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NightOwl
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« on: November 06, 2012, 01:02:12 PM »

What defines a sinful thought? If something inappropriate flashes across my mind and I consciously reject it, is that still sin? If not, where's the cut-off point?
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« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2012, 01:22:14 PM »

I'm wondering too.
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« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2012, 01:29:02 PM »

Some Fathers divided sin in 3, 5 or even more degrees.

Stage 01) Just a flash of an idea - that is still not a sin. The mind is always in movement, and only the most well trained ones have a real quiet or peace of mind. This is not a sin.

Stage 02) Dialogue with sin - Instead of simply not paying attention to the thought (no matter how long it is sustained in our minds), we start "talking" to it, sometimes improving it, sometimes simply keeping it there. This is still not a sin, but it is getting closer.

Stage 03) Mental Acceptance - It's that point where you think "You know what, this is quite good" and you cultivate and entertain the thought. You call it back sometimes and you rather like it. This is a mental sin.

Stage 04) Practice - You go and do it. Maybe once, maybe twice, but now it is not a thought anymore. This is a practical sin.

Stage 05) Passion or Addiction - Now you can't stop doing it, even if with long timed pauses. It's not any longer something you choose to do, but something that somehow has conquered you, it is something that you are made to do. This is slavery to sin.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2012, 01:30:49 PM by Fabio Leite » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2012, 02:07:42 PM »

There is a wonderful discription of this in my copy of the philokalia
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« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2012, 02:21:57 PM »

Some Fathers divided sin in 3, 5 or even more degrees.

Stage 01) Just a flash of an idea - that is still not a sin. The mind is always in movement, and only the most well trained ones have a real quiet or peace of mind. This is not a sin.

Stage 02) Dialogue with sin - Instead of simply not paying attention to the thought (no matter how long it is sustained in our minds), we start "talking" to it, sometimes improving it, sometimes simply keeping it there. This is still not a sin, but it is getting closer.

Stage 03) Mental Acceptance - It's that point where you think "You know what, this is quite good" and you cultivate and entertain the thought. You call it back sometimes and you rather like it. This is a mental sin.

Stage 04) Practice - You go and do it. Maybe once, maybe twice, but now it is not a thought anymore. This is a practical sin.

Stage 05) Passion or Addiction - Now you can't stop doing it, even if with long timed pauses. It's not any longer something you choose to do, but something that somehow has conquered you, it is something that you are made to do. This is slavery to sin.
This is very useful. Can you cite a particular Faterh who breaks sin down in the same way?
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« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2012, 02:24:09 PM »

Some Fathers divided sin in 3, 5 or even more degrees.

Stage 01) Just a flash of an idea - that is still not a sin. The mind is always in movement, and only the most well trained ones have a real quiet or peace of mind. This is not a sin.

Stage 02) Dialogue with sin - Instead of simply not paying attention to the thought (no matter how long it is sustained in our minds), we start "talking" to it, sometimes improving it, sometimes simply keeping it there. This is still not a sin, but it is getting closer.

Stage 03) Mental Acceptance - It's that point where you think "You know what, this is quite good" and you cultivate and entertain the thought. You call it back sometimes and you rather like it. This is a mental sin.

Stage 04) Practice - You go and do it. Maybe once, maybe twice, but now it is not a thought anymore. This is a practical sin.

Stage 05) Passion or Addiction - Now you can't stop doing it, even if with long timed pauses. It's not any longer something you choose to do, but something that somehow has conquered you, it is something that you are made to do. This is slavery to sin.
Thank you, that's very helpful. What if the thoughts come back even if I don't want them to? For example if I come across something horrifying and get fixated on it? It's happened to me even doing something like flipping through the channels and glimpsing something especially graphic, or reading about something bad that happened in the news.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2012, 02:35:57 PM by NightOwl » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2012, 02:34:34 PM »

This topic is covered at length in the second section of Fr. Dumitru Staniloae's "Orthodox Spirituality." The book is quite dense and complex and frankly a bit over my head, but this section on passions at least was easy enough to digest (I think!)
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« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2012, 02:35:22 PM »

As soon as I get back home.

Some Fathers divided sin in 3, 5 or even more degrees.

Stage 01) Just a flash of an idea - that is still not a sin. The mind is always in movement, and only the most well trained ones have a real quiet or peace of mind. This is not a sin.

Stage 02) Dialogue with sin - Instead of simply not paying attention to the thought (no matter how long it is sustained in our minds), we start "talking" to it, sometimes improving it, sometimes simply keeping it there. This is still not a sin, but it is getting closer.

Stage 03) Mental Acceptance - It's that point where you think "You know what, this is quite good" and you cultivate and entertain the thought. You call it back sometimes and you rather like it. This is a mental sin.

Stage 04) Practice - You go and do it. Maybe once, maybe twice, but now it is not a thought anymore. This is a practical sin.

Stage 05) Passion or Addiction - Now you can't stop doing it, even if with long timed pauses. It's not any longer something you choose to do, but something that somehow has conquered you, it is something that you are made to do. This is slavery to sin.
This is very useful. Can you cite a particular Faterh who breaks sin down in the same way?
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« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2012, 02:57:19 PM »

Some kind of thought will always come. As I said, true peace of mind, when our spirit reflects the peace of God is the achievement of a lifetime of prayer and fasting, not something that we conquer by sheer willpower.

These thoughts lay dormant in our "hidden files" of the mind, and are triggered, as you have experienced, by sounds, images, smells, situations, coming back to our conscious mind.

Each time they are triggered they are reinforced. And will return the next time with even less stymulus, and weaker, requiring a stronger stymulus to get the same impact. It acts basically like a drug.

Well, to get rid of them (the stage of purification), we must change the content of our "hidden files". This is a slow process. First, you must avoid everything that estimulates these thoughts (got now why some saints fled to the desert?). By this you will "starve" them to "death". At the same time, you can't simply keep the house empty or new bad thoughts will enter. You have to fill it with good things. Church recommendation is the lives of saints, truly healing images like those of the traditional icons, truly spiritually healing music like traditional religious chant (both byzantine or traditional gregorian). The forms of these stories, images and sounds will shape the form of your soul and heart. Of course, just like sins have those 5 stages, so does virtue. You can think of it and dialogue with virtue and that is not a virtue yet. You accept it is good and desire it, and you have a mental virtue. You practice it some times and this is practical virtue. When it becomes a second nature to you then you've been healed in that particular aspect. So you have the theoretical part where you let God purify your heart: you abstain of bad input, and search good input. then you reinforce the good things with practice until it becomes second nature. This process is Purification. When you are completely clean of all impurities, then you've reached Enlightment. After Enlightment you still have the final, holiest stage which is the fulness of the participation in the glory of God that is Theosis. And about that all is joy, peace and silence.

Some Fathers divided sin in 3, 5 or even more degrees.

Stage 01) Just a flash of an idea - that is still not a sin. The mind is always in movement, and only the most well trained ones have a real quiet or peace of mind. This is not a sin.

Stage 02) Dialogue with sin - Instead of simply not paying attention to the thought (no matter how long it is sustained in our minds), we start "talking" to it, sometimes improving it, sometimes simply keeping it there. This is still not a sin, but it is getting closer.

Stage 03) Mental Acceptance - It's that point where you think "You know what, this is quite good" and you cultivate and entertain the thought. You call it back sometimes and you rather like it. This is a mental sin.

Stage 04) Practice - You go and do it. Maybe once, maybe twice, but now it is not a thought anymore. This is a practical sin.

Stage 05) Passion or Addiction - Now you can't stop doing it, even if with long timed pauses. It's not any longer something you choose to do, but something that somehow has conquered you, it is something that you are made to do. This is slavery to sin.
Thank you, that's very helpful. What if the thoughts come back even if I don't want them to? For example if I come across something horrifying and get fixated on it? It's happened to me even doing something like flipping through the channels and glimpsing something especially graphic, or reading about something bad that happened in the news.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2012, 03:14:01 PM by Fabio Leite » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2012, 03:02:25 PM »

Man, this is such a relief. I had actually wanted to ask this question myself.
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« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2012, 03:22:28 PM »

Reassuring to see others with similar dilemmas. I mean I consider myself pretty desensitized anyway at this point but there are always "new lows". Thanks for the help, Fabio. I think I'm starting to fully understand the actual necessity of a regular liturgical, prayer, and fasting life.
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« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2012, 08:27:17 AM »

Papist,

I hoped to have a list already prepared, but I found varied sources, specially in the Philokalia - your best source for this subject. It seems I have a new homework to do. Smiley Meanwhile, you can have a look at this:

http://orthodoxcounselor.com/Articles/logismoi.htm#Stages of Logismoi

http://www.auburn.edu/~goldsrj/2207F03/augustine_sin.html

http://www.orthodoxphotos.com/readings/law/sin.shtml

http://www.asna.ca/resources/five-stages.pdf

http://www.asna.ca/resources/five-steps.pdf

As soon as I get back home.

Some Fathers divided sin in 3, 5 or even more degrees.

Stage 01) Just a flash of an idea - that is still not a sin. The mind is always in movement, and only the most well trained ones have a real quiet or peace of mind. This is not a sin.

Stage 02) Dialogue with sin - Instead of simply not paying attention to the thought (no matter how long it is sustained in our minds), we start "talking" to it, sometimes improving it, sometimes simply keeping it there. This is still not a sin, but it is getting closer.

Stage 03) Mental Acceptance - It's that point where you think "You know what, this is quite good" and you cultivate and entertain the thought. You call it back sometimes and you rather like it. This is a mental sin.

Stage 04) Practice - You go and do it. Maybe once, maybe twice, but now it is not a thought anymore. This is a practical sin.

Stage 05) Passion or Addiction - Now you can't stop doing it, even if with long timed pauses. It's not any longer something you choose to do, but something that somehow has conquered you, it is something that you are made to do. This is slavery to sin.
This is very useful. Can you cite a particular Faterh who breaks sin down in the same way?
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« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2012, 12:32:59 PM »

If you don't want to read, you might also check out Ancient Faith Radio: Speaking the Truth in Love w/ Fr. Tom Hopko. The September 25, 2010 episode (just heard it this morning!) is called "Our Thoughts, Feelings, and Memories" and is right on this topic. It was such a great episode that I am not going to delete it from my iPod  Grin
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« Reply #13 on: November 08, 2012, 03:40:44 PM »

Dear All,

For me, there are two actions:

First, I respond with the Jesus Prayer until they leave me alone.
Second, I bring them to Holy Confession - again and again and again as needed.  I don't go into detail, because I refuse to revisit thoughts I didn't want to have in the first place.  It's difficult to keep confessing the same shameful things over and over, but it's our cure and our defense.

Love, elephant
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« Reply #14 on: November 08, 2012, 06:32:48 PM »

Dear All,

For me, there are two actions:

First, I respond with the Jesus Prayer until they leave me alone.
Second, I bring them to Holy Confession - again and again and again as needed.  I don't go into detail, because I refuse to revisit thoughts I didn't want to have in the first place.  It's difficult to keep confessing the same shameful things over and over, but it's our cure and our defense.

Love, elephant



This I dig
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« Reply #15 on: November 08, 2012, 07:04:58 PM »

Dear All,

For me, there are two actions:

First, I respond with the Jesus Prayer until they leave me alone.
Second, I bring them to Holy Confession - again and again and again as needed.  I don't go into detail, because I refuse to revisit thoughts I didn't want to have in the first place.  It's difficult to keep confessing the same shameful things over and over, but it's our cure and our defense.

Love, elephant


Right, that is probably the best way to address sin, but my question was how do you know if it's sin in the first place. Fabio's posts helped to clear it up and I will try and find that Fr Hopko episode.
« Last Edit: November 08, 2012, 07:05:11 PM by NightOwl » Logged
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« Reply #16 on: November 08, 2012, 08:56:47 PM »

Wow. Shocked Thanks Fabio Leite, Elephant and Izrima.  This is a weak spot for me as well.  Thank you for mentioning some weapons we can arm ourselves with in this battle.  Smiley

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« Reply #17 on: November 08, 2012, 09:00:41 PM »

Here it is! Transcript is available as well. Very good read/listen.

http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hopko/our_thoughts_feelings_and_memories

Main takeaways: accept that you're going to have evil or destructive thoughts but don't engage them; instead, "flee to God." Most relevant section:
Quote
What’s the teaching? The teaching is: the thoughts, the memories, and the feelings are going to be there. The teaching is: it’s not sinful to have them. You just have them. It’s not moral. You just have them. Now, the morality may be that you’re guilty for letting them into yourselves in the first place, but sometimes that’s not the case. Sometimes they were put into you before you even had any kind of choice or moral power at all. They’re in you from childhood. Or they’re in you just because something happens to you, somebody rapes you or something.

But there is a moral dimension when we choose them and cultivate them and assent to them and nurture them. Then of course there’s a moral [dimension]. For example, St. Athanasius the Great, he was asked the question, “Can you go to holy Communion if you’re a man and had emission of semen the day before?” And he said, “If it just came upon you in a dream or some blasphemous thought or something, unwilled memory, put the Cross upon yourselves. Ask for God’s mercy and go. But if you yourselves were engaged in pornography or went to a brothel or brought it on yourselves, then of course you must repent and do penance and endure not receiving Communion as a sign of penitence.” Or, put it another way, relating to the Communion as a penitent by not actually going forward because you’re saying to God you’re sorry that you have defiled your holiness, your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit.

So it all depends why. It all depends how. And that’s where we need help. That’s why we have spiritual fathers and mothers. That’s why we have friends in spiritual life direction. That’s why we have recovery groups. Because we need support and we need help and we need instruction and we need correction. We need all these things. You can’t do it by yourselves. But you’ve got to do it yourselves. And it’s by grace and by the help of others.
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« Reply #18 on: November 09, 2012, 01:12:51 AM »

Here it is! Transcript is available as well. Very good read/listen.

http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hopko/our_thoughts_feelings_and_memories

Main takeaways: accept that you're going to have evil or destructive thoughts but don't engage them; instead, "flee to God." Most relevant section:
Quote
What’s the teaching? The teaching is: the thoughts, the memories, and the feelings are going to be there. The teaching is: it’s not sinful to have them. You just have them. It’s not moral. You just have them. Now, the morality may be that you’re guilty for letting them into yourselves in the first place, but sometimes that’s not the case. Sometimes they were put into you before you even had any kind of choice or moral power at all. They’re in you from childhood. Or they’re in you just because something happens to you, somebody rapes you or something.

But there is a moral dimension when we choose them and cultivate them and assent to them and nurture them. Then of course there’s a moral [dimension]. For example, St. Athanasius the Great, he was asked the question, “Can you go to holy Communion if you’re a man and had emission of semen the day before?” And he said, “If it just came upon you in a dream or some blasphemous thought or something, unwilled memory, put the Cross upon yourselves. Ask for God’s mercy and go. But if you yourselves were engaged in pornography or went to a brothel or brought it on yourselves, then of course you must repent and do penance and endure not receiving Communion as a sign of penitence.” Or, put it another way, relating to the Communion as a penitent by not actually going forward because you’re saying to God you’re sorry that you have defiled your holiness, your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit.

So it all depends why. It all depends how. And that’s where we need help. That’s why we have spiritual fathers and mothers. That’s why we have friends in spiritual life direction. That’s why we have recovery groups. Because we need support and we need help and we need instruction and we need correction. We need all these things. You can’t do it by yourselves. But you’ve got to do it yourselves. And it’s by grace and by the help of others.

Good call on the transcript, NightOwl! I didn't even know AFR offered those. It gets better  Smiley

Fr. Tom is great. If you've ever been afraid to go to confession, just listen to Fr. Tom talk about sins. His words should be all the evidence you need that priests have heard it all before and don't hold our failings against us.

And best of luck to you, Deborah! It is a constant battle. You see even those great old Desert Fathers fighting the same demons.
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« Reply #19 on: November 09, 2012, 05:29:49 AM »

AFR - Is great I've just listened to that audio clip.

Are the Logismoi 'thoughts' we experience at times in Church from demons?.
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« Reply #20 on: November 09, 2012, 09:19:12 AM »

I am not sure if it is something in this: but the ole bad one (the evil one) cannot stand it when you pray the Jesus prayer (on chotki, beads or just say them out loud).

What elephant mentions (God bless you!) is the same actions i have had adviced from my priest and he asks me to stay occupied until it leaves you alone.
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« Reply #21 on: November 09, 2012, 01:06:02 PM »

St. Issac the Syrian says that sometimes are thoughts are so vicious and especilly thoughts of doubt that sometimes the only thing to do is go to sleep, I found this advice helpful before.
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« Reply #22 on: November 09, 2012, 01:21:25 PM »

Logismoi can be created by our own subconscious (echoes of memories and of senses) or from demons. Our discernment about thoughts must be where they lead to (God or not) and not so useful where they come from (demons or subconscious). The origin is often difficult to discern, where they lead is usually clear.

Another advice I once heard from non-Christians but still very useful is: "If you're not good, it may be difficult to see what good is - you don't know it, that's why you are not it. But being bad, you know what bad is. If you can't do good because you don't even know what it is, at least stop doing what is bad, and that you know well. You'll eventually create room in your heart for good to grow".
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« Reply #23 on: November 09, 2012, 03:22:05 PM »

Logismoi can be created by our own subconscious (echoes of memories and of senses) or from demons. Our discernment about thoughts must be where they lead to (God or not) and not so useful where they come from (demons or subconscious). The origin is often difficult to discern, where they lead is usually clear.

^^^^THIS^^^^ (especially the bolded part) is absolutely spot on.  Especially if your sense of discernment is not strong and/or you are not yet a baptised/chrismated Orthodox Christian.  Thanks again Fabio Leite! Smiley

Cheers
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« Reply #24 on: November 12, 2012, 03:16:26 PM »

I'm wondering where OCD fits into this, i.e. experiencing "intrusive" thoughts and obsessing over them, without embracing or desiring to ever act them out. If that makes sense. I believe I'm prone to OCD and am afraid that my fear of committing mental sin has made things worse.
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« Reply #25 on: November 12, 2012, 05:45:31 PM »

This is what I'm talking about, basically:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purely_Obsessional_OCD

Quote
The nature and type of Purely Obsessional OCD varies greatly, but the central theme for all sufferers is the emergence of a disturbing intrusive thought or question, an unwanted/inappropriate mental image, or a frightening impulse that causes the person extreme anxiety because it is antithetical to closely held religious beliefs, morals, or societal mores.[3] The fears associated with purely obsessional OCD tend to be far more personal and terrifying for the sufferer than what the fears of someone with traditional OCD may be. Pure O fears usually focus on self-devastating scenarios that the sufferer feels would ruin their life or the lives of those around them. An example of this difference could be that someone with traditional OCD is overly concerned or worried about security or cleanliness. While this is still distressing, it is not to the same level as someone with purely obsessional OCD who may be terrified that they have undergone a radical change in their sexuality (i.e.: might be or might have changed into a pedophile or become homosexual ), that they might be a murderer or that they might cause any form of harm to a loved one or an innocent person, or that they will go insane. They will understand that these fears are unlikely or even impossible but the anxiety felt will make the obsession seem real and meaningful. While those without Purely Obsessional OCD might instinctively respond to bizarre intrusive thoughts or impulses as insignificant and part of a normal variance in the human mind, someone with Purely Obsessional OCD will respond with profound alarm followed by an intense attempt to neutralize the thought or avoid having the thought again. The person begins to ask themselves constantly "Am I really capable of something like that?" or "Could that really happen?" or "Is that really me?" (even though they usually realize that their fear is irrational, which causes them further distress)[4] and puts tremendous effort into escaping or resolving the unwanted thought. They then end up in a vicious cycle of mentally searching for reassurance and trying to get a definitive answer.

I am very confused as to how to understand and deal with this in the context of sin/Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #26 on: November 12, 2012, 05:52:14 PM »

St. Issac the Syrian says that sometimes are thoughts are so vicious and especilly thoughts of doubt that sometimes the only thing to do is go to sleep, I found this advice helpful before.

I did too.
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« Reply #27 on: November 12, 2012, 06:27:51 PM »

If there is a mental condition involved, proper guidance by a psychologist (preferably Orthodox) is necessary:

http://orthodoxcounselor.com/
Quote
Healing for Anger
Healing for Lust
Healing for Depression
Healing for Addiction
Healing for Marriage
Healing for Anxiety
Healing from the Passions

Quote
Logismoi or Assaultive Thoughts
So how do we handle them?
Logismoi and Mental Disorders
http://orthodoxcounselor.com/Articles/logismoi.htm




http://ocampr.org/
Quote
OCAMPR exists to foster interdisciplinary dialogue and promote Christian fellowship among healing professionals in medicine, psychology and religion.

There is always the possibility that, in our over pathologized society, to diagnose something as a form of OCD is just... a wrong diagnose, particularly if it comes from a non-specialist. In case of serious suspicion (or maybe if there has already been a professional diagnose) I recommend contact with the people responsible for the sites above to find an Orthodox counselor or psychologist near you.



This is what I'm talking about, basically:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purely_Obsessional_OCD

Quote
The nature and type of Purely Obsessional OCD varies greatly, but the central theme for all sufferers is the emergence of a disturbing intrusive thought or question, an unwanted/inappropriate mental image, or a frightening impulse that causes the person extreme anxiety because it is antithetical to closely held religious beliefs, morals, or societal mores.[3] The fears associated with purely obsessional OCD tend to be far more personal and terrifying for the sufferer than what the fears of someone with traditional OCD may be. Pure O fears usually focus on self-devastating scenarios that the sufferer feels would ruin their life or the lives of those around them. An example of this difference could be that someone with traditional OCD is overly concerned or worried about security or cleanliness. While this is still distressing, it is not to the same level as someone with purely obsessional OCD who may be terrified that they have undergone a radical change in their sexuality (i.e.: might be or might have changed into a pedophile or become homosexual ), that they might be a murderer or that they might cause any form of harm to a loved one or an innocent person, or that they will go insane. They will understand that these fears are unlikely or even impossible but the anxiety felt will make the obsession seem real and meaningful. While those without Purely Obsessional OCD might instinctively respond to bizarre intrusive thoughts or impulses as insignificant and part of a normal variance in the human mind, someone with Purely Obsessional OCD will respond with profound alarm followed by an intense attempt to neutralize the thought or avoid having the thought again. The person begins to ask themselves constantly "Am I really capable of something like that?" or "Could that really happen?" or "Is that really me?" (even though they usually realize that their fear is irrational, which causes them further distress)[4] and puts tremendous effort into escaping or resolving the unwanted thought. They then end up in a vicious cycle of mentally searching for reassurance and trying to get a definitive answer.

I am very confused as to how to understand and deal with this in the context of sin/Orthodoxy.
« Last Edit: November 12, 2012, 06:30:17 PM by Fabio Leite » Logged

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« Reply #28 on: November 14, 2012, 05:46:22 PM »

What defines a sinful thought? If something inappropriate flashes across my mind and I consciously reject it, is that still sin? If not, where's the cut-off point?

Psalm 19:12
Who can understand his errors? cleanse me from secret faults
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Great googly moogly!


« Reply #29 on: November 14, 2012, 07:32:37 PM »

Every day Jesus prayed, and he told us to pray like this also, and part of it was to forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
So I would reply it is not for us to define it as much as to pray and have mercy on others.
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« Reply #30 on: November 14, 2012, 08:03:48 PM »

The Jesus Prayer is a strong prayer and I also have come to realize that asking Saint Seraphim Of Sarov for help is also a great deal of help when sinful thoughts enters the fragile minds we do have.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2012, 08:04:12 PM by Tommelomsky » Logged

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