Learning to Name Sins Is to Have More Power Over Them

Over the years we have steadily been losing the vocabulary of sin. Saying “I have sinned” is often replaced by “I made a mistake,” or “I made a poor decision,” or “I’m sorry if my behavior was hurtful in some way.”

Not only are we slow to say we have sinned, we are also ignorant of the subtleties of sin, in part because our vocabulary about sin is so limited. In this state we lose a certain advantage over sin because to name something is the beginning of isolating it and having increasing authority over it. When I can name something, I can focus on it and work on it. It moves from the realm of the abstract and theoretical to the real world.

Over the years I have been compiling lists of the names for various sins. I do this as an outgrowth of deliverance ministry, in which the importance of naming demons cannot be overestimated. Most demons resist disclosing their names mightily because once the exorcist knows the name of a demon, his authority over it is magnified in Jesus.

This is also true in the ordinary situations of life, where demons tempt us, and where the world and our own flesh compound the problem. The more we can name the subtleties of sin the less difficult it is to gain mastery over them.

A good place to begin is with lying. Satan is the consummate liar and seeks to draw us into is web in hundreds of ways. Jesus says this of Satan:

He was a murderer from the beginning, refusing to uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, because he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).

The list below on lying is a work in progress. I am working on similar ones related to pride, sensuality, and the like; perhaps I will post these in the future. However, consider this a starting point of moving from an abstract notion of sin to something more real, more concrete.

There are not many people who will call themselves liars. Most will say, “I don’t tell lies—at least not big ones.” Lying and deceit come in many subtle forms, so don’t be so certain that you are free of the tendency. It’s hard to get far into this list without realizing that lying is alarmingly common to us, even if by other means and words. Don’t be discouraged; pick a few and work on overcoming them. Naming them gives us focus and power; by God’s grace, progress can be made by naming the demons that serve these evils.

Here are some words and phrases associated with lying:

Pretension, Affectation, Posing, Posturing, Unreality, Denial, Disavowal, Delusion, Labyrinth, Convoluted thinking, Cheating, Deliberate omission, Duplicity, Deceit, Dishonesty, Neglect of duty, Irreverence, Circumvention, Folly, Concealment, Suppression, Rationalization, Covering up, Blindness of spirit, Evasiveness, Caginess, Equivocation, Untruthfulness, Avoidance, Masking, Game-playing, Deception, Trickery, Sham, Illusion, Wishful thinking, Diversion, Entertaining error, Drama, Falsifying, Farce, Hallucination and dreaminess, Smoke and mirrors, Imitation, Aping, Phoniness, Fakery, Fraud, Scamming, Swindling, Libel, Slander, Defamation, Coyness, Cunning, Wiliness, Pretense, Calculating, Crafty, Undermining, Setting up false dichotomy, Distraction, Diversion, Changing the subject, Euphemisms, Understating, Overstating, Embellishment, Taking out of context, Absolutizing, Falsifying, Manipulating, Preconception, Prejudice, Rash judgment, Flattery, Fawning, Ingratiating, Insincerity, Artificiality, Hypocrisy, Sycophancy, Hedging, Juggling, Altering, Misrepresenting , Disguising, Vincible ignorance , Façade, Boasting, Showmanship, Theatrics, Acting , Trickery , Mockery, Appearances, Fantasy, Heresy, Deviance, Dissent, sheep’s clothing, Subversive, Cunning, Secretive, Substituting, Enigmatic, Irony, Mimicry, Mendacity, Fabrication, False witness, Spreading rumors, Evasion, Side-stepping, Dodging, Unreliable, Undependable, Unpredictable, Untrustworthy, Skirting, Shirking, Fudging, Ducking, Partial truth, Inaccuracy, Careless with the facts, Prevaricating, Stonewalling, Obstructing, Complicating.

All lying spirits, we name you and reject you in the name of Jesus. We ask every grace from God to be more honest, truthful, upright, and trustworthy. Jesus, you said, “I am the Truth.” Live in us and drive from us all that is not true.

Many exorcists use such lists against demons that refuse to state their name. In effect, the exorcist says, “If you won’t tell me your name then I will name you.” This typically causes the demon great pain in addition to that caused by the reading of the Rite of Exorcism itself.

For all of us, naming the drives of sin has a similar effect. It brings them out of obscurity and into the light of reason where their darkness can be scattered. It takes time, but these drives will surely diminish if we name them and consistently rebuke them when they arise.

12 Replies to “Learning to Name Sins Is to Have More Power Over Them”

  1. I work with someone who just tells little lies, so he says. It’s put me in the position of often wondering if what he says is true. I’ve told him he shouldn’t lie and sometimes he will start the conversation with, “ I told a little lie”. How would you work with someone like that?

  2. Wow! This is really powerful. I hope you make such lists for the capital sins so we can recognize them for what they are. Thank you and God bless you.

  3. “I’m sorry if my behavior was hurtful in some way.”

    This phrase just kills me. It’s the coward’s way of apologizing without admitting fault. It’s not “I’m sorry I did that” it’s “I’m sorry you were hurt by what I did, but I would still do it again because I actually don’t care about you, I just want you to think I do”, or “I feel bad that you feel bad”, but no admission of guilt or responsibility for one’s own action, in fact, it’s almost an accusation – “how dare you make me feel bad by you feeling bad!”

    Thank you for the list Monsignor, some of those phrases are unfamiliar to me (as respects lying) so I will definitely look more closely at them and see how they have been present in my own actions.

  4. Excluding sexual issues, I get more pushback on the Church’s unambiguous teaching that lying is always and everywhere wrong than any other. We’re either trying to carve out exceptions or ratcheting up scenarios with so much drama and temptation (e.g. Nazis at the door) to propose the nonsense that there are must-lie situations. But the Commandments are meant to stand firm all the more in tough situations, not get weaker. Otherwise they are not commandments, but suggestions.

  5. I hope you will publish similar lists for the other deadly sins as well. We truly have lost a vocabulary for sin and clearly need to reclaim it

  6. Thank you, Monsignore, great thoughts and really helpful. Even though I have to check the meaning of almost half of these words assosiatign with lying 😉 they’re not so easy for no native-speaker.
    God bless you +

  7. Excellent! Once after confessing the sin of lying, the priest told me that when we lie we give away a piece of integrity which can never be gotten back. This brought the proper amount of seriousness even to the “little white lie “.

  8. I recently researched lying and found that there were seven levels. The levels start very subtly and increase by nature and our fallen human nature (concupiscence). Many other words can be added to your list but the bottom line is to become holy one must find a creative way to speak truth in love and there we find our challenge. As you said in your webinar we are all under construction and our work should never stop. The adage that you can eat an elephant as long as you take one bite at a time or you could climb a mountain as long as you take oneo step at a time comes to mind. So we’re all capable of growing in holiness as long as we are aware that we must keep working towards being free from the bondage of sin.

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