How to Pull Out the “Weeds” of Sin in Our Recovery and Spiritual Lives

I’m definitely not the first person to compare sin to weeds in a garden. But a recent weekend of helping pull weeds at my in-laws led me to contemplate just how apt the analogy is to our own spiritual lives and recovery.

Sins are like weeds in our lives because they are invasive and pervasive. They are invasive because they can bore deep into the root of our lives and pervasive because they can spread easily and widely, affecting the entity of our lives and those around us. As people in recovery, we know only too well this truth when it comes to the sin of our addiction and/or unhealthy attachment.

I thought of this as I kneeled in the dirt, spotted an ugly weed, grabbed hold of it, and felt the root system give way as I pulled it out of the ground (which is a strangely satisfying thing to do). Removing it from the garden, watching the area be cleared of these weeds, and seeing the garden slowly change into a more beautiful space reminded me of how recovery works in our lives. As we frequent the sacraments, work the steps, pray, and form other healthy and life-giving habits, we slowly start to see our lives turn more and more beautiful. 

However, our sins, like weeds, are difficult to destroy. It’s hard to stop a destructive behavioral pattern as well as take responsibility for something we’ve done wrong. And regardless of how long we’ve been in recovery, bad behaviors can easily creep into our lives just as weeds slowly grow back into a beautiful garden.

I think we can all agree that it is a great joy when we are able to pull a big, ugly, and dandelion-sized sin from our lives. We should rejoice to see sinful habits disappear from our daily lives through the slow work of recovery. And God rejoices with us! But in the garden of our lives, we are called to address all sins—every single weed. It is not enough to pull the big and obvious ones and then walk away like we are done with the job.

I think there are two ways that we can ensure we are continuing to weed out sins from our lives, whether large or small.

First, we must always acknowledge the sin. If we are unwilling to admit that there is something in our lives that is ugly and needs to be pulled out, then how can we expect it to ever be removed? We must accept that, contrary to popular belief, sin is a terrible thing and worthy of sending us to hell if not for the redeeming mercy of Christ.

Second, after accepting sin as ugly and something that needs to be removed, we can visualize holding our sin in our hands and laying it at the feet of Jesus. A great opportunity to do this is during Eucharistic adoration or even right before or after the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In other words, after recognizing our sin, we must repent, asking Jesus to forgive us and asking for His grace to sin no more. 

Let us recall the redeeming power of the Lord’s forgiveness: “He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).

Yet, sinful behaviors can be so ingrained that we fall back into them even after the most honest appeal to God and a period of sustained sobriety. Thankfully, our Lord’s sacrifice has no limitations. When necessary, ask for forgiveness again and frequent the sacraments, trust in the Lord’s merciful power, practice healthy habits such as doing the work of recovery, attending your local meetings regularly, reciting novenas, meditating on Scripture, and whatever else you can do to maintain conscious contact with God.

Like everyone else, I have areas of sin that pop up from time to time, especially when I’m stressed and tired. I think God used my frustration over our ongoing weed problem to give me new insight into how our sins creep in and choke the joy out of our lives if we don’t continually root them out with the help and mercy of Jesus Christ.

Aaron Walter is a lifelong Catholic and former porn addict whose ministry, NewMenRising, is dedicated to pornography addiction recovery. He is a coach, mentor, and accountability partner and is passionate about helping husbands kick their addiction and transform their lives and relationships. You can connect with him at calendly.com/aaronwaltercoachingsessions.