Is sinning in a dream actually sinful?

If you often remember your dreams, you’ve probably woken up feeling wide ranges of emotions. Dreams can be peaceful, comforting, or comical. They can also be frightening or disturbing. Sometimes our dreams are so vivid that in those first minutes after you wake up, it’s hard to know what was real and what wasn’t.

Sam called The Patrick Madrid Show with a concern about a dream he had. He asked Patrick: if someone sins in a dream, is it really a sin?

“No it is not, and thankfully so!” replied Patrick.

“I’ll be really candid with you, Sam. In the course of my life I have had dreams that were so vivid that from time to time, even after I woke up I couldn’t tell was that a dream or was that real? Did that really happen—because in those dreams I had committed some serious sin. And I remember feeling really terrible, like oh my gosh did I actually do that; did that really happen?” Patrick said.

He explained that after he fully awoke, it was clear that these dreams were just that—dreams, not reality.

What makes a sin?

Patrick offered an explanation for what makes something a sin. “The only way you can commit a sin of which you would be formally guilty is you have to intend to do it,” he said. Of course there may be extenuating circumstances to a committing a sin—someone forced you to do it, you were not aware that it was a sin, etc.—that would prevent you from being formally guilty of that sin.

So how does this relate to a case of sinning in a dream?

“In order to commit a mortal sin that you are formally guilty of, it requires sufficient reflection which you can’t do when you’re dreaming. It requires freedom to be able to choose to do something that you know God does not want you do to, and you don’t have freedom because you are dreaming, you’re asleep. And also the thing itself must be grave and that, too, isn’t present because you’re not really doing anything, you’re just dreaming about it. So all three of those requirements in order to commit a mortal sin are absent in the dream state,” Patrick explained.

Bottom line: nothing you do or say while dreaming will be held against you.

“Awesome! That’s a load off my mind!” said Sam.

“Mine, too!” laughed Patrick.

Listen to the full conversation:

Tune in to The Patrick Madrid Show weekdays at 8-11am CT only on Relevant Radio®.

St. Gregory Recovery Center
Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.