Thursday, September 20, 2012

Old Habits Die Hard

Do you find yourself getting discouraged any time you sin? When you make serious efforts to eradicate those sins that have become habits in your life, does it seem like you meet up with a brick wall and continually fall into the same traps? I know any time I go to Confession I feel as though I just repeat the same laundry list of sins, receive absolution, do my penance (if one is assigned), and go about the rest of my day knowing that in a few weeks I'll be back in front of the same priest confessing the same sins I've been confessing for years now. Do you, like me, ever wonder what the point of it all is if all we're doing is falling into the same sins over and over and over again? How can we become holy people, saints, if we just keep sinning?

I remember hearing a saying while I was growing up - I don't remember where I heard it from or who said it first, I just remember hearing it. A saint isn't someone who never sins. A saint is someone who gets up and continues the struggle even after they've sinned. Perhaps St. Basil of Poiana Marului said it best in his Commentary on the Book of the Blessed Father Nil Sorsky:

Experience tells us that from time to time strugglers fall either in their thoughts or in their feelings... It is not possible even for the very greatest of men completely to avoid some fault in these daily sins which are not mortal and which consist of words, a thought, ignorance, forgetfulness or being compelled willingly or unwillingly by circumstance.

Even the greatest of men fall daily. The Scriptures tell us that even a righteous man falls seven times a day. Again, the mark of a truly holy person is not whether or not they fall, but what they do when they fall. It seems to me that at every fall we are presented with three possibilities: 1) We despair of ever overcoming sin and give up because we don't think it possible; 2) We choose to just remain in sin and persist in our sins because it is easier than struggling against them; 3) We get up, shake ourselves off, repent, and continue the fight, repenting of our sins and using them as opportunities to learn humility.

Elsewhere in the writings of St. Basil I've read that God often permits these sinful habits to persist in us, lest overcoming them at an inopportune time we become conceited and end up falling into even greater sins. So when you find yourself falling into the same sins over and over again, don't despair. Turn to God in repentance and humility, knowing that in His time He will give you the grace you need to overcome these faults, and that all the while He is preparing you for the day when you do.

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