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“Ask a Priest: What If It’s Tough to Work Around Women?”
Q: From elementary school days until just recently (I am 24), I struggled with temptations of impurity. I go to confession often. But now I’m feeling distress as I am in a nursing program where I will have to work with women and have female patients. Past sins have done damage to me, and it now makes me very nervous around women. I partnered up with a female classmate to practice our health-assessment skills, and it was distressing for me internally all throughout. Being someone who has hurt himself through sins in the past, I feel the serious demand to correct this aspect of my life so that I can move forward and be a good nurse who will glorify God with the work that he gave me. How can I move forward from this? How can I be comfortable? I feel as though I am in the situation where I desire Jesus to heal me both physically and spiritually. I have repented of my past sins, and I do my best to fight the temptations in my head. Some part of me thinks I need to rebuke this sin even more every time it comes along. Am I still living in this sin? Thank you. – L.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It’s good that you want to move ahead in your spiritual life and that you are taking concrete steps, such as frequent confession. In the sense that you are fighting temptation and keeping close to the sacraments, it doesn’t seem that you are “still living in this sin.”
Overcoming major areas of sin, especially in early adulthood, can often feel as though we are clawing our way out of a deep pit.
Your underlying question seems to come down to whether this job would put you in the near occasion of grave sin on an ongoing basis, and what you should do about it.
Obviously, we live in the world. Unless we plan to be hermits, we have to interact with people, including members of the opposite sex.
You could, of course, opt for a different career path. But that might or might not get to the root of the problem. The solution is to learn to deal with women in a healthy way.
Now, there are a number of factors in play. One is your age. At this stage of life, yes, certain temptations can be strong. And past falls can leave you feeling particularly vulnerable to new ones.
A positive point here is that you don’t seem to be under any illusions that you have slain this problem once and for all. That shows realism and humility, for certain temptations can return again and again. That is why your frequent use of confession is important.
There is also the dimension of experience, should you decide to stay with the job. That means that learning to interact naturally with women on the job will require experience. As you grow in the job, you might find it easier to deal with women on a professional basis.
If the situation doesn’t improve, you might want to reconsider your career path. You might look for other venues where you wouldn’t face a constant barrage of temptations.
Still, at some point you need to learn to deal with women more naturally. This would be an important step if you feel called to marriage someday. As a married man you would have to be able to deal with women in a chaste way.
The crucial groundwork for advancement will depend on your union with Christ. Having a solid prayer life and sacramental life can go a long way. Also helpful is a healthy dose of mortification; it can take many forms: cooler showers, lots of physical exercise, demanding use of time, etc.
Another area is to cultivate a positive love of purity and an ever-deeper respect for women as daughters of God. Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary through the rosary can help, as can devotion to saints such as Maria Goretti and Agnes.
Be sure to cultivate healthy friendships outside of work. There might be a young Catholic adults group in your area that could help you maintain balance in your life and get you involved in community projects. Count on my prayers.
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