Counseling Against the Occasion of Sin

Counseling For Permanent Solutions

The vice of bad company can corrupt the faithful as one bad apple can rot a whole barrell
The vice of bad company can corrupt the faithful as one bad apple can rot a whole barrell
As is the case in all recovery from physical and addictive substances, vice and sin are no different.  A recovering sinner obsessed with a particular habitual vice has a long and hard road ahead of himself.  While the pentitent has made the personal decision to change his lifestyle, he still has a rough road of change.  When Christian Counseling these individuals, one must be patient and encouraging to the efforts and trials this person will attempt to overcome.
The removal of occasions of sin are the pivotal part in helping someone gain spiritual freedom.  Satan does not wish to relinquish his control and will become noisy again in the life of the pentitent.  His quiet days are over as he realizes the change of the person’s life.  Satan can no longer be quiet but will hope to disrupt the conversion process and impede virtuous practice with an array of spiritual temptations.  One who is recovering from a particular vice such as lust, must earnestly try harder to remove temptation via prayer, confession and reception of the sacraments.
However, one plays into the hands of Satan, when one purposely places himself into temptation filled situations.  Again the example of lust portrays excellent examples.  The pentitent who is attempting to live a virtuous life places himself in great spiritual harm by going to bars and other lustful places, or involving himself with sexual individuals who will gladly perform sexual favors.  These occasions of sin can cause relapse or destroy the conversion process completely.
Yet as a counselor, one must show patience with their spiritual children.  As one falls, one must again get up.  As one returns with remorse, the counselor cannot condemn, but aid the person to find greater strength.  The person already realizes the  perils and dangers of his spiritual life, he does not need condemnation but charity and guidance.  Through continued prayer and good works, eventually the tide can be turned.  Keep in mind, as stated earlier, recovering from a vice is much like recovering from an addiction.  In which case, even culpability is lessened even if occasional relapse occurs.
In many instances, the pentitent cannot escape the gravitational pull of the vice.  In this regard, while prayer and the sacraments strengthen the soul, one should admit the vulnerability of self and the lost nature of all souls without grace.  While overcoming temptation proves merit in battle, in may be worthwhile to pray that God removes the temptation from the person’s life.  Here the elimination of occasion of sin is imperative in the early stages of recovery.  The person’s spiritual immune system to the vice is so weakened that the smallest whisper of Satan can confuse and cause an incident of relapse.
It is important for all Christians to take into account a spiritual inventory of their life and recall all their acquinatances, places of interest and possessions that are directed away from God.  These things deviate the soul from holiness and prevent the soul from progressing spiritually.  It is even more true in the earliest stages of a soul’s spiritual renaissance that it will encounter the venemous vipers of the world that dig and pull at the soul from continuing its spiritually towards God.  St. Theresa of Avila, prudently points this out in her classic work, “The Interior Castle”. In this work,  she speaks of the illusions of the world and how they attempt to pull the soul away from its journey to God.  Only through time and closer union to God, does the soul soon break free from these parasitical vices of the world that hope to suck the grace and life of the soul.
In conclusion, I think it is prudent to bear attention to Matthew 7:6 where Scripture states not to give pearls to swine who will trample over one’s gifts, or to give to the dogs what is sacred.  Instead we are to share our lives with people who will also love us and share in the good news of Christ.  In the end, when one lives one’s faith among those who hold the faith with contempt, it is the virtuous who usually fall into sin and follow the ways of the unfaithful.
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Mark Moran, MA, GC-C, SCC-C