Confession. Fear vs sadness?


Ok so I am struggling with something. I have been away from the church for the last 9 years. Basically all thought Highschool and the last 3 years of college. I have recently started my journey home but needless to say I need to go to confession. My issue is trying to understand the feeling of going to confession out of fear of hell vs our of sorrow that I hurt The Lord. Obviously I would like to think that I am going because I offended God but I can’t help the feeling that the fear if hell out ways that feeling of sorrow. I am sorry for my sins but my question is how do I come to understanding and love for God. It bothers me because I would like to make a proper confession. Does anyone have any insight or advice. Thank you


Hi LoganBice,

Firstly, congratulations on your decision to start your journey home. I promise you - coming back to the faith is a very joyous occasion, but there is usually a rocky start.

Stop worrying! Fear of hell is enough to go to Confession. Confession only requires that you are sorry. It doesn’t matter if you are sorry because you fear Hell or love God. As a matter of fact, it says that right in the Act of Contrition (in one of the versions) “because I dread the loss of heaven,: and the pains of hell”. So please don’t worry about only being sorry because you don’t want to go to Hell. That’s actually a really good start. As you continue your journey back, you’ll become more sensitive to sin and start to do so more out of love of God, but fear of Hell is a perfectly natural way to start for your first confession in a while.

Don’t wait too long, go to Confession! Receive God’s mercy and you’ll be filled with a deep peace that you’ve been missing for a long time. God loves you and desires you back!

God bless you! I will pray for you!


Thank you that was quite helpful and makese feel much better. You said that as I journey back I will become more sensitive to sin. I can already tell that is happening. Things that I use to be “okay” with or didn’t bother now bother me to a much greater degree and I feel much more remorse for things I shouldn’t be doing.

God bless


So glad to hear that! You’ll discover it’s a journey that never ends. Regular confession helps us to become more and more sensitive to sin. As we grow closer to God, we fall more and more in love with Him and want to offend Him less and less.

A good analogy is a car windshield. When it’s dark out, it may appear clean, but when you are driving directly into the sunlight, you can see blemishes and imperfections. That’s how it’s like with God. The closer we grow to Him, the more contrasting and obvious even the slightest sin can appear on our souls.

That’s the beauty of Confession! We become happier and holier as we grow in love with God! If I were you - I’d try to go to Confession regularly, and keep at it. You’ll be amazed what a difference it’ll make.

Please feel free to post back any time, or PM me if you have more personal things you would like to discuss. CAF is here to help!


You are talking about the difference between imperfect contrition and perfect contrition. Either, or a mix of both, is sufficient for a good confession.



It sounds like the journey you’re on is a very normal one for a person returning to the Church. I’m re-reading The Dialogue by St. Catherine of Siena, and she says the first step toward God is usually made out of fear of Hell. From there it is a progression toward loving God for His own sake.

Not only that, but frequent Confession endows us with grace to help keep us from sinning. :slight_smile:


Yes in a sense. Could you explain the difference?


Hello LoganBice,

I agree with the folks who have responded to you. I’ll be 64 next month and have struggled with this all my life. It’s just been in the last ten years that I came to understand that my sorrow, no matter what kind, where it’s coming from and the reason, was sufficient. And once I understood that, it was very freeing for me. Like a weight lifted off my shoulders. Just tell God, ‘this is what I have to offer.’ God meets us where we’re at.



I believe the fear of hell could not be separated from true contrition and sorrow. (especially for new reverts or converts) I mean it’s good that you fear hell but obsessing yourself with such thoughts is dangerous. Do not underestimate the Love and power of God. Love covers a multitude of sin.I believe you may be suffering from scrupulosity. How do you overcome it?—plainly, do not think about it. Stop repeating and accusing yourself inside your head. God knows your sin. So give it to Him. There is no need to accuse yourself over and over again If the thoughts come again say this prayer: **I surrender my sins to you Lord. I am tired of this.I give it to you. **Continue to give and surrender your sins to God through this simple prayer…Just give it to Him. This will be hard at the beginning since you will most likely be discouraged at first because of the many sins you are still subjected to and culpable of…but just be consistent with surrendering your sins and yourself to God. Pray always even when nothing seems to happen…yes even when nothing seems to happen. and yeah, never forget confession.

How do you love God and learn to know Him as love: one word SERVICE. Serve Him, that is how you will learn He is love and you are really loved. Love starts in deeds.

My dear it is really okay. “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”-Luke 15:10

I am happy for you!:slight_smile: Persevere!


The fear of hell isn’t a perfect motive for going to Confession, because it’s still partly self-centered. Probably only a few people in earth’s history have attained completely perfect contrition - sorrow for sins purely out of love for God, with no thought of self mixed in. But God accepts that we can’t be perfect right from the beginning, and He does long for you to come back to Him, and He will erase your sins (i.e. help you become perfect) even if you aren’t perfect already.

I’ve had trouble with this too. I’ve even gone to Confession with no emotion at all, because it’s become such a habit - “Oh, I’ve done this again, I have to confess yet again”. But even that is acceptable as long as you intend to put your trust in God and resist temptations afterward. Sometimes I’ve felt I wasn’t worthy to talk to Him because I wouldn’t do it for the right motives - which isn’t good; a knowledge of your imperfection is good, but not if it keeps you from accepting God’s love, which is the only means of survival. So don’t let your worry, or anything else, keep you from Him.


Why not read holy writings, by saints perhaps, to stir up love and loving fear of God?

There are many devout writings on the Passion of Our Lord showing His love for us. And so too one can read about Heaven and the beautiful life to come for those who truly love God and follow Him on the Way of the Cross. There’re nothing like devout old books.

To have the grace of loving contrition one most pray for it. Pray for God to give you the grace of perfect contrition and charity.



If you are not sorry in your heart for your sins, can any one change your heart and make you sorry?
Who can change the heart?
But cannot a sinner change his own heart and have true sorrow of himself, without the help of God?
Can a sinner get sorrow from God?
How can he get it?
By praying for it.


The heart of a sinner cannot be changed except by God. If fire gets hold of a house and begins to burn it, the fire will not stop of itself. If a river is running into the sea, the river will not stop of itself. So, a sinner who is going on the ways of sin will not stop of himself. A man who loves to get drunk will continue to love it. He will get worse. He cannot, himself, change his own heart and make it hate what he loves. Nobody can change his heart except God. God can and will change the sinner’s heart, if he prays earnestly and sincerely, and does his best. God has promised this, and God cannot break his own promise, God has said – Ask and it shall be given to you, Matt. vii. So if we ask for contrition and change of heart, God will give it to us. So the true change of heart which is in Contrition, comes from God and from God only. He who prays for it will get it. He who does not pray for it will not get it? You will not understand why many sinners do not repent. They feel that they cannot change themselves. They cannot of themselves hate a sin which they have committed so often and loved so much. So they give up all thoughts of repentance. A sinner says, “It is of no use for me to try, I cannot change myself.” This is true. The sinner cannot change himself. But the sinner forgets that if he begins to pray to God, and goes on praying, God will change his heart for him.’


Congrats! :thumbsup:

I would throw in some reading from St Faustina’s Diary of Divine Mercy. This was very helpful for me in personalizing Jesus.


Thank you all for the kind words and wonderful advice! This website is truly a blessing and has helped me grow in my understanding of the faith in such wonderful ways!!

God bless you all!


Imperfect contrition motivated by fear of Hell is sufficient though deeper contrition is desired. Go to the Sacrament and afterwards commit to it. Congratulations on your reversion but keep up the work necessary so you don’t ever have to “revert” again.



DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit