The way that we think plays a large role in how we see the world and shaping the people we become. Our thoughts can be a powerful force for good, but they can also lead to sinful habits and destructive behavior.
Though we cannot always control what thoughts pop into our head, we do have the power to choose which thoughts we entertain. Jesus makes it clear that we will be held accountable even for our thoughts when He said, ‘But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’ And it is not only lustful thoughts that can lead us to sin. Giving in to the temptation of prideful, vain, or judgemental thoughts can also be harmful for our souls.
So if we can’t control what thoughts come into our heads, how can we keep our thoughts from becoming sinful? Recently a listener called in to Father Simon Says™ to ask about how to know whether a thought has crossed over to being sinful or not. Father Richard Simon responded:
“What I recommend to people is the moment you’re thinking something and your mind is going somewhere it shouldn’t go, to say a quick Hail Mary. I always say that a habit of vice is overcome only by a habit of virtue. And so, the devil hates the Hail Mary. It reminds us that the human body, especially a woman’s body, is sacred.
I don’t think it even has to be a devout one – though devout is better than not devout – because you develop that habit.
When you say to yourself, ‘I’m not going to think about this, I’m not going to think about this’ it’s all you can think about. They say that if there’s an elephant in the living room then go to the kitchen. It takes us away mentally. And if you develop the habit that the minute you realize you’re thinking something you shouldn’t think you say a Hail Mary, then you’re certainly not committing any sin.
Now, if you have sat there thinking, ‘Oh boy, that’s a really cool thought’ then you’re in trouble. Then I would bring that to Confession.”
Listen to the full conversation below: