over time
- a combination of both
We can see the great infusion of grace given to St. Catherine of Genoa, but we can see this grace given to St. Theresa of Avila in smaller deliverances over time and yet, a combination of both with St. Gemma. Each saint received their saving faith differently, but as long as we obtain it, we will be saved. To learn more about receiving God’s grace please read, “What is God’s Mercy and How Can I Obtain It.”
True Sorrow in The Word
Not only does the Bible tell us how “in your struggle against [removing your liking for] sin you have not yet resisted [temptation enough] to the point of shedding blood [to not sin]. [haven’t yet gained true sorrow]” (Hebrews 12:4).
The Bible also has a few examples in the Old and New Testament of people who were truly sorry for their great offences against God and would suffer anything rather than offend God again.
One of my favorites is in 2 Maccabees 7 when seven brothers and their mother would rather die than eat pig flesh, since it was against God’s law.
“We are prepared to die rather than break the laws of our ancestors.” (2 Maccabees 7:2).
I tell you, would we rather die to avoid eating meat on Friday during lent, to deny ourselves and open up ourselves to receive God’s grace, since that is the Church’s law (which is God’s law)? Most of us would probably say, “I’m not going to die if someone is going to force me to eat meat…it is just meat.” “It isn’t like they are asking me to kill someone…I just have to eat meat.” either from not understanding the law or from thinking little of it.
Frankly, most think very little of what we consider “little” sins, liking eating meat during fasting. “We didn’t rob a bank or kill anyone,” most declare to justify our offences against God as venial and no big deal. Most don’t understand why the Church says what it says or they have been misguided and simply do what they wish. What a lack of contrition!
Do we really think the Jews fully understood why God told them they had to abstain from certain meats as a sacrifice…no. But those who loved God–really loved God–would rather die, than disobey. I tell you, if we want true sorrow to accept God’s perfect forgiveness, no sins can be considered no big deal, if we understand why we need to obey or not. We must grow in sorrow so great we would rather die than intentionally offend our beloved Lord again.
Of course I want to note: any act of self-denial is meaningless if we don’t truly desire to sin no more. That is the sign of a heart that truly seeks to love God.
Delight in Sin, Rejects God’s Helping and Saving Mercy
Sadly, we still cling to–still delight in–some, if not many, of our offences against God. As a result, we simply can’t accept (but reject) much of God’s merciful helping grace that He sends us daily to help us obtain a saving faith (true contrition for our sins), which causes God to cry out at the loss of so many souls.
“Oh, if sinners knew My mercy [that wants to help them], they would not perish in such great numbers. Tell sinful souls not to be afraid to approach Me; speak to them of My great mercy. The Lord said to me [St. Faustina], ‘The loss of each soul plunges Me into mortal sadness.'”
–Jesus to St. Faustina
If we only knew the malice one sin causes God, we would understand how unfathomable God’s mercy is, as He will forgive us of a life time of horrid atrocities committed against Perfect Love, if only we are truly sorry for our crimes against Him. That is all He requires to rewarded us with an eternity with Him in Heaven. It isn’t the amount of sins we commit that kills us but rather our lack of true sorrow–our unwillingness to truly hate them–that kills (sends us to Hell).
To Own Us, The Devil Deceives Us
Oh, but the devil deceives into thinking we are truly sorrowful for our sins, when we are far from it. Truly, it is so very hard to truly hate what we have grown to love (sin), but God sent us a Savior to TEACH, GUIDE AND STRENGTHEN US, those who honestly want to follow Him to the Way, so to soften our hardened hearts into accepting Jesus’ free gift of Eternal Life that we so quickly banished from our hearts after our baptism when we lacked true sorrow for our first sin.
Trust In Christ is What Brings Us into True Sorrow
If we follow our Savior correctly, amending our ways, seeking His grace correctly, we will obtain much grace from His Heart of Mercy and our hearts will grow in true love for God. We will even continue to grow never stopping, as long as we don’t become lukewarm, towards perfection. Then, if we trust in God to save us–to continue to teach, guide and strengthen us to reject sin and choose Him, as long as we still pursue His mercy with a humble contrite heart, since God wants us saved, we will eventually have true contrition continuously in our hearts, at least at the moment of our death, for all of our offences committed against Our Lord, and our sins won’t offend God any more, and we will be saved by His mercy.
Forgiven and Forgotten
Love–true love–heals the wounds of God’s Sacred Heart the instant sins are committed, causing them to be instantly forgiven and forgotten. When we obtain enough of God’s grace and grow into true love of God by means of true sorrow for our sins, we are saved. Our sins are forgiven and forgotten and the guilt of sin is no longer upon our souls. Any sin committed in this state of grace are forgiven and forgotten the moment they are committed from God’s Heart of Mercy.
We need true sorrow–perfect contrition–for every sin we have ever committed if we desire to die without the guilt of our sins. We must have true love for God which is a true hatred for every sin if we desire eternal Life, as there is no other way. Therefore, it is vital we understand exactly what true sorrow (perfect contrition) is and how to obtain it, since only that kind of love (true love) is essential for Eternal Life.
True Sorrow Can Remove Our Punishment
This true sorrow we need to be saved–this contrition–can grow into a sorrow so great, a love so true that it can atone for our sins and remove our punishments due for our crimes we committed after our baptism against God.
But if our contrition still remains insufficient–lacking love–but we have enough contrition for our sorrow to be true (perfect contrition), then we won’t die as a saint, but will still need to atone for our sins in purgatory upon our death to be welcomed into Heaven.
Seek to Amend for the Right Reason
Some people want to focus on our sins and stopping them, which is great, but if we don’t have the correct reason why we shouldn’t sin driving our actions, it will be in vain. This entire web site seems to be focused on our sins, but the reason we focus on our sins is because our sins offend God and if we truly love Him we won’t want to offend Him at all–from the least to the greatest sin–and from love of God, we will do all we can daily to stop.
Therefore, if we truly love God, we will seek all means available to amend all of our crimes against God. And boy has God given us a plethora of way to obtain His mercy. We simply must grow in faith to seek to live His will perfectly because our sorrow for our sins is so great we would rather die any agonizing death than hurt our beloved Lord’s Sacred Heart or harm our relationship with Him from even the smallest of sin and are willing to do what ever it takes to see we stop our offences against Him, which is the true contrition we need to accept His saving grace to be saved.
Without Honesty We Will Stay Blind
If we honestly looked into how we view all of our sins, we would clearly see practically all of us aren’t at that level of hatred of sin and avoiding sin as if it were the most toxic of evils to protect our Beloved Lord-truly seeking to become a perfect saint–rather than sin. Therefore, we need to greatly seek God’s helping grace, so to move our hardened hearts into truly hating each and every sin–from the smallest to the greatest if we wish to be saved.
The Different Sorrows:
- Perfect Contrition (true sorrow)
- Imperfect Contrition (attrition)
- Worldly Contrition – the most common contrition
- Some sorrow — desire to change–some fear of the Lord
I spoke about this above, but I want to show us the different kinds of sorrow spelled out differently…as it can be confusing. The first two contrition’s: perfect and imperfect sorrow are known as real contrition since they are derived from faith, worldly contrition is false contrition since its driving motive isn’t from wisdom (fear of the Lord) and the last sorrow is when we have some degree of sorrow, but it still isn’t real or true sorrow. However, tragically the most common sorrow is really no sorrow at all as I will explain.
The only reason I’m using the word “real” contrition to describe perfect and imperfect contrition is because they are the only contritions that can receive forgiveness. Therefore it is considered real contrition even though imperfect contrition is not quite true contrition (as I will explain). Then there are those who want forgiveness but actually have no sorrow–not real or worldly sorrow–but are deceived into thinking they are being forgiven anyway. Plus, many think they have contrition for all of their sins, but they only have it for some. However, without having perfect contrition for each and every sin…we reject God’s saving mercy for any sin we lack true sorrow for. To learn more about how we can beforgiven of some sins but not all sin, which is needed for Eternal Life, please see link at bottom of this article. Therefore, we need to learn how to gain perfect contrition for every sin we have ever committed if we want embrace God’s mercy and not any sin.
Perfect contrition is the only sorrow that is derived from love of God. The other contritions are derived from self-love. That is why true sorrow is necessary for salvation, since we must love God above all…even above ourselves to accept God’s sanctifying grace.
Perfect contrition is obtain by gaining knowledge of God’s love for us and then growing in love with Him. God beckens us all along different paths in our life so we can come to know His love for us so we can love Him in return, reject sin and accept His free gift of saving grace. His love is waiting for us, but most of us sadly don’t want to obtain it as we love the worlds pleasures as our source of happiness and not God alone. For most it isn’t until we have nothing else left but God, do we really turn to Him with an open heart that can accept His love (grace).
Yet, today there is some great confusion as to what kind of contrition saves as many believe imperfect contrition saves as well. But imperfect contrition is not even technically “contrition” as it is called attrition–not quite contrition because it is contrition based on one’s fear of suffering in Hell over our sins, not a true sorrow for offending God. Imperfect contrition, if it does truly exist within someone (as this kind of contrition is hard to obtain too), only provides us forgiveness through the power that comes from the priests hands in the sacrament of reconciliation. At our death we won’t have the priest’s power, it will just be our souls (in what ever state we are in at the instant of our death) and we will need the correct–perfect contrition–of our hearts to accept God’s forgiveness of every sin we have committed after we did receive absolution (forgiveness) in confession–if we have every had imperfect or perfect contrition during the sacrament. And if we don’t have a heart of true love for God, we will commit many seemingly insignificant sins but in God’s eyes, from our lack of true sorrow for them, they will be mortal. To learn more please read “How Bad Confessions Damn Us” (link at bottom of article).
The saints have warned us that few grow enough in their faith to obtain this kind of perfect contrition–this kind of saving love–and the saints themselves spent their lives hoping from God’s mercy to gain and maintain this kind of saving faith. Therefore we need to spend our life seeking it out and growing in contrition (love) for a real hope for Eternal Life with Christ too.
Worldly contrition is the most common kind of contrition. People confuse this contrition as true contrition because they feel badly for sinning, thinking “feeling” sorrow is for sure true contrition, but the reason they feel bad has nothing to do with faith (perfect or imperfect contrition).
“Godly grief [true sorrow] produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief [false sorrow] produces death”(2 Corinthians 7:10).
Don’t Presume Forgiveness
Neither the Catechism or the saints have ever taught that if we confess our sins that we are forgiven. We can hope in God’s forgiveness, as God does forgive those with a truly contrite heart, but never presume we are forgiven. We can’t read our souls. We shouldn’t ever doubt in God’s forgiveness as God burns to forgive us even of the most grievous sins. The only reason we anyone wouldn’t be forgiven is if we weren’t truly sorry for our crimes against God.
However, only God knows if true sorrow exists. This misunderstanding of what God’s mercy is that we are supposed to trust in is what leads bounds of souls to suffer from the presumption of salvation. Trusting in God’s mercy to save us has nothing to do with assuming we are forgiven. That is a trick from the devil to keep us complacent with our sinful ways. To learn more “What is Trusting in God’s Mercy.” Nonetheless, presuming we have true sorrow is deadly and only if a special grace has been given to us, like some of the saints have experiences, we must never presume anything.
How to Recognize True Sorrow
Recognizing if we are truly contrite–recognizing if we are in the state of grace–is impossible since we can’t read our souls, but recognizing if we don’t have it is rather easy as I will explain. However, that doesn’t mean we should never hope in God’s forgiveness if our contrition is great. God doesn’t want those who strive with all of their heart to love Him perfectly to live in despair, but in hope. Even if we don’t obtain true sorrow during our time on earth, those who truly give their all, should hope in God’s mercy to send them enough grace at their last hour to embrace His saving grace to Live. He wants us in Heaven….the hope is that we will see that grace and embrace it.
Some saints have been given a special grace from God to know when they were truly contrite and have tried to describe the state of their conscience. Their sorrow for sin, their hatred for sin is in line with the “righteous” ones in the Bible we read about, who would rather die than profane the Lord. We all know of the verses in the Old Testament that described God’s faithful who would rather give up their life than transgress the Law. This is the mind frame the saints describe we need to have. We need a complete hatred for sin…a disdain so great that we would rather suffer any pain, even death, than offend Our Creator–Perfect Goodness–in the slightest way. If we honestly would rather die and suffer the greatest pain than sin in the against our beloved Lord, of course God, from our great love for Him, would forgive us of our sins. The question is, how much love do we have for God. Would we truly suffer pain rather than inflict suffering upon God by our sins? Is our hatred for sin that great? Are we doing all we can every day to ensure we don’t sin?
“[All] her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love” (Luke 7:47).
In order to do all we can to stop our sins, “grace must uncover sin so as to convert our hearts [so we can hate what we once loved” (CCC#1848), but sadly most of us reject God’s grace and get caught in the devil’s lies. The problem is, we lie to ourselves. We say we hate our sins with our words, but in God’s eyes, we are far from a truly contrite heart. What we think is a heart truly sorry, simply isn’t. But, since we love God to some degree and believe we want to stop some of our sins, we think that is true love and true sorrow, but it isn’t. The devil has many of us believing a lie so they won’t continue to grow in sorrow and belong to him. True sorrow is very hard to obtain…don’t assume you have it as God the Father told St. Catherine of Sienna we must “Labor, therefore, to increase the fire of your desire [to love Me perfectly], and let not a moment pass without crying to Me with humble voice [for help], or without continual prayers before Me for your neighbors [as when we love, we will be loved].” We need to grow in understanding of God’s love and the consequences of sin, by begging God for assistance, so to obtain such contrition for each and every one of our trespasses against God to be forgiven of all of them and accept God’s saving mercy. This is the only way to Eternal Life.
Yet, we can easily see how loosely, how carelessly we sin, much of the time with almost no restraint. Sadly, we are complacent with so many sins; there are bounds of offences (mortal or venial) we commit that are habitual that we pay little to no attention to at all. How little we love the Lord! We need to grow much in faith to obtain a saving faith of true contrition.
“With such ease [you sin], such boldness, so unscrupulously, so fearlessly, nay, at times, with such readiness and content as if you were sinning against a god of wood, knowing and seeing nothing of what passes in the world. Is this the honor due to such great a Majesty? I this the gratitude for such great benefits? Is this the price of that Precious Blood shed on the Cross?” (St. Peter of Alcantra).
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Among the penitent’s acts [the person confessing their sins] contrition [sorrow] occupies first place [since it is needed for salvation]. Contrition is sorrow of the soul and detestation [hate] for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again [to become a saint]” (CCC #1451).
As we can read, not only is a true hatred for sin needed to have true sorrow, but when someone has true sorrow, they most certainly don’t want to sin again and are resolved to stop sinning. How many of us are sincerely working wholeheartedly to stop sinning? How many of us are leaving the pleasures of this world so to desire God alone and love Him above all? Are we sincerely working to become a saint? If not, now is the time to change so you too can have eternal life with Christ.
“God will smite the head of his foes, the crown of those who persist in their sins [refuses to love Him]” (Psalm 68:22).
How to Obtain True Sorrow
Many can understand their lack of contrition is leading them to death. They can be honest with themselves and see they aren’t horrified over every slight sin and doing all they can to stop. They believe to a certain extent on these realities of the faith, but not enough to have that incredible horror for sin that accepts God’s complete forgiveness or even some forgiveness.
So, what do we do, if we lack true contrition for even one sin? What do we do if our grace is so little that we don’t even have enough to truly work with a burning fever from one single sin…never mind all of them? Well, an angel came and spoke to St. Bridget of Sweden and clearly told us what to do. This angel said exactly what will move us to obtain God’s help when our hearts simply can’t obtain His mercy on our own.
“He [the one seeking God’s help] should do three things:
- First, he should make a pure and complete confession of his sins. Even if he cannot directly feel a complete remorse for his sins due to his hardened heart, still the confession will benefit him [send grace (help)] so much that the devil ceases with his treachery and yields to the good spirit.
- Second, he should be humble and wish to amend for all the sins he has committed and do the good deeds he can, and then the devil will begin to leave.
- Third, he should beseech God with humble prayer in order that he may get the good Spirit back and have contrition for the sins he has committed along with true divine love, since the love for God kills the devil. This devil is so envious and full of malice that he would rather die a hundred times than see someone do God the least little good deed out of love.”
Confession is the First Step
Even if we are practically blind to most of our sins we love, confessing the sins we do see and desiring to amend them will move us little by little towards a saving faith–true sorrow for all of our sins. God converted my hardened heart from frequenting confession and from the misguided love of another, due to my still weak faith, I fell greatly from the faith, when I was forced to abstain from frequenting the sacrament.
Truly, this sacrament if full of power, but we must partake in in correctly or we will miss the very help God desires to give to us. To learn how bad confession damn the majority of Christians please read the link at the bottom of this article.
To be given such a state of contrition, we need to become crushed in spirit. We must be humbled and know our incredible misery. We need to be the poorest in spirit, the most humble of hearts. No haughty soul receives the grace to sincerely hate his mountain of offences he has committed against such a loving God.
All we need to accept God’s saving mercy is a heart so sorrowful for our sins that we honest hate each and every one of them and truly desire to never commit another sin again because we can’t bear to offend God whom we should have been loving. God’s love waiting to save us. That no matter how horrid of a sinful life we have lived, if we can open up our hearts to receive God’s grace to obtain this kind of contrition, we will accept God’s saving grace and live forever with God. If we can possess this kind of sorrow, at least, at the moment of our death, we will be counted among the few that are saved.
Now, we can “say” we hate our sins and never want to commit them again, but if our words don’t meet our actions our words are just “words” with out meaning, and are of no value to us.
True contrition is something that we can wish to have, think we have but it is a gift from God and without God giving us the grace to obtain it, no mater how much we think we have it, we won’t. This gift is given to those who
Now this is something we all need to learn a lot about. True sorrow is
If we were so blessed to be moved into such a state of sorrow (true contrition) and accepted God’s forgiveness during confession and are in the state of grace, we also don’t know how long we can keep from rejecting His gift of salvation by desiring our will (any sin). It takes much grace to sincerely hate each and every sin all of the time and truly never crave a single one. Most fall quickly outside of grace from our habitual sins those things we do that aren’t to know, love and serve God–that aren’t God’s will–that we aren’t resolved to amend, since we still prefer those sins to love. But what we must remember is, unless someone is given a special grace from God, we simply can’t be certain we have perfect contrition, since we can’t read our souls to know if in fact our contrition is true, especially since the devil is so good at convincing us we are something we aren’t. Deception, getting us to lie to ourselves, is his specialty. (Learn more visit: how my sins can be forgiven).
The saints have spoken about the need to continuously seek deeper contrition so to hopefully obtain true contrition and our inability to know if we are in fact forgiven–in the state of grace. St. Ignatius of Loyola, who tells in his autobiography how he wasn’t sure of his forgiveness but also how he didn’t fret over that uncertainty either but lived focusing on serving God instead. Ignatius said in the third person, “He [Ignatius] declared indeed that though filled with the liveliest abhorrence [hate] of his past sins, he could not assure himself that they were forgiven yet in his austerities so intense was his desire to do great things for Christ that he did not think of his sins.” Like St. Ignatius, even if we become aware of our great misery, we can’t dwell on our sinfulness but rather on giving our lives to perfectly love God. Of course we need to know of our sinfulness, as that keeps us humble, but never allow that to bring us despair.
We are called to confess the best we can, to the best of our understanding believing we sincere hate all of ours sins (or at least the sins we are confessing) and truly make firm resolution to not sin again–work to become a saint and stop our sins. After our honest confession, we are to let go wondering if God has forgiven us. Remember God wants to forgive us. If we weren’t forgive, it isn’t from God’s lack of desire but from our lack of desire to embrace His saving grace. Therefore, we move forward seeking to grow in greater faith and contrition.
Unless God allows us to realize we really didn’t hate our sin nor truly seek to stop committing them, then at that point, we can repent and change and resolve to correct what was lacking. However, if we realize we really haven’t really had true sorrow for our sin, and still don’t sincerely wish to do what is necessary to stop them, we need to fully understand, we are most certainly not in the state of grace and are choosing Hell instead. But until such enlightenment comes alone, we are to let our sins we confess go and trust that God forgave us. However, this is the part that the devil has confused most of us with, you see, we will be forgiven of any sin we have true sorrow for, however unless we are truly sorry for each and every sin we are still reject God’s saving mercy–His sanctifying grace. Saving grace can’t live in a soul that still desires any sin.
God doesn’t necessarily want us to focus on the sins of our past, even if we can’t commit to truly stopping all of our crimes (work to become a saint). He wants us to focus on changing what we can at a rate we can and growing to where someday we can honestly never want to offend Him again. But please don’t fall into the trap so many do and think we were forgiven, but still live life just the same with no change. If we repeat the sins we just confessed, with no progression (change) away from that sins, we can be sure our contrition wasn’t in fact true. If we have true contrition, with God’s grace, we will be stopping our sins and becoming like Christ, the one we are claiming to follow. And it won’t take forever to change from our lukewarm efforts, no from our strong desire to stop hurting God, we will remove sin after sin.
To know if we are relatively close to obtaining true sorrow for our sins or if we might have it, to ease the minds of those who worry, St. Theresa of Avila says if we have true contrition we would “rather die a thousand deaths” than commit a single offence against our Lord. If we would rather suffer any injury than injury God, we know we have most likely obtained a truly sorrowful heart. But like I said, to obtain that contrition we need to focus on learning what our sins are and then then we can be reasonable sure we are with a truly sorrowful heart. If we can still hardly see any sin, our blindness is still so great, coming to true contrition is almost impossible. Also, if we are still willing to sin at all, to gain some foreseen benefit for ourselves, we most certainly aren’t yet with true sorrow, true love for God. A truly sorrowful heart literally doesn’t want to sin at all, not in the smallest way and proves their love by their actions.
“The repentance which excludes the love of God [even imperfect contrition] is infernal like to that of the damned” (St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church).
“Love which goes before repentance is ordinarily imperfect; but being steeped in the sharpness of penitence [gaining great sorrow], it gains strength end becomes excellent love [perfect contrition]” (St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church).
more coming soon