Did the Devil Make Me Do It?

A film came out last year called The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. The plot of the movie, as all of The Conjuring movies are, was based on a true story of demonic possession. In this particular installation, a man named Arne Johnson is charged with murdering his landlord, but according to him and the exorcist protagonists of the movie, he was compelled to do it because he was temporarily possessed by a demon. Johnson had recently been present at the exorcism of a family friend, and not wanting to watch his friend suffer, had invited the demon into his own body.

Johnson’s defense team seeks to prove his innocence based on this defense. Eventually, that defense was thrown out, but he was convicted of first-degree manslaughter instead of murder. Sentenced to 10-20 years in prison, Johnson ended up only serving 5 before being released.

Listener Mark recently called into The Patrick Madrid Show to ask Patrick about the level of culpability for the sins we commit, and how much of it is initiated by the devil. While the case of Arne Johnson was a sensationalist story in the media and a case of extreme sin and demonic influence, it raises similar questions. Arne invited the devil into himself, and it wrought havoc on those around him. At what point do intrusive thoughts stop being the devil using temptation, and start being us inviting sin into our life?

“I’m wondering about the devil and how much sin we initiate on our own, and how much sin he jumps into our heads with.

For example, when I’m praying, and all of a sudden something horrible and vile comes into my mind, I know that’s from the devil. I know I did not initiate that.

But let’s say I’m walking along and I’m not getting visually stimulated or aurally stimulated. I’m just walking along, minding my own business, not reading, just kind of a blank mind. And all of a sudden, some horrendous thought comes into my mind. My question is, how much of this is initiated by the devil and how much of it comes out of our own ‘sick, little’ minds?”

Patrick chuckled and replied, “Most of it is coming from the devil. Some of it is coming from your own ‘sick, little’ mind. And when I say ‘your’, I’m referring to all of us because we all have our own pathologies in the spiritual life.”

Patrick went on to explain the concept of angels and demons to give Mark a better understanding of why we aren’t as culpable for intrusive thoughts. Angels are the purely spiritual creatures that chose to serve God. Their purpose varies depending on what type of angel they are. Guardian angels are assigned to protect individuals. Archangels were tasked with the most important missions in salvation history. The Cherubim were said to guard the Tree of Life and the Ark of the Covenant. Angels are beings with a purpose.

Demons are not like this. They have no specific objectives except to claim your soul for the devil and hell. So, they wait. They wait and they watch. They observe how you fall into sin. They observe your strengths and your weaknesses and your habits and your vices. Then, they strike when it is most likely that you will give in to sin. It doesn’t take much more than a little push into the things that you’re already predisposed to desire, whether they be overtly sinful, or simply distracting from what’s really important.

The devil will also introduce intrusive thoughts when you’re gravitating toward good things, like prayer, the sacraments, or conversation with Our Lord. That’s why you may find yourself in silent prayer, or in line for communion, and all of a sudden, a sinful, scandalous thought pops into your brain. The devil is attempting to pull our attention away from God. “Hey, wouldn’t you rather think about this?” the devil asks.

Throughout our lives, we amass this large history of sins that the devil can pull from to throw in our faces. The older we get, the more we sin. And the more we sin, the more pitfalls the devil has to choose from. Patrick offered advice to Mark and his listeners who find themselves experiencing intrusive thoughts on a regular basis: go to your guardian angel. God gave us a personal protector for a reason. Ask your guardian angel to root out the sources of your temptation and protect you against the efforts of the devil.

The devil is responsible for everything up until the point where we either entertain those thoughts or act upon them. When we start entertaining fantasies of violent or sexual nature, that is when it becomes a sin. Never get to that point. As soon as you realize temptation has entered your mind, turn to prayer.

Tune in to The Patrick Madrid Show weekdays 8am – 11am CT

John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.