If the spirit is willing, but the flesh weak, at least the spirit is willing. For this is not always so. The flesh may be forgiven, but if the spirit is bad, to what recourse shall you call? In the words of St. Augustine, one can say: “I will, but my body does not obey me”; but not: “My will does not obey me”. It is a question of whether one puts out the effort, and that one is sincere about what he wants to achieve. If one truly desires to be and to do good, even if he fails (and does wrongly) — we are only frail mortal forms, incapable of perfection, and it is surely understood why by the One above us all. But one cannot say that he meant to do good if it was merely some passing fancy, a half formed notion of what “should” and “should not” plainly mean. And he cannot conclude that the spirit is willing if he fights against that willingness — for merely knowing the difference between right and wrong does not make for righteousness.
I know myself that I have not always fought the good fight. It would be nice to think to myself that I always in my heart wanted to do right, but for whatever reason, the circumstances did not permit it. But no, there is darkness there, quite unlike the heart of God, in whom it is all light. I am rather thankful when my spirit is willing, even if the flesh eventually fails — yes, I feel guilty that I did wrong, but as the saying goes, at least my heart was in the right place. I make for myself a dividing line between where I willed the good (and my body did not obey), and where I simply willed wrongly: did I succeed in what I wanted to do, or did I fail? If I failed to do right, instead of succeeding to do wrong, then I deem of myself that it was not all bad. And I think I know in my heart which one it was, when I sin; I try not to fool myself — for He above is not so swayed by lame excuses, however good they sound to us, making them.