How temptations begin to become sinful

July 20, 2021 • 5 min

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 230

How temptation and delectation may become sinful.

The princess of whom we have before spoken, could not prevent the proposition which was made to her, because, as was assumed, it was made against her will; but had she, on the contrary, given it the least encouragement, or betrayed a willingness to grant her love to him who courted her, doubtless she would then have been guilty in the sight of God, and however she might dissemble it, would certainly deserve both blame and punishment.

Thus it sometimes happens that the temptation alone involves us in sin, because we ourselves are the cause of it.

For example: I know that when I play I fall easily into violent passion and blasphemy, and that gaming serves me as a temptation to those sins; I sin, therefore, as often as I play, and I am accountable for all the temptations which may come upon me.

In like manner, if I know that certain conversations will expose me to the danger of falling into sin, and yet willingly take part in them, I am doubtless guilty for all the temptations I may meet with on such occasions.

When the delectation which proceeds from the temptation can be avoided, it is always a greater or less sin to admit it in proportion as the pleasure we take, or the consent we give to it is of a longer or shorter duration.

The young princess, before alluded to, would be highly to blame if, having heard the impure proposal, she took pleasure in it, and let her heart feel satisfaction on so evil a subject; for although she did not consent to the execution of what is proposed to her, she consented, nevertheless, to the interior application of her heart to the evil, by the pleasure she took therein, because it is always criminal to apply either the heart or the body to anything that is immodest, nay, this sin depends so much on the consent of the heart, that without it the application of the body could not be a sin.

Therefore, whenever you are tempted to any sin, consider whether you yourself have not willingly given occasion to your being tempted, for then the temptation itself puts you in a state of sin, on account of the danger into which you have cast yourself: this is to be understood when you could conveniently have avoided the occasion, and could have foreseen, or ought to, the approach of the temptation; but if you have given no occasion to the temptation, it cannot in any way be imputed to you as a sin.

When the delectation which follows temptation might have been avoided, and yet has not, there is always some kind of sin, according to the time one has dwelt upon it, more or less, or according to the pleasure one has taken in it.

A woman who has given no occasion to her being courted, and yet takes pleasure therein, is nevertheless to be blamed, if the pleasure she takes originates in no other cause than the courtship. But if, for example, he who sues for her love is an excellent musician, and she should take pleasure, not in his courtship, but in the harmony and sweetness of his music, this would be no sin: though she ought not to continue long in this pleasure, for fear she should pass from it to a desire to be courted.

In like manner, if anyone should propose to me some ingenious means of taking revenge of an enemy, and that I should neither delight in, nor give any consent to the proposed revenge, but only be pleased with the cleverness of the artful invention; although it would be no sin, still I ought not to continue long amusing myself with this pleasure, for fear lest by degrees it might carry me to take some delight in the revenge itself.

One is sometimes surprised by certain symptoms of pleasure which immediately follow a temptation, before he is well aware of it. This, at most, can only be a slight venial sin; but it becomes greater if, after we have perceived the evil, we stop some time, through negligence, to determine whether we should admit or reject that delectation; and the sin becomes still greater if, after being sensible of the delectation, we dwell upon it, through downright negligence, without having determined to reject it; but when we voluntarily, and with full deliberation, resolve to please ourselves in such delectations, this of itself is a great sin, provided that the object in which we take delight is also a great sin. It is a great crime in a woman to be willing to entertain evil affections, although she never designs to yield herself up really to them.

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