Religious Counseling of the Vice of Lust
One of the most addicting and habitual vice is the sins of the flesh. These sins involve man’s lower
passions that are correlated with his five senses. Even more addicting is the fact they correlate with man’s natural desire for procreation. Distortion of this natural end for merely pleasurable ends is the primary element of lust or unlawful desire of sexual desires. This disproportionate desire corrupts God’s gift and very easily can become a habitual vice. In most extreme cases, the sins of the flesh turn the other person into a object of pleasure instead of a person who reciprocates love. With these distortions in mind, a Christian Counselor must guide the penitent very carefully through the tricky waters of pleasure and emotion.
Sins of the flesh involve sins of self pleasure, pleasure with others via the conjugal act and distorted and unnatural sins that transgress the natural order of sex. While avoiding a detailed account of the types of these sins, the purpose of this article is to identify the central themes of these sins. First, they are usually completed out of self interest. Second, they usually deny the procreative element of sex. Third, they distort God’s gift of sexuality to man. Fourth, they are void of love and finally they are habitual in nature. This makes counseling this vice very difficult.
When counseling these individuals, one must identify the level of sexual misconduct. Second, one must identify the regularity of the actions and third, one must set up a prayer schedule. Within Protestant and Catholic circles prayer and scriptural references are indeed required as well as fasting and self denial to help train the will in overcoming temptation. Avoidance of occasions of sin and drugs is also important. In Catholic circles, frequent confession and reception of the Eucharist is encouraged as well as a devotion to Mary for purity. In the end, it is true the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. This is so true of the sins of the flesh. A counselor must be patient because one will fall again and again in this battle as one begins their change. Such failures should not be fiercely condemned but analyzed. As long as the person is trying to overcome sins of the flesh, then one should be judged less harshly when occasional falls occur…in fact in some Catholic circles, sins that would be considered mortal can be considered venial during relapse if the penitent is earnestly trying to rid himself of these sins. It is only when the penitent gives up completely that there is absolute danger and lost.
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Mark Moran, MA, GC-C, SCC-C