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13 - DISCIPLINE OF THE MEMORY AND IMAGINATION: SINS OF IMAGINATION

SINS OF IMAGINATION:

Sexual immorality:

Suppose I work with a colleague from the other sex. The person is decent and he or she never flirts with me. Nevertheless, in my imagination I can commit the whole spectrum of sexually immoral sins with that innocent person. The person may be modest in his or her dress, but in my imagination, I parade that person in whatever flimsy ware that I fancy, or even undress him or her in my imagination, and commit fornication with that person repeated times. Now the reverse thing happens, whenever I see this person I start remembering the imaginary evils I commit with him or her. How do you think sexual harassment starts?
Another evil we commit by imagination is when we dwell on the sexual life of another person. Let me give you an example. You are sitting in a restaurant or a bus and you notice an elderly man and a young woman sitting together chatting in a friendly manner.
Immediately, in your imagination, you create an evil scenario, imagining the man to be her boss at work, and that she is his mistress ... The truth of the matter is that this is a girl sitting with her father, and you are falling not only into the sin of sexual phantasy but also into judging them.

Anger:

You have a mean boss at work who always puts you down, or a bully at school who always bothers you. You can’t do anything about it in reality, so instead, you take revenge against that person in your imagination. You imagine yourself verbally abusing this person or even beating him into pulp. You may also parade in your mind various accidents that befall him/her like being killed in a car accident or falling from a tall building ... and all the time evil feelings of delight are filling your heart. What you don’t realize is that you are committing murder in your imagination.

Judging:

If we disapprove of what someone else is doing, whether rightly or wrongly, we sometimes imagine ourselves giving a sermon to this person!Here we are delivering a passionate sermon, complete with verses from the Bible, rebuking that person for his/her evils and reminding him/her of God’s judgement against those who do such evil things, and vehemently calling upon him or her to repent!What I don’t realize is that I am committing the grave sin of judging others, and that God’s judgement against me for doing that, will far exceed any judgement God may have on that person I am giving a sermon to in my imagination.
These thoughts can be so presumptuous that sometimes I indulge in giving a sermon to my Sunday School teacher, or my parents or even my Father in confession!

Vainglory:

The devil sometimes excites in my imagination visions about my “righteousness.” I can indulge in imagining myself as a famous priest saving millions of souls by my “words of wisdom” and my “righteous life.” Or imagine myself as a monk or a nun, exceeding all my peers in my ascetism ... When I was around 12 years of age, I often had fantasies about being a martyr!I revelled in my imaginary steadfastness in face of all the diabolic tortures that were inflicted upon my “holy” self!

Daydreaming:

No one can be free from daydreams. But to indulge in excessive daydreaming is a sin that one has to confess about. Daydreams are useless, they waste valuable time that can be spent in study or prayer or reading the Bible. Many students sit to study, go through the motion of opening the book, sharpening the pencil, but get immediately drown in their bitter-sweet fantasies.
One very real danger of these daydreams is that they often start as innocent fantasies, but they almost always end up as sexual fantasies. Girls often fantasise about their wedding!They imagine the wedding dress, the maids of honour, the gorgeous church in which the wedding is done, the sumptuous reception that follows ... But, sooner or later this seemingly innocent fantasising will lead to fantasising about the ... wedding night.

Love of the world:

Love of the world is enmity with God. (Jas 4:4) St. James tells us in the same verse that whoever loves the world is an enemy of God. In spite of this, we often indulge in this sin by imagining ourselves living in great palaces, wearing the latest trendy clothes, driving one of those dream cars. Cars are big on the minds of our pre-teen children. They talk about them, they paste their icons on the walls of their bedrooms and dream about them.
I was driving a group of our own youngsters from Toronto after an activity day they had there, and all they cared to talk about during the return trip was cars!
This temptation was one of the three temptations that the devil tried with our Lord, when he took Christ on a high mountain and showed him in an instance all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, and told him, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” (Matt 4:9) Of course Jesus rebuked him, but how many times the devil tries the same trick on us by showing us all the worldly things he can give us if only we fall down and worship him. Every time we indulge in these fantasies, we are actually consenting to him!

Fantasizing about food:

This is specially dangerous when we fast!It is two weeks before the end of Lent and you fantasize about the sumptuous dinner you will have after the midnight mass. You can almost feel the food in your mouth and the smell in your nostrils. It is so real that your mouth starts to water!
Even when you are not fasting, you suddenly start imagining yourself with a juicy mouth-watering hamburger or a fabulous ice cream, or whatever makes your mouth water. What you don’t know is that you are committing gluttony in your imagination!
In the Old Testament, this sin assaulted the Israelites after they left Egypt. They told Moses, “We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic, but now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes. (Num 11:5-6) God sent the people quails but punished them severely for their gluttony. “And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague.” (Num 11:33)

The treatment:

The first step is to recognize these sins as they are, and not think that they are harmless thoughts or fantasies. As such, you ought to mention them in your confession. As with any other sin you are fighting against, you need to pray and ask for God’s grace to help you overcome them.

 


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