“Ask a Priest: Why Is It So Tough to Stop Sinning?”

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Q: Even David in his great glory sinned. Even the apostles failed. Peter denied Christ three times. Some of them doubted the Resurrection even after seeing him walk on water, perform miracles (healing the blind, raising the dead). If sin is a choice, why can’t even the most faithful Christian stop sinning? Is it really that difficult to be a decent human being? You are in control of your thoughts, emotions and deeds. If it were that easy, why do people fail? Why can’t people simply make good choices? -I.O.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Your observations and questions bring to mind that quote from St. Paul, “What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate” (Romans 7:15).

The short answer to your questions could be this: Original sin has done serious damage to our human nature. It has darkened our intellects, weakened our wills, and disordered our passions.

God hasn’t given up on us, fortunately. He gives us grace to raise us up, but we need to do our part. That means we need a life of prayer, sacrifice, and a willingness to try to learn our faith better. If this seems like hard work, well, it is. But it is made easier by God’s grace.

Remember, life is a battle. The devil wants to drag us down, but Christ wants to lift us up. Christ is much more powerful than the devil, but that doesn’t mean we will glide through life. Which is why we need to commit to serious spiritual warfare.

(For more reading, see an earlier Q&A. For a helpful retreat guide on the theme, see “The Anatomy of Temptation”.)

I hope this helps. God bless.

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