Two men called on a pious old monk to seek his advice. "We acknowledge our sinful ways," they told him, "and we want to clear our consciences. Can you advise us on how to do this and get rid of our guilt?"

The old monk agreed to help. "But first," he said, "you will have to tell me about your sins."

The first man said, "I have committed a terrible sin, a grievous sin, a great big sin." The second man said, "Oh, I have committed a number of small sins, none of them grievious or terribly significant."

The holy man pondered the matter for a while, then said, "Each of you must bring me a stone, representing each one of his wrongdoings." The two men then set out to carry out the monk's instructions.

After a while, the first man staggered back, carrying with him a huge boulder. It was so heavy he could hardly lift it. With a loud grunt he dropped it before the old man.

Then the second man returned carrying a bag of small pebbles, which he promptly laid at the monk's feet.

"Very good work," said the monk. "Now, each of you take your stones and put them back where you found them."

The first man staggered back to the place from which he had brought the huge boulder.

But the second man was unable to remember where he had found each of his little pebbles. So he returned to the wise old man and told him that he couldn't carry out his instruction. The monk replied, "You must realize, my son, that sins are like those stones. If a man commits a big sin, it lies heavily on his conscience. But if he truly repents, the burden is lifted. He is forgiven and the load is taken away. But if a man is constantly doing small things that are sinful, he is less likely to repent and more likely to remain a sinner, out of habit.

"Understand, therefore, that it is just as important to break the habit of committing little sins as it is to avoid committing a big sin."

(Taken from The Orthodox Herald)