Many people find within themselves trends and habits that lead them to sin, which they feel they cannot control. Can they do anything about it? Here are some recommendations that might help.
1. Address the root causes of your sin, its underlying passions. Impatience, faithlessness, condemnation or despair often stem from the passion of pride. Frequently, our visible sins are only symptoms of a fundamental weakness that presents the real problem. Opposing our visible sins without addressing the underlying cause is like weeding our garden by taking out the leaves but leaving the roots. Unless we remove the roots, the weeds will grow back again. A long-term sufferer from a chronic illness will be wise to research its causes, consequences and treatment options. We should examine our spiritual ailments at least as thoroughly. The spiritual discourses of Abba Dorotheus, Elder Paisios of Mount Athos and other writings of the church fathers, will give us multiple insights into our passions, their root causes, and their cures.
2. Select the spiritual problem on which to concentrate. Surely, we will have multiple problems, and we must desire abstaining from every sin. However, a novice wrestler has few chances standing up against a group of more experienced and powerful fighters. Likewise, concentrating on a single passion gives us the greatest chances of success. With God’s help, we will win this battle, and our sense of achievement will inspire us in our struggle with the other passions.
3. Examine the situations that make you most vulnerable to a particular sin. By understanding the circumstances of your fall, you will know which contexts to avoid. This includes avoidance of certain people. You do not eat from the same bowl with a tuberculosis patient. The same applies to our sins. For someone with an alcohol problem, it is best to avoid the company of a friend who is a drinker. Sadly, we might have to end this relationship, however difficult it may be for us.
4. Be consistent in your struggle. Write the sin that you are opposing and the practical advice from the writings of the church fathers. Make a point of following this advice in your daily life. Keep reading your notes to help you stay focused. Underline the recommendations that you find the most helpful.
5. Do not stop asking God for His help in your struggle. For the Lord calls on us, “Ask, and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7). Going it alone without God’s help is a recipe for defeat. We may ask for God’s help in our own words, but we must pray vehemently and from our hearts. Seek guidance and advice in your struggle from your confessor.
6. Confess and commune regularly, as often as possible. Accepting the Body and Blood of Christ into us in the sacrament of the Eucharist is essential. It gives us the strength and power to transform. Without it, we will make little progress, even when we know how to proceed. With the Lord, nothing is impossible. In the Lord’s Apostle wrote, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
7. Do not expect any immediate results. If you start something big, you cannot hope to have it accomplished a day later. Spiritual life is about endurance. Defeating our enemy will not be quick and easy. It will take patience and perseverance in our opposition to sin. The saints of the Church have endured and persevered, and we, too, should follow their example.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds