In the sport of boxing, opponents are judged on a multitude of criteria, but one is how many "clean" punches are landed. A punch is considered clean if it impacts the scoring area of the opponent (face, side of head, torso, etc) with the knuckle area of the aggressor. The important part is landing your punch in the right area. A good boxer doesn't throw away punches and knows how to connect and land those punches where he wants them.
The boxer learns to always be attentive in the ring, especially to small movements by the opponent. These small movements alert him to opportunities and warn him to prepare defense. These movements are but microseconds, but a talented boxers learns them well and is ready to react. The talented boxer is always "on his toes".
Landing these small punches was never the talent of an animal like Mike Tyson. He had such a powerful punch that he continually KO'd one fighter after the other. In some ways, Tyson was in a league of his own. His antics both in the ring and out proved he was not a man to emulate.
Now, this may seem over simplifying things, but life is like a boxing match. Our opponent may be ourselves, the world, or the devil, but let's face it, it can be a slugfest. In this slugfest, most of us aren't Mike Tyson - we can't down our enemy with one solidly sunk blow. Most of us fall into the amateur boxer category, where we just get by. We fight, we plant some punches, we dance, we weave, we get hit, sometimes we get KO'd. However, the method of scoring in the ring can teach us a valuable lesson.
The most obvious lesson learned is that small punches, as long as they are landed, are important. The more "clean" punches we throw, the more likely we are to be victorious. We can't simply play defense - dodging and weaving to victory,...it doesn't work that way. When entering the "ring" we have to be ready to fight. We have to be ready to land punches on our enemy. We have to be ready and willing to win! What are these small punches?
First, taking venial sin lightly is like failing to consider your opponents clean punches. Venial sin are punches landed on your scoring area that can ultimately lead you to lose the fight. Venial sin wears you down. Venial sin spells victory for your opponent. While we can block, dance, and weave, ultimately we have to plant some punches on this opponent. Landing these punches throughout the rounds wears down your opponent and builds your resolve and strength. These punches are the little things you do everyday, be them sacrifices, prayers, or commitments, which build you up and tear down the enemy.
Here is a quick list of "clean punches" for the spiritual life:
1. Fast from meat every friday throughout the year
2. Give up something for a 30 day period - soda, sweets, chips, beer, tv, etc.
3. Buy and commit to read a spiritual book daily - Imitation of Christ or Introduction to the Devout Life are good ones
4. Go to confession regularly
5. Say the Rosary
6. Lead all prayers in your family
7. Bless your family and home daily with Holy Water
8. Set standards for dresscode within your home
9. Refuse to allow R-rated movies to be shown in your home - no exceptions
10. Make evenings "quiet time" in the home - no radio, tv, internet, or loud talk - use this for prayer / reading time