The Safest Road to Hell is the Gradual One

Often when we think of what actions merit a “ticket” to Hell, we immediately think of murder or adultery. Yet Satan is much craftier than that and can lure a person to Hell over a lifetime of “smaller” sins to ensure that the person is obstinately and permanently separated from God.

No matter the sin, all that matters to Satan is separating the soul from God.

Screwtape puts it much more eloquently devilishly,

But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy [God]. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. (61, emphasis added)

Satan does not want us to know that we are on the road to Hell. If we did notice, that would alert us and we might turn back. Much safer is the road that is paved with little unrepentant sin after little unrepentant sin.

We might call these “venial” sins and on the surface they do not immediately take us away from God. However venial sins that become habitual, naturally lead to “mortal” sins (those sins that take us out of right relationship with God).

Let’s use the analogy of the string.

Our relationship with God can be likened to a string. We are both tied together by a string and remain firmly attached to each other. Venial sin is like taking a dull kitchen knife and sawing away at the string. We are still attached, but slowly our relationship is strained and starts to break down. Without repenting for these sins and going to Confession, the knife continues to saw away until the string breaks and we break our relationship with God by committing a mortal sin.

The Catholic Encyclopedia puts it this way,

Frequent and deliberate venial sin lessens the fervour of charity, disposes to mortal sin, and hinders the reception of graces God would otherwise give.

If we persist in these little venial sins, it is much more likely that we will falter under the weight of them all and commit a mortal sin that takes us completely away from God. Satan will use any means necessary to lure us to Hell and that includes the road of venial sins that creates in us a heart closed off to God.

A lifetime of unrepentant venial sins will do much damage. That is why we must never let our guard down. Sure, we will sin on a daily basis (we still live in a Fallen World), but we must not let sin rule our life and become our identity.

Confession: The Antidote

Many spiritual directors recommend confessing our sins at least once a month. For some, we might have to confess our sins twice a month. St. John Paul II went to confession every week. Pope Francis says he confesses his sins every two weeks. Suffice to say, those two pontiffs recognized how venial sin can weigh a person down and they did what they needed to be relieved of the weight.

Takeaway Point #10: Don’t let venial sin weigh you down. Get thee to the Confessional! Embrace the loving arms of God the Father, who is always there to welcome us home.




Read the Entire Series

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***If you would like to follow-along reading the The Screwtape Letters, I suggest to purchase your own copy of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. If you don’t like reading, I highly suggest buying the dramatization of the letters by Focus on the Family, called The Screwtape Letters: First Ever Full-cast Dramatization of the Diabolical Classic (Radio Theatre). It features Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and is well produced.

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