Excessive?


We all know, at least we well-formed Catholics that everything, to excess, is sin, with one exception…God. But earthly things, like overeating, overdrinking, overspending, etc. can be sinful. But who is it left to, to determine what is “excess”?

Case in point, someone wrote me and asked this: “I visit a website which hosts pictures of beautiful people, among other things.  I like to go there and see models on the runway, on the beach, etc. in venue-appropriate attire.  Once in a while there is near-nudity, but it’s not very often, and I don’t focus on that.  Is it sinful?”  I told him I would post this and reply, but keep his identity to myself.

What I have to say may shock some people, but this is my opinion, having been someone who enjoyed doing things to excess, including enjoying visually what society has chosen to offer (if you catch my drift).   It is true that there are some black and white excesses.  Getting drunk on purpose is black and white-it’s objectively sinful.  Eating to excess on purpose is black and white-objectively sinful.  Watching pornography on purpose is objectively sinful.  But there are a lot of gray areas where a person really needs to have a grip on who he is by self-examination.

Know thyself.  Know your tolerances and limits.  There are some people who can eat 4000 calories a day every day and not be ‘over the line’, and there are some who smell food and go into binge eating (remember Bruce in “Finding Nemo”?).  There are some that can and do drink a bottle of <insert alcoholic beverage here>, and not be over the line, while some would fall over it at the scent of beer.

Regarding my friend’s habit, I believe it is left to the individual to know himself.  Would the sight of a bikini-clad woman cause him to lust, think sexual thoughts of her, or objectify her?  And these are the keys.  What’s in his mind while he’s looking at these air-brushed, well-pampered people who spend most of their day keeping their appearance up to snuff?  Does he focus on particular body parts?  I believe, if he can keep his thoughts to admiring a woman’s God-given attributes for just that, he’s ok.  Just OK.  Would it be better for him not to have this hobby? Sure.  Just as it would be better for the bottle-a-day drinker to not.  It used to be called keeping custody of the eyes, but it is also easy to loose such custody, given the preponderance of print, and visual media.

It’s very hard, but it’s not for we humans to judge that, it’s God’s.

I’d be interested to know what my (few) readers have to say on the subject…

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4 thoughts on “Excessive?

  1. I agree with you. It’s all about the intention, but if the person is questioning whether or not what he/she is doing is a sin, then that may be an indication that it’s time to find something else to look at.

  2. I agree. I think we focus too much on beauty as a society. I also told him to speak to a spiritual director, or his pastor.

  3. Of course the main issue is whether or not it leads one to lustful thoughts. As pointed out in your later post, not even full nudity is necessarily wrong to look at. In other words, it’s not just the objective thing you’re looking at, it’s the purpose and intent with which you are looking.

    I have found in my own case that A leads to B, which leads to C, and C is a mortal sin. So while I’m not going directly to C, if I go to A, knowing that nine times out of ten it eventually leads to C, then I’m putting myself in an occasion of sin.

    But again, that all depends on what my intent is in going to point A. For example in a museum, looking at great art, if a woman or man happens to be nude in a picture, it generally doesn’t lead to B or C. This is because my intent in a museum is to view art for beauty’s sake. So in my opinion what you have to monitor is your intent.

    If you want to look at a website just to admire women’s fashions or hairstyles or make-up, well OK, if that’s honestly your intent. But you need to be sure you’re being honest with yourself. Also, pay attention to whether it tends to lead to B or C, or if it stays on level A. If you find that whenever you do A it usually, or often, leads to B or C, then A is an occasion of sin and needs to be avoided.

  4. OK, I agree in principal, but here’s the thing. I truly admire beauty in all its forms. One of those, to me, is the female form. The curves, the hair, everything. In my former life, I would have very lustful thoughts. And I know that looking at some model in a bikini, like the newest Carl’s Jr. Ad, eating a sandwich very lasciviously, can lead to lustful thoughts. But I honestly see a beautiful woman eating a sandwich on the beach. Last week I was on a boating excursion in the Virgin Islands and a very beautiful girl was on the boat with her significant other. There was another girl who was even prettier to me, but she was covered with a t-shirt and shorts. I could honestly just admire the beauty of both girls, but the one in shorts and t-shirt was more appealing to my eye.
    So, can you go looking at model websites, or low-rider models magazines or Playboy and honestly say you’re not lusting? I don’t know.

    In my case above, I did a very thourough examination of conscience, and will bring it to my confessor, just in case. Because my opinion is not necessarily the right one…

What say you???

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