Many years ago, my spiritual director at the Opus Dei center I used to attend (back in college) would tell me not to take a purely defensive posture when it came struggling with sin. One of the concrete suggestions he would suggest is to up the tempo in my apostolic life. For example, to engage in acts of mercy, both spiritual and corporal. This is absolutely good strategy. Sometimes, the thought that the Enemy puts stumbling blocks in my path would strike me. While he is certainly disposed to do so, my current spiritual director reminds me that there are more practical concerns in dealing with concupiscence. I think the following are worth noting:
- There's a reason why we mention "near occasions of sin" in the Act of Contrition (the longer version). That first step can be a doozy alright.
- The defensive posture is probably more applicable in combat where you're waiting it out until the opponent makes a mistake, giving you an opening to launch your attack. That doesn't apply here, I think. The opponent is concupiscence.
- Launching the offensive is probably more effective, especially if it is in acting that one gets stronger and gains ground.
- Focus on one habitual sin at a time. Be methodical. Use psychology or whatever approach will give an edge in order to "know thyself" and thus, to master thyself, one step at a time.
- Frequent the sacraments, God's means of dispensing grace. The more habitual this becomes, the greater one's capacity.
- As St. Josemaria Escriva recommends, "[w]ith your apostolic life wipe out the slimy and filthy mark left by the impure sowers of hatred." -- even those that are left in us. "And light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart." You can light up the corners of your heart with that light, rooting out your attachment to sin, one crack, one corner at a time.
- As St. Paul wrote, "[p]ray without ceasing". I'd forgotten that, once upon a time, I would pray before every activity, making the activity itself part of my prayer. As Fr. Vincent Serpa said in one of his one-minute homilies, the extent to which we spend time with Christ, such as in prayer, is the extent to which we will rejoice when we see him. It is also to that extent that we will know him better, and unite with him more, and with our concupiscence less.
I'm actually writing the above more to myself than anyone else. I have not been living many of the strategies above, at least not so much in recent years.
Time to get cracking.