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What’s the difference between a sin and a bad habit?


Have you ever checked out our “Wisdom of the Day” posts? You have to scroll down a little to find them, but they’re worth looking for, as you can see here

and here

and in this little video we compiled:


I was struck, the other day, to see another quote from St. Teresa of Avila — the one which graces the header of this piece: “Don’t let your sins turn into bad habits” because it is a command that nearly begs the reader to ask, “what is the difference?”

That’s actually the question Zoe Romanowsky asked me, when the quote came up in a discussion of my most recent book, Little Sins Mean a Lot: Kicking Our Bad Habits Before They Kick Us:

When Zoe asked the question, this is how I answered it:

What’s the difference between a sin and a bad habit?

Teresa of Avila said, “Don’t let your sins turn into bad habits.” In my book I note that and then add: “Don’t let your bad habits turn into sins.” I confess I can’t always easily differentiate between them, but Teresa is a Doctor of the Church, so if she says there’s a difference, I will believe her. Maybe I can answer this way: if Teresa was talking to one of her nuns who had missed Mass once because she just wasn’t in the mood, she might caution, “Sister, don’t let your sin become a bad habit.” In other words, try not to do that again.

On the other hand, if she had a nun who was perhaps a bit of a dreamer, who missed the bells ringing calling her to Mass, she might caution the sister to not let that bad habit of unawareness — of dawdling in a daydream — turn into the sin of putting herself before God, before worship.

So, there is that.**

As long as I’m plugging features you may not have yet discovered on Aleteia, here are a few more:

SAINT OF THE DAY: Up at the top of the homepage, near the date there is always a link to the Saint of the Day feature.

DAILY PRAYERS: If you click on the Saint of the Day, you will find a box linking you to Morning Prayer and a Daily Meditation, Evening Prayer, as provided to us from Magnificat Magazine.

WEEKLY ADVICE: Katrina Fernandez’ weekly advice column is chock-full of sane advice and just gets stronger and stronger, week by week. You can email your questions to her at and she’ll answer them with her patented common sense and wisdom. Follow Katrina on Twitter at @Katrina_FIFY.

And, once again, do check out our Wisdom of the Day feature, (and the Photo of the Day, too). Bookmark these pages for a bit of inspiration!

[**The first two reviews at Amazon aside, I really don’t think it’s such a poorly-written book.]

Elizabeth Scalia is Editor-at-Large at Aleteia and the award-winning author of Strange Gods, Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life and Little Sins Mean a Lot: Kicking Our Bad Habits Before They Kick You. ​
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