Scrupulosity or Sensitivity to Sin?


Question from a friend…

I seem to be struggling with scrupulosity. However, when I read St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, they exhort that any small sin or attachment can keep us from union with God. How do I know if I am scrupulous or just sensitive to sin? How do I avoid taking sin too lightly? If I am scrupulous, how do I overcome it?


Only mortal sin breaks the soul’s union to God. I exhort you to pray, trust in Jesus, and seek out a priest’s advice. Priests are spiritual teachers, they’ll know how to best help you.


Scrupulosity is like a vicious little dog that gets its teeth into you and doesn’t let up. The scrupulous person sees the tiny sins and imperfections, blows them out of proportion and confesses them again and again without ever having any peace, even after they have been absolved. At the heart of any cure for scrupulosity is having only one confessor (preferably one who is skilled at dealing with scrupulosity) and obeying him in everything, no matter what.

The person who is simply sensitive to sin will have a much more peaceful approach. He will notice the sins and imperfections, repent of them, resolve to do better, confess them, and move on. If he commits the same sins again, he will be grieved to have offended God, and repent and confess again, but not really lose his peace. He understands that he is a child before God, and as such, is expected to fall once in awhile. He gets up and begins again with a good spirit.



I totally agree with Betsy’s answer. What also might help is having your friend find a spiritual director (hopefully a priest), who they can meet with regularly to share their struggle and have a “second opinion” given to them about the path they’re on (be it scrupulosity or just oversensitiveness). Best of luck!


You sound like you either have a delicate conscious (which is *very *good) or scrupulosity (which isn’t so good but can serve a purpose.) I used to have scruposity very badly. Reading a good book on scrupulosity will help you understand whether you suffer from it or not. There is an excellent book out written by a priest called Understanding Scrupulosity. The author’s last name is Santa. Get it through your library and read for yourself whether you are seeing sin where there is no sin. And talk with a good, holy priest, who understands these things.


excellent subject… and by the way: thanks for saying in a few words what you could have chosen to say in 200… don’t like long posts… that just re-state the original thought in different words… :slight_smile:

anyway, i’ve had people say i am scrupulous… a priest here and there… but i had the same thought & denied scrupulosity!! In fact, i came to hate that word…

I believe we should be sensitive to sin and its hideous effects…

I have basically thrown Scrupulosity out of my dicitionary… and spellchecker…

so enough about me, what about you? (you all:D)

Ok, i need to clarify… I know there are times when i get these thoughts like: “I could be doing more. I am lazy (true, though :()” or: “Why am i not out there shooting abortionists myself (just kidding… sort of )…” or: Gee… why can’t i just do thus & so and the world will be perfect like its supposed to be?" In other words, i sometimes feel that if there is still so much evil in the world, i must not be doing all i can…

That is not a good way to think, obvoiusly…

but when i get illogical thoughts, i just toss them out… and that’s what scrupulous peole need to train themselves to do…


I would tell your friend to stop reading Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. Why? Whether or not your friend is scrupulous or sensitive to sin, it appears more than evident that their words are causing him/her a lot of confusion – enough so that any actual sensitivity to sin could easily become scrupulosity, which is not what either Doctor prescribed or intended.

In the words of Hebrews:

“You need milk, (and) not solid food. Everyone who lives on milk lacks experience of the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties are trained by practice to discern good and evil.” (5:12b-14)


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