How to stop sinning

(Image: Photo by Joshua Davis on Unsplash)

10 min • November 23, 2021

If you’re upset because you can’t stop committing sins, take the following steps:

First, avoid the near occasion of sin very diligently! No matter what it takes, do it, as long as the measure you’re taking is not also sinful. So don’t hurt yourself, of course. But if you need to avoid certain people, or even cut off certain friendships completely, do it! Some occasions we can’t avoid because of the state of life we’re in. Don’t worry about those, God will take care of that if you do the rest. He won’t let you fail when the occasion is not your fault. But be diligent in making sure it’s not!

Second, completely get rid of all entertainment that are not necessarily sinful, but are useless and empty. Things you can easily imagine the Saints living happily without. For example, nobody really needs social media, and most television and movies are useless (if not really bad). There are some good forms of entertainment, like holy movies and holy TV shows. Cancel Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime, and get Formed instead.

Third, keep a really solid, strict, healthy, balanced schedule for yourself. Sleep about 8 hours a night, going to bed early and waking up early. Eat healthy food, this will make you healthy, and will prevent you from having emotional difficulties caused by malnutrition. Emotional problems can lead into spiritual difficulties, and when it causes us to seem to have to struggle more than seems reasonable, we lose courage the spiritual battles. I’m not saying we have to exercise, because keeping busy in your daily life is going to do that well enough for you.

For those same reasons, keep yourself busy. It’s no good to be idle or bored. It leads to all sorts of trouble. When it’s time to work, keep yourself busy helping your family, or whoever God put in your life, either through work, or school, or chores, or errands. But don’t overdo it. This life has endless tasks by design, it’s part of God’s plan. So the jobs will never actually be “done,” but they can be “done enough” for the day every day. Do a reasonable amount of this kind of work every day. Not too much, but not too little, either.

Especially do your prayers! It’s incredibly easy to forget to look at life from God’s perspective, even when we do pray often. How much more so if we skip a few days of prayer! Pray some specific prayers for a few minutes ever morning, noon, and night. These 3 times a day are not too much, and are incredibly helpful in keeping you focused on your end goal, which is to avoid sin, to love God, and to be pleasing to him in everything you do. At least once or twice a day, do the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, St. Gertrude Prayer, St. Michael Prayer, and a Litany of your favorite Saints that have some special meaning to you. And do all these with your family as often as you can, for God much prefers us to pray together than alone. And I strongly recommend the Rosary every day if you have time. (But don’t make a vow of it!)

And at least every morning, if not also every night, do at least 10-20 minutes of holy reading. It doesn’t exactly matter which book you choose, as long as it’s one of the ones highly recommended (and not just “approved”) by the Church. That’s the whole point of this website, to make it easy for you to know which books those are, and to make it easy for you to read them. The front page has a random book snippet every time you load the page, and new snippets are being posted every day.

Daily holy reading is incredibly important, because we are so quickly and easily led away from God by the lies that the world absolutely, completely believes. Not just the big, obvious lies, like “abortion isn’t murder,” but things like, “relax, everything is fine, there is no ‘spiritual battle’, life is good and easy, just relax, celebrate, enjoy your life!” Or “you can’t have a good life without a college degree.” Given almost any serious topic at all, the wisdom of the world is completely different than God’s, and completely incompatible with it. The Saints knew this, and they lived God’s wisdom, while the world considered them fools.

The most important holy book is the Bible. But it’s really big and that can be intimidating. Plus it’s hard to know where to start. I strongly, strongly recommend that you listen to the Life and Truth Dramatized Audio New Testament at least 30 minutes every single day. Just put it on in the background. It doesn’t matter when, it really doesn’t. This is a good influence, in fact a pure influence, very effective to counteract all the bad thoughts that the world, the devil, and the flesh will suggest to you. This audio Bible, which is a very real Bible, was written by the Holy Spirit, and is very powerful to counteract the spirit of the world, the spirit of the devil, and the spirit of the flesh.

If by your prayers, your holy reading, or listening to the audio Bible, God inspires you with some really good thoughts which encourage you, hold on to them for the rest of the day! Keep them in your heart. Protect these thoughts, they are a gift from God! It may not be a physical gift, but it’s no less real! Keep these good and holy thoughts, and let them inspire and encourage you. But before acting on any of them, compare them to what you have read in your holy reading! It’s very easy to misunderstand what God is trying to tell us, and do the wrong thing. So be patient and don’t jump into any sacrifices or good deeds that you might regret later as being a little rash and imprudent.

Any time you are tempted with bad thoughts throughout the day, either of despair, or fear, or anger, or impatience, or boredom, or an unhealthy desire for pleasure or rest, or anything that you think Jesus would be ashamed of you for, then turn your heart to Jesus immediately. Turn to his Sacred Heart. Utter little prayers in your heart, and even out loud if you’re alone, calling down his Precious Blood upon you as if the High Priest were sprinkling it on you. Know that this is not just an imaginary technique, but it’s a very real reality, that if you call down any blessings, even though you don’t see them happening, they actually are happening in Heaven at that very moment. For the same reason, call upon your Guardian Angel and Patron Saints, and especially Mary and Joseph and St. Michael, in all your prayers.

Above all, keep yourself always close to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in your heart. That’s the whole point of all these steps, and they make it easier. But this is the end goal. It’s nearly impossible to sin if we are truly in Jesus and Jesus in us. All these other steps are how we can make it much easier for Jesus to come into our hearts and souls. First we have to clear out the garbage, which avoiding all occasions of sin will do. Then we have to clear out the cobwebs, which is getting rid of the useless entertainments and time wasters. Then we have to invite him and his family in. This is prayer, holy reading, and listening to the Bible.

After doing this for a short while, you will find that all your fears will eventually dissipate, like a fog clearing, as the love of Jesus grows in your heart, and the love of other things fades. You will find that everything you found tiresome and difficult about holy things will now become refreshing and enjoyable. You will eventually find those empty entertainments that you once wasted so many hours per day on, to be wearisome and even painful. You will find a new kind of joy and pleasure in doing all the duties that your state of life demands of you. You will feel refreshed, like a person who just woke up from a really good night’s sleep.

While not absolutely necessary to add to these steps, consider going to daily Mass if you can, especially first thing in the morning if your local parish has one. Be with Jesus alone for that small half an hour. Force yourself to stay off your phone, focus on the readings of the day as though God were trying to say something to you personally, and pray to Jesus from your heart. Then receive Holy Communion with heartfelt prayer, knowing that the very Person you’re trying to please by all these things, is now with you, and extremely pleased with you in this moment. Let him bless you from within your heart, and pray heartily.

There’s no shame in staying out of the communion line if you have mortal sin. It’s far far far worse to offend God by an unworthy Holy Communion, than to embarass yourself by staying in your seat, and you will regret going up when you shouldn’t have. But don’t panic either, God is trying to teach you something by asking you to stay seated when you’re in sin. Trust that he never teaches anyone who he has given up on, be encouraged by that, and just wait patiently until next Communion. You will enjoy it all the more.

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