Sinner versus Sinning

Sinner versus Sinning

St. Theophan the Recluse said that it is a small thing to acknowledge that you have sinned, but it takes enlightenment to acknowledge that you are a sinner. In confession, penitents often asked why they always seem to have the same sins to confess.

Sometimes I think the answer to this question is that the penitent has not yet begun to see him or herself as a sinner. They still think that they are merely sinning. Sinners know why they commit the same sin. They commit the same (in fact any) sins because they are sinners. They are not surprised by the vileness or recalcitrance they find in themselves because they know they are sinners. And this revelation breaks us. There is no one else to blame. Those who merely acknowledge that they have sinned are still tormented by the delusion that with just a little help from God, they could clean themselves up—if God would just take away the irritant that “makes” them sin. Sinners don’t have this delusion. They know that the irritant is not the problem. The sinner may still pray for the removal of the irritant, but not because their sin is the fault of another. Rather, the sinner sees clearly that her or his own weakness is the source of the sin and even if the irritant is removed, the sin is not healed until the sinner, him or herself, is healed—which will only be manifest when the sinner is at peace despite the irritant. Sinners are thrown utterly upon the mercy of God. For Sinners, “Lord, have mercy” means Lord, have mercy. For those who merely admit that they have sinned, “Lord, have mercy” may have very little meaning at all.

Every sin that is left without repentance is a sin unto death, for which if even a saint shall pray, he shall not be heard. (St. Mark the Ascetic)

God will cleanse your sins if you yourself are dissatisfied with yourself and will keep on changing until you are perfect. (St. Augustine)

The saints were people like all of us. Many of them came out of great sins, but by repentance they attained the Kingdom of Heaven. And everyone who comes there comes through repentance, which the merciful Lord has given us through His sufferings. (St. Silouan the Athonite)

If someone falls into any sin and is not sincerely grieved about it, it is easy for him to fall into the same thing again. (St. Mark the Ascetic)

If someone has repented once of a sin, and again does the same sin, this is a sign that he has not been cleansed of the causes of the sin, wherefrom, as from a root, the shoots spring forth again. (St. Basil the Great)

Whoever hates his sins will stop sinning; and whoever confesses them will receive remission. A man can not abandon the habit of sin if he does not first gain enmity toward sin, nor can he receive remission of sin without confession of sin. For the confession of sin is the cause of true humility. (St. Isaac of Nineveh)

The Lord greatly loves the repenting sinner and mercifully presses him to His bosom: “Where were you, My child? I was waiting a long time for you.” The Lord calls all to Himself with the voice of the Gospel, and his voice is heard in all the world: “Come to me, my sheep. I created you, and I love you. My love for you brought Me to earth, and I suffered all things for the sake of your salvation, and I want you all to know my love, and to say, like the apostles on Tabor: Lord, it is good for us to be with You.” (St. Silouan the Athonite)


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