Here is an excerpt from my notes: eight principles for dealing with venial sin, from a conference given by Ralph Martin.
- Sin never helps
. . . although sometimes it seems as if it would. The source of all unhappiness and wounds in life is sin. Period. Sin is never the solution to the problem we think we're facing. Doing the right thing brings joy. It brings freedom to the soul.
- You can't achieve happiness without turning from serious sin.
Conversion and ongoing repentance is always a crisis of revelation. We're not always aware of the truth about ourselves. Sin is partnered with falsehood. Repentance brings light and truth and keeps us from having to run from ourselves.
- Big sins are bad. Small sins are less bad, but they're still bad.
Deliberately chosen offenses harm our relationship with God. They damage us. Inadvertent sins (like blurting out something wrong before you catch yourself) need to be addressed, but more important is the act consciously entered into that you know is wrong - even if it's not a serious sin in itself. Hatred is not too strong to direct toward sin - it's good to get your emotions involved to support your determination.
- We need to deal with our affection for sin.
We wistfully yearn for some of our sins, much as the Hebrews in the desert maintained an affection for Egypt. We can close the doors of our hearts, letting go of the affection and asking God for the grace to release it. Toward this end, it can help to meditate on the basic truths of the faith, such as the lengths to which God went to address the effects of sin.
- Temptation is not sin.
If you're tempted your whole life toward the same sin, there is nothing wrong with you! Some of the most renowned saints struggled to the end of their lives with temptations that perhaps many of us have been spared. The key is how we stay connected with the Lord in the middle of temptation. The best time to say "no" is the instant you become aware of the temptation -- don't make life harder than it needs to be. Identify temptation for what it is. Don't go easy on it. There's no need to bend down and engage the serpent in diplomatic conversation.
- Avoid the situations that often accompany temptation.
In other words, avoid the near occasion of sin. Stay away from the circumstances and situations that are associated with that sin.
- Talk to somebody.
Go to confession, get a spiritual director, talk to someone with spiritual maturity and stability who you trust. Talk to someone. Do it. Now.
Don't be impatient with your sin out of pride rather than contrition. Don't expect yourself to have the ability to change through your own efforts. Have confidence in God. Trust him to do in you what he wants to do.
And toward the end of St. Therese's life, she was rebuked by a sister after she spoke impatiently. Her response was to be glad to learn of "another fault to bring to the mercy of Christ." May we all have the same spirit.