Friday, July 10, 2009

Temptation ≠ Sin

"If we should undergo the temptation to every sin whatsoever during our whole life, that would not damage us in the Sight of God’s Majesty, provided we took no pleasure in it, and did not consent to it; and that because in temptation we do not act, we only suffer, and inasmuch as we take no delight in it, we can be liable to no blame. St Paul bore long time with temptations of the flesh, but so far from displeasing God thereby, He was glorified in them. The blessed Angela di Foligni underwent terrible carnal temptations, which move us to pity as we read of them. St Francis and St Benedict both experienced grievous temptations, so that the one cast himself amid thorns, the other into the snow, to quench them, but so far from losing anything of God’s Grace thereby, they greatly increased it.

Be then very courageous amid temptation, and never imagine yourself conquered so long as it is displeasing to you, ever bearing in mind the difference between experiencing and consenting to temptation, —that difference being,that whereas they may be experienced while most displeasing to us, we can never consent to them without taking pleasure in them, inasmuch as pleasure felt in a temptation is usually the first step towards consent. So let the enemies of our salvation spread as many snares and wiles in our way as they will, let them besiege the door of our heart perpetually, let them ply us with endless proposals to sin,—so long as we abide in our firm resolution to take no pleasure therein, we cannot offend God any more than the husband of the princess in my illustration could be displeased with her because of the overtures made to her, so long as she was in no way gratified by them. Of course, there is one great difference between my imaginary princess and the soul, namely, that the former has it in her power to drive away the messenger of evil and never hear him more, while the latter cannot always refuse to experience temptation, although it be always in its power to refuse consent. But how long soever the temptation may persist, it cannot harm us so long as it is unwelcome to us."

-- Introduction to the Devout Life by St Francis de Sales


Maria said...


Thank you for this post. I always feel guilty about my temptations, and it seems like the pain I feel over not fulfilling them does not take away the sin of the temptation. Thanks for the encouragement! My pastor told me yesterday that thoughts, as long as we don't delight in them or pursue them, are morally neutral. I now have more confidence in my resistance to temptation, and the pain will hopefully be, if not less, then more understandable, and I won't feel needlessly guilty.

ocd sister said...

Dear Maria,

To simply have a thought does not imply that a sin has been committed. Many saints struggled with horrible thoughts, but they did not commit a sin because they did not delight in the thought or carried it out. As for temptations, Jesus himself was tempted! So you're in great company. When you're struggling with something, stop right there and offer it to God, no matter how horrible or wicked it is, offer it to him and ask him to give you the grace to overcome and not fall. The devil loves to mortify us with our scruples and tries to lead us to despair. Don't give him the pleasure. Pray the Our Father slowly and say very carefully "THY WILL BE DONE... and LEAD US NOT into tempation BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL." He will never deny this prayer (that his will be done) if you abandon yourself to him. I'll pray for you. Please do the same for me.