Monday, July 02, 2007

Some Practical Steps for Overcoming Impurity

From Father James R. Searby, parochial vicar at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Annandale, Va.

The following ideas and steps are some practical steps to beginning the struggle for purity. They are not in any order and should not all be done at once. Remember, it is not quantity but quality of the tasks we undertake that lead us to perfection and holiness.

As you undertake the real fight, the real struggle, the real battle, to overcome impurity and the habits of masturbation and pornography there is an important question you must ask yourself: “Do I really want to change?” If the answer is “yes” then ask “what is holding me back?” or “what is going on inside that needs to change in order for me to not be attached to this habit?”. If the answer is “not really?” then you have to ask why. Be totally sincere with yourself and with God. Without sincerity, be it in prayer, thought and confession, there can be no faith, hope or love. God cannot penetrate where we do not allow him. He respects our freedom too much. Be transparent to him. Let him see where you hurt, where you are weak, where you need him the most. Beg him constantly to open you up more and tear down the walls around your soul, to tear off the mask you wear.

When you wake up every morning, after you get ready for the day, plan to have 10 minutes to sit down in quite, have a cup of coffee or something, and quiet your heart. Ask Our Lord to help you to listen to Him today, to be aware of Him in the ordinary tasks of the day and then ask Him to help you to have peace of heart. This is important to do because a lot of times impurity and temptations come from having a lack of peace, a lack of quiet and then they are able to sneak up on you from out of nowhere and take you by surprise.

Order your life: Clean and organize your room, your car. Make a detailed schedule of your week and then, at the beginning of every week take time to go over it and plug in the specifics of that particular week. Disorder leads to more confusion and the “I don’t really care attitude” that leads to openness to temptation. Don’t get caught off guard with idleness.

The absolute, sure fire way to combat habits of impurity is through giving yourself. The habit of masturbation is a habit based on focusing on yourself and your own pleasure- combat it by giving yourself, by focusing on others before you think of yourself.

Plan good works:
  • At home
  • At school
  • At work
  • For family
  • For friends
  • Those in need (like the person who is ignored or misunderstood, or not as popular or attractive)
  • For your Church.
Plan out (every night)- one person that you are going to focus on helping, (praying for or serving) in a particular way. Plan out how to grow in a relationship with that person. Really learn to listen to them and serve them. Plan it out, set goals.

Have a workout plan. Set goals, don’t just say “I’m going to get in shape”. Say you are going to train for a particular event or toward a certain goal. Then make a plan on how and when you are going to begin to accomplish that goal.

Develop a “3 Month Interest Plan”: Think of things that interest you, which you would like to learn about. These should be things that you are personally interested in and that you personally want to learn about. It could be learning more about how cars work, how to work on them. You might be interested in archeology or marine studies. Are you interested in particular wars, how to make movies, photography? Do you want to someday climb a mountain or travel to another country where you will need some knowledge of another language? Is there a license or a certification you are interested in getting for the future? This “3 month interest plan” allows you to learn. Make a list of the things that interest you then, every 3 months begin to work on that interest. Take a class, do research online, go to the library and look up books on the subject, talk to specialists. These areas of study are not necessarily academic areas. They should be practical and things that capture your personal interest.

Get regular spiritual direction and weekly confession. This is a battle and you need to constantly hone yourself and grow in perfection. It is also necessary to have accountability to someone. You will be a little less likely to give in to temptations if you know that you have committed to honestly telling someone when you have fallen. The grace of the sacrament of confession is THE most powerful tool in the battle for purity.

Be aware, (through an examination of conscience every morning, afternoon and evening), of what triggers you. What are your weak points? What happens in your day that possibly triggers your thoughts to lead you to falling? Are there ads that you see in the paper or on buses? Idleness in front of the computer or TV? Conversations that you have with particular people? Be honest and take stock of them and then ask God to purify your imagination and memory. Awareness is half the battle.

When the temptations do occur be aware of what is going on around you. Make a challenge to yourself to really be aware of what is going on. Know what time of day it is, the mood you’re in, the situation you’re in. Be aware of how stressed you are, how anxious, how angry, hungry, etc.
Here is a little exercise that is fun that will help develop your ability to be aware. Go to the refrigerator. Open the door and look at the contents for 10 seconds. Then, close the door and try to name all the contents and their location. Open the door and check yourself. Then try to bring your time and accuracy down. It might sound silly but it is actually fun and it trains your mind to be more aware and more noticing of your surroundings and how your mind is effected by them. (It’s also really great mental training if you ever want to be a detective.)

Ask yourself:
  • Am I lonely?
  • Do I have close friends (I mean really close friends) that I can confide in?
  • Do I have confidence in who I am?
  • Do I have a good self image?
  • Am I accepted by my peers?
  • Do I distrust God and his help?
  • Is there a hidden pain in my life that I am trying to cover up with physical pleasure and softness?
  • How do I deal with stress and anxiety?
  • Am I secretly afraid to let go of this habit? Of this pleasure? Why?
Have a daily mortification. Do something everyday that you can offer to God that makes you a little uncomfortable, something that helps you not give into your body’s desire for comfort. Give that to God and ask him to make you stronger not only in body but in soul as well. “Esto Vir!” (Be a man).
  • Look at your relationship with other people.
  • Do you really care about them?
  • Do you REALLY listen to them actively?
  • Do you care about what they have to say and how they are REALLY doing?
  • Do you ask them questions about themselves and what they think about particular topics?
  • In other words- do you really care about others out of charity as this is the only way to overcome yourself.)
  • Learn to laugh at yourself. Sometimes the devil tries to tear you down and make you feel like you are worthless when you fall and that causes sourness. Laugh, enjoy life, be joyful. Above all- you are loved by God, you are his son and he does not let sons go.
The final point and the first and most important is PRAYER. You must have a plan of exactly what you will do everyday to pray and make God the absolute, radical center of your life. I propose this plan to begin with. It is challenging but simple. It places God at the center of your day by keeping him involved in every part of it, yet it is not too challenging so as to be impossible. Remember, it is not quantity but quality. Will to do it, with love. Prayer is about growing in a relationship, in a relationship with God.

Wake up and have that conversation with God (then plan out your day):
  • Get to the Blessed Sacrament everyday and spend 15 minutes with Him in silence, talk to him. He wants to hear from you. If you cannot get to a church at all (and you should try to push yourself) at least go to a quite spot or to a statue or picture of Our Lady and pray there in peace.
  • Go for a walk and say the Rosary. It might seem hard but it only takes 15 minutes to say the Rosary but those little flowers to Our blessed Mother are always responded to with love. She ALWAYS listens and helps. Go for a walk, don’t sit still daydreaming. Walk and talk to her (also gets some energy out in the middle of the day).
  • Read the Gospels for 10 minutes in the evening. To get to know Jesus we must meet him and spend time with him. We do that through His Word, in the story of his life where we literally meet him and walk with him.
  • Weekly confession or as much as needed. If you have a moment of weakness and fall, don’t wait to go to confession, get right back up and keep moving. Don’t ruin the momentum and make excuses and continue to slump further away.
  • Go to Mass as often as possible. It does not take long and having Our Lord that close can’t help but change you. If you are in the state of mortal sin and cannot receive then try to go and ask the priest a few minutes early to hear your confession quick. If that is not possible then make a good spiritual communion and remain in the pew telling Our Lord how much you want him in your life. It WILL change you.
  • Ask people to pray for you. You don’t have to tell them why, just say “for a special intention,” but ask for their prayers. Intercession of others is powerful. Put the struggle into the hands of Our Lady and your Guardian Angel.


markdvnprt12 said...

When I was a teen I thought that I could never become a priest because I had wet dreams. I thought that all priests were pure. Now I hear of what all those priests did to the kids. What they did was a mortal sin. Masturbation is a venial sin. Those guys would have been better to do that and leave the kids alone, better to commit a venial sin and not a mortal sin. I read an article that was a survey of priests in Spain. During their priesthood 60% of priests had admitted to sexual relations, 65% with women and 34% with men. In total 95% of priests masturbated. If you add 60% to 95% this is over 100% so how many priests were actually physically pure? In my mind as long as a priest is celibate this is enough. I know that priest should never have emissions of semen as this is not supposed to be wasted but they are human beings just like the rest of us. Our human sexuality is not an evil thing but a gift from God.

Peace - Mark

Hsunami said...

Venial sin, mortal sin? Where is that in the Bible? When men lower the standards that God has set, chaos, hurt, and a life that's rife with guilt ensues. Because priests (and others) do not have self-control, cannot control own body, they'll be unable to resist any temptation that comes along.

Won't comment about the atrocious math skills.

If one wants to be pure, then it's all or nothing!