“Ask a Priest: Should We ‘Get Over’ Our Recurring Sins?”

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Q: I have no problem “doing” what is right, but often find deep anger and sorrow in my heart over past issues. I know this is wrong and I pray about it and feel badly as I know this hurts my Father in heaven. Do these feelings need to be confessed? Also, our pastor has mentioned a few times the issue of hearing the “same sins” in confession, and he says that we should be “over” those sins (not exactly his words but close). I avoid going to him because of this statement. What do you think? – A.S.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Let me address the first point. If we nurture ill feelings or resentment, then we should mention that in confession.

Here it might help to meditate on Jesus’ mercy and how he died for all of us. That means he died for the people you are angry at.

Here it would help to recall that these people are precious in the eyes of Our Lord. He gave his blood for them — so there must be something good about them.

Remember, too, that forgiveness is an act of the will. It doesn’t depend on good feelings. We can forgive someone but still feel the wounds of the past. That is normal. The key is to make that act of the will to forgive. The bad feelings can fade over time.

As for confessing the same sins: this is normal. We tend to fall into the same sins because we struggle with certain ingrained bad habits. It’s part of the human condition. The key is to keep working patiently at overcoming those faults with prayer, good works and sacrifices.

You mention that those were “not exactly his words.” Perhaps there was a bit of misunderstanding here.

In any case, the priest might have been well-intentioned. Nevertheless, it’s not good that people be discouraged in the struggle against their recurring sins.

The very process of confessing these sins is part of the process of overcoming them (or at least not growing accustomed to them).

The Catechism in No. 1458 says, “Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit.”

If going to another confessor helps you, that is fine. The important thing is to take advantage of the sacrament.

One last suggestion: A good way to fight a bad habit is by cultivating the opposite virtue. If anger is a problem, then cultivate the virtue of patience and forgiveness.

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