How I helped my scruples

I used to have rather severe scruples. Now I would call them mild. I just thought I might share some of the practices I instituted to get to this place:

  1. I only examine my conscience for confession immediately before. I only examine it for a few minutes, at most (a prolonged examination is very harmful!), praying briefly first for the grace to do so well and for true contrition. I write down my sins, and then (very important!) I don’t think any more about them. Instead, in preparation, I think about the love of God the Father, the love of Jesus in the Sacred Heart, the Eucharist, etc. I do my best in this way to stir up hope and love, rather than attempting to stir up sorrow for my sins by meditating on the Passion, etc (I can do this at other times without danger.). Stirring up these sentiments will naturally provide the contrition and resolutions necessary for a good confession, but without danger of overwhelming with sadness or guilty feelings right before entering the tribunal of Mercy. It also reinforces trust.
  2. I trust the confessor. I tell my sins, simply and without spending much time worrying about what is too much or too little detail. I trust that he understands (or else he would ask for more details) and I trust in the absolution he gives me.
  3. I trust in God’s promises to aid me. No matter how unworthy my confession seems to me, I trust that I made a good confession, because I prayed first for the grace to do so, and this also shows that I had good intentions. I won’t re-confess anything, either to the same priest or to another. If I am unsure of having confessed a past sin, I must not confess it, everything is forgiven. I don’t worry about forgotten sins, these too are forgiven.
  4. I approach Communion if I have doubts about the state of my soul. If I am uncertain of being in mortal sin, then I can approach, because we are only obliged to abstain from Communion in the case of known, ie. certain, mortal sin. This is the current problem that I am still working through, having been cured by the other practices of most issues concerning confession itself. So I pray, with St. Joan of Arc, “If I am in the state of Grace, may God keep me in it. If I am not, may He put me in it.” Such a simple faith!
  5. If I am unsure whether an act is sinful or not, I seek the advice of someone I trust, or else a good and clear book, and then follow that advice without dwelling too much on whether it is correct or incorrect. Or I look at what other good Christians do. If it is something that other good and worthy Christians are able to do without scruple, then it stands to reason that I must be able to do it as well, without worry about it being sinful, because it would be prideful to think myself so singular that I alone cannot do this thing (for whatever reason I am bound to come up with).
  6. Sound reason is much more trustworthy than feelings. Feelings of anxiety are not the standard of the spiritual life. Just because I don’t ‘feel’ like I’m still in the state of grace, doesn’t mean that I’m not. Just because I feel anxious after my confession, doesn’t mean that I wasn’t forgiven completely. Just because I feel like I did something wrong or sinful, doesn’t mean that I am in any way guilty. The absence of sensible spiritual consolations is not a judgement on the worthiness of my prayers.

I don’t have access to a spiritual director or regular confessor at the moment, so I act in obedience to these practices which have been gathered from good sources and sound practice. Let me know if you see any errors. Its just what has helped me greatly.

If you want to share some of the practices or principles that have helped you, please do so. :slight_smile:

thank you for sharing such awsome advice God bless you

I wouldn’t change a word. These are some of the healthiest things I’ve seen written on the subject of scruples. If I were running things, I’d consider making it a “sticky.” :thumbsup:

One other thing that has helped me, is to recognize that mortal sins really can’t be accidental. You must do them with full knowledge and consent, so if you aren’t sure you have sinned, there’s a good chance you haven’t.


It is very important for one with scruples to have a regular confessor (very important…one that knows you and knows of your scruples…who can guide you)…or at least a spiritual director whom you can see from time to time in confession --even if it is only on a less regular basis. One could then discuss what you have been doing with him…and he could direct you in these things.

(for example as to forgotten mortal sins…a regular confessor would be able to tell if the person should not confess such for in their particular case it will be a big problem for them…or if he should follow what is often the advice given to those with scruples…that only if they are certain it was mortal and certain that it was not confessed…then they ought to confess it)

*Not that I do not see many things there that are even classic approaches in your post. *

But just like the in the practice of medicine …as* St. Thomas More* wrote…a doctor who is even very very good…still needs to go see another doctor when he requires care himself. He says that those with scruples are to do the same…

*Certainly *it is very important for one with the difficulty of scruples to seek to overcome them…and yes to do so with a “firm foot”. To be able to dismiss scruples etc :slight_smile: There is much that the person with the scruples needs to do…in actively working against them. Some do not realize this. I am very glad that you do.

Contra scruplos agendum est, et fixo operis pede certandum

(Act contrary to scruples and with a firm foot overcome them)

Scruples are to be treated like a barking dog or a hissing goose…one does not stop to argue with either. (Borrowed from a 15th cent. Carthusian).

It is also though important to have a guide in regards to scruples…just like the practice of physicians…

The thing is, often nowadays, its not possible to have a spiritual director or even a regular confessor. It really depends on where a person lives and how hard the priest shortage has hit that area. I think that since those things don’t seem to be possible for the OP that what is being done (and is written here) are excellent.

The thing is, often nowadays, its not possible to have a spiritual director or even a regular confessor. It really depends on where a person lives and how hard the priest shortage has hit that area. I think that since those things don’t seem to be possible for the OP that what is being done (and is written here) is excellent.

Such remains important for one with such a difficulty…

A suggestion if their is a shortage in their area …one could be go to another town or to a Monastery etc. And again it may be that they only see them say every month or so and then try to have a semi-regular confessors is the priests are not regularly there…for confession in between.

Thank you! God bless you too.

Thank you so much. I was ready to have everybody tell me how wrong I was, lol.

Yes! and that is a big one. I remember reading somewhere that, if you can’t swear before the all-truthful God that you consented to this sin, fully acknowledging that it is a serious sin, then you should not consider yourself mortally guilty of it. A little severe but a very good rule of thumb, I think.

edit: actually that principle is from the 10 commandments from the scrupulous (see my siggy). I also want to add their commandment #3, which I often have to remind myself of:

  1. You shall not repeat your penance after confession or any of the words of your penance because you feel or think that you had distractions or may not have said the words properly.

Yes, I agree completely, but as Brigid kindly pointed out, it just isn’t always feasible, and I won’t get into my specific circumstances. I did want to show people that there is something you can do for yourself, rather than wait for circumstances to improve. Show me where I am sinning by my practices, and I will correct. :slight_smile:

About the forgotten mortal sin… all Catholics are only obliged to confess sins that, in good faith (ie, there is little danger of willful deceit), they are certain are mortal and certain they have not confessed. It would be a good practice for most souls to bring doubtful sins to confession, but it is not strictly obliged, so there is no sin in not doing so. If a soul perceives that they have a reasonable amount of good will and that there is a dangerous slippery slope in confessing these sins, then it is reasonable for them to conclude, even on their own, that they shouldn’t, and I see no guilt incurred here in doing so. If a soul recognizes that they perhaps tend toward laxity, and are in danger of willfully deceiving themselves, they should certainly confess these sins.

I also want to add, that I think it is very important to follow what St. Francis de Sales said (how I love this good saint!):
“Be patient and gentle with everyone, but especially with yourself… Don’t be anxious to condemn yourself every time you fall. Instead, patiently, gently, pick yourself up and start all over again. There is no better way to grow toward perfection than to be willing- and patient enough- to start over again and again.”

This is the practice of humility and temperance. It is usually hidden pride that causes us to be so anxious for our immediate perfection that we end up so severely lamenting our falls that we become discouraged and fall into something very close to despair, because it is simply part of our fallen human nature, while still on earth, that we should fall more often than we would like and that we should not always carry ourselves as bravely and constantly as we would like to. But every fall can be turned to our good and God’s glory by a renewed trust in His assistance and mercy, renewed resolutions, and the practice of humility.


Yeah. Jesus said love our neighbor as ourselves, not instead of ourselves. :slight_smile:


Good point!

I noted how such can be done…even if the priest is not seen as regularly as one would like…it is very important.

He can then guide you …even if you only see him once a month …or even every couple months etc. You can then give the various principles that you have come up with to him and seek his council and confirmation etc or seek others for him to give you…

My first post above was speaking of forgotten mortal sins not doubtful ones.

Thank you.

The same principles apply. If its forgotten, its forgotten, and the sincere soul need not worry about forgotten sins not being forgiven, as the absolution applies to these too. If its remembered after the last confession, then, although it has been forgiven already, it should still be mentioned in the next confession if its mortal and there is certainty it hasn’t been confessed yet.

Correct. For the person was trying to confess all their mortal sins…they were not trying to hide any :slight_smile: And if they remember it they are to confess it in their next confession. Same goes for other mortal sins that are remembered.

(But those with scruples ought to discuss with their confessor if they start coming up with old sins…for often they can fall into a problem wanting to confess things that where already confessed etc )

And yes what you add there is often what is advised for those who are scrupulous or have some difficulty with scruples.

Fantastic advice!

I used to have a big problem with scruples, mixed in with mental health challenges.

I’ve come to learn the skills you’ve come to learn, just by the grace of God and help from spiritual people.

I wanted to bump this up again, because I still feel it might be useful for some people. Thank you. :slight_smile:

Wonderful advice, coming from a person who has struggled with all of this, too!

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