In one of my recent internet searches I've come across the website sheworships.com. I was actually trying to see if I could coin the expression "gateway sin" but I realize it had been used long before me in several places, including this website. So I went through some of what the author of the site had written and was genuinely interested in her blog. Although written from a Christian standpoint -and usually on subjects directly related to Christianity- I found that many of her topics could be extrapolated within an Islamic framework and many things could be learned from her.
Anyways, here are excerpts from her post on sins which could lead to greater sins i.e. "gateway sin", which I recommend everyone to consider:
<Proverbs 25:28 - A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.
... Gateway sin: I am stealing this term from the frequently used “gateway drug,” a term refering to minor drugs which lead users into more serious habits of addiction. A person starts out using pot, thinking it’s no big deal, but eventually moves on to harder substances as the desire for a bigger high gets stronger.
It is the same with sin. We start out with a small sin, thinking it’s no big deal, but it leads us to into more serious habits of sin. This kind of struggle can range anywhere from lust, to gambling, to pride–as soon as you indulge your temptation, it’s much easier to do it again.
... As long as you haven’t indulged a sin and you haven’t tasted its sweetness, it’s much easier to stave off attacks. You have built up momentum that you need only maintain, so the walls more readily stand firm. But once you give into it, the walls come crumbling down.
Why? The first reason is that you feel less guilty recommitting the sin since you’ve already done it before. For instance, you may have been saving yourself for marriage, so you held off having sex for years. But then one day you mess up and sleep with someone. Now you’re not a virgin anymore, so all that waiting and holding off feels like it doesn’t matter. The gift is gone, so abstinence no longer seems urgent, or even important.
But the second reason that your proverbial walls fall down following that initial sin is that you now yearn to experience that pleasure again. As bitter as its consequences may be, sin is usually very sweet at the time–hence the reason that people keep doing it. So in the same way that I will not crave a dessert I’ve never tasted, it’s easy to resist a sin we’ve never experienced. But once I have a bite of that molten chocolate lava cake, it’s very difficult to resist having another. Very difficult indeed.
In this way, the initial breach of your “wall” is the most crucial point to guard against. Once you allow the behavior into your life, it’s exponentially more difficult to keep it out. After all, it’s much easier to maintain a wall than to completely rebuild one.
So don’t believe the lie that a small sin is no big deal. It may actually be a gateway sin that tears down your walls and leaves you vulnerable to even greater temptations. If, however, you’ve already allowed that initial breach in security to take place, there is still hope. With God’s help you can rebuild that wall, but it requires discipline. You must see sin for what it really is–no matter the size, it is all spiritually fatal. That is why a recovering alcoholic cannot even risk taking a sip. Even the smallest amount is enough to consume us.>
P.S.: In a comment on her work I've written:
<Hi. I enjoy reading your pieces, including this one. Anyways, near the end of your post you've mentioned that "don’t believe the lie that a small sin is no big deal." It might be interesting to note that in Islam, considering a sin to be small, is considered a big sin itself. So in fact, there is an internal mechanism to stop this mistake from happening. Allah bless you, and keep up the good work.>
I once learned form a wise man who said:
"Do not look at the smallness of the sin you're committing, but rather, at the greatness of Him whom you're disobeying"