Scrupulosity?


#1

So I am relatively new to the faith, I converted about six months ago. I’ve had quite a few difficulties. Lately, I’ve been wondering if what I’m doing might be scrupulosity. I’ve been against labeling it as such because I was afraid that “scrupulosity” might just be my excuse for being lax about sins, but I’ve been struggling again and I guess I thought it was worth delving into.

I’ve never thought of myself as a perfectionist, but looking back at my life, I’m seeing more and more of it. Anything that I was ever slightly good at - writing, debating, sewing, anything at all academic - I had to be the BEST at it, because I felt people wouldn’t respect me otherwise. I thought if I couldn’t be perfect at what I did, nobody could notice or like me at all. I never considered this a problem in my secular life, although now I feel it may have accounted for a lot of stress and anxiety throughout my childhood (and still today). The only thing that I’ve really managed to stick to so far is sewing, and I’m wondering if that is maybe simply because nobody yet has spoken a word against my talent. I’m still struggling with this problem, mainly because I have found that indeed the better I am, the more respect and attention people pay to me - something I value far too much for my own good.

I’ve been thinking of how this might have transferred over into my spiritual life. I’ve always known in my head that I don’t need to be perfect in order to be good, but since the day I converted something deep inside me is constantly, always saying “If you can do better, you need to do better”. The problem is, I had trouble finding my limits. I was brand new to the faith and I was pushing myself into immediately acting like I’d been at it for years, because I thought that technically, I was physically able. I wasn’t.
So I slowed down. I did things like allowing myself to wear short sleeves, and pray less than an hour a night. And I’m ashamed to say - it was difficult. It took probably two weeks to convince myself I would not be condemned for revealing my elbows or praying only as much as I felt necessary. But I slowed down a lot of things, and stopped worrying quite so much.

I kind of thought that was the end of it. I thought I had slowed down, back tracked, and that I was all good. It’s been about 2 or 3 months now, though, and I’m beginning to think maybe it hasn’t fully resolved itself.

When I pray at night, every night I worry that I haven’t prayed enough. I cannot go to sleep after having prayed in my own words, I have to say a scripted prayer because otherwise it might not have been sufficient. Every Sunday at mass, I worry that maybe I didn’t pay enough attention, didn’t make the most of the celebration. Lately when saying my night prayers I’ve begun doing an examination of conscious…today, though, I just couldn’t. All I could do was think back on the whole day, on how I hadn’t said any prayers in the morning, about how I stressed and worried about finals instead of praying, about how I wasted time screwing around while buying Christmas gifts, I didn’t finish my homework, I didn’t do anything right. And every day after that I just feel worthless. I feel worthless in my spiritual life and my secular life, and I feel like I can’t ever make something of myself because I’ve spent years trying and it always ends in failure. Then I remind myself that the point of religion is that you keep trying and I can’t just fail, I can’t just give up, because this is the most important thing in my life and if I fail this, I fail my entire existence, and no matter what I always have to keep trying and trying until I find a way that works and then I just try to go to sleep, because what on earth else can I do?

I’m so sorry for ranting. I guess writing it all out has made me realize how bad it all really sounds. And I need to get rid of this, but how do I do that? My need for success stems back to when I was 3 years old and couldn’t make any friends in preschool, so I had to try to be the one who could climb the monkey bars and fold paper right and paint things within the lines so maybe the other little kids would like me better. And the exact same thing through kindergarten, primary school, middle school, high school… But I cannot apply the same habits to God that I do to people…the point here is not to try to earn some respect from the crowds, it’s to better my immortal soul. But I just don’t know how to do that any other way.

I guess I kind of sound like a basket case. Maybe I am. To be honest, it kills me a little to ask for help like this, but I think at this point…maybe I really do need it.


#2

“Butaperson”,

I believe that many of us have difficult situations emotionally and spiritually that we need to allow the Lord to heal.

I commend you for getting to the point of expressing yourself and your frustration. Be sure to ask the Holy Spirit and our Blessed Mother for discernment to sift through the advice you will get here. We are all different personalities and one “remedy” does not work for another.

It sounds like a difficult place to be in when you share that in your past you felt you had to please people and be respected for your accomplishments. I am a senior, senior citizen now, and am aware that all we have to do is please God. It is so freeing to get to that!

We all need help from time to time if we truly desire to become spiritually mature. And…there is always more!

I would like to offer you a site where a very holy priest I met a long time ago now has spiritual direction teachings. You can click on a subject and it takes you to the list of available talks. They were not professionally done, so they usually end abruptly, but there is, I have found, a wealth of excellent spiritual direction in them. Father Venard Poslusney, O. Carm., is deceased now, and his forte was spiritual
direction. Each talk is about 45 minutes.

advancedchristianity.com

This will take you to a site from a parish in Long Island, NY that had Father Venard as a guest frequently.

May our Lord Jesus Christ and our Blessed Mother grant you special blessings this Christmas!


#3

Please get some help from a local Catholic priest and spiritual director. You might also consider talking to a Catholic counselor about your feelings of worthlessness and need for perfection.

No, this is not in the realm of normal, and yes it may be scrupulosity or related OCD-like tendencies. So, get it checked out both with a priest and with a counselor or doctor.


#4

As someone who struggles with scrupulosity, what you describe does sound familiar to me. But I don’t want to diagnose you over the internet. You should talk to a priest about that, outside of confession so he has time to discuss it fully.

One thing that helped me deal with this weakness was when my priest explained that it comes from pride. That was surprising to me. It’s pride that makes us think we should be able to get everything right and avoid every sin. It’s also pride that causes us to label minor sins as major ones.

As far as resources that could help you combat scrupulosity (if that’s what you’re actually dealing with…again please talk to your priest), the best place to start would be Scrupulous Anonymous. It’s not a twelve step program, it’s a website that applies the teachings of St. Alphonsus Liguori, who struggled with scrupulosity himself, along with modern knowledge of OCD. Here’s the link: mission.liguori.org/


#5

:thumbsup:


#6

A “regular confessor” is an age old approach in the Church for dealing with such (such does not preclude other helps of course if needed to approach the psychological aspects -I saw a site of “catholic therapists” on the web that may be of help in addition). Certainly you need to set aside some ideas there that are not correct.

Note too that scruples can be a “transient” event due to a persons new conversion. You want to “nip them in the bud” as one can.

So get with a regular confessor - perhaps also in an appointment first - for a longer discussion.


#7

Butaperson, I also tend toward scrupulosity. Sometimes I can’t let go of a sin even after absolution. I dwell on it and even after I think I have finally let it go, there it is again rearing its ugly head.

Those of us with that tendency have to be careful about confession. So talk to your priest and go the link: mission.liguori.org/

There is help for us and we must learn to trust in the mercy of God. (If I only . . .)


#8

Dear Butaperson,

I have also struggled with scrupulosity for a long time. I think I am now at a point where I am finally better again… even though fears and obsessive throughs still come.

When I first started reading your post and came to what you wrote about wanting to be perfect, at your hobbies etc… I wanted to ask you: In your faith, do you want to be perfect because you are afraid otherwise it is a sin (that would hint at srupulosity), or do you want to be perfect in the eyes of other people (which would be a different problem :wink: ). But then I came to the following part and it became clear to me that this is NOT about what other people think of you:

Soooo… this SO much reminds me of scrupulous thoughts I have had myself. I do also understand the fear of getting TOO lax, the fear that scrupulosity might be an excuse, at least in certain situations – but scrupulosity, if I may say it this way, that is, that part in us that is scrupulous, is very “smart” at making us afraid again as soon as we start to feel better… like it is LOOKING for something to be afraid about.

I remember asking a priest if it was ok to wear short sleeves after having read something on the internet about it.
I was told it was ok.
I remember also the feeling of guilt when doing something else instead of praying.
But who tells us how much we have to pray?

Here is a good measurement: LOVE.
Important is that we do things out of love. I would say, better a minute of prayer out of love than a half hour of prayer out of compulsion.

I remember being afraid of not having paid attention at mass. Feeling I must go to another one because of it. Fortunately, more than one priest could ease that fear for me.
It is actually not really abnormal that our thoughts wander.
Important is, when we catch ourselves, to GENTLY steer them back to God, to the mass. The presence of Jesus, as one priest put it for me.

That does sound like caused by a compulsion.
God is so gentle, so full of love… why would He not like a prayer in your own words, from your own heart?

How could you fail religion?
It is not some sort of competition.
God looks at you like a loving father, not like a police-man.
God is love.
Religion is love.
It is not something to pass or fail. It is something to LIVE, and ups and downs are part of it. God is with you through all of it. When you fail in one thing, and you feel regret, you can tell Him that. In your own words. You talk to Him. You try to listen to Him. Try listen DEEP DEEP inside, where you feel the truth and love. It is difficult sometimes to keep our own thoughts and God’s talking to us apart, but I have come to believe that deep deep inside where only love exists we can hear Him. Would He tell me I am a bad person because I didn’t pray longer? Would He, Who has created me and given me this life and wants me to be happy, think in that way?

For real sins there is confession, especially for grave sins. God is forgiving, even if we really sin.
Not praying an hour is not a sin, unless probably if you belong to a religious order where that is part of the commitment, maybe for priests too, taht I don’t know.
How long to pray - there is no law about that.
If we pray out of compulsion, we lose the joy of it. Better shorter and with joy and love.
Praying can come so naturally, like talking to a very best friend, or a father/mother. Who really really understands you and Whom you can tell EVERYTHING.

There is nothing wrong with asking for help. It also helps to know you are not the only one who struggles or has struggles with this, doesn’t it?
You are not alone.
You are never alone anyway, because God is always with you.
Ask Him how much He loves you,a nd try to really listen to the voice of LOVE deep deep inside.
Not to the circling thoughts that tell you how much of a failure you are.
Let them talk, don’t pay so much attention to them. Just your brain plaiyng tricks on you.
If you have really made a mistake, you will know, then that is a totally differnt feeling.
(ha, I should listen to my own advice too :wink: )

Have a very very peaceful day

Kathrin


#9

Get this book! It is about scrupulosity.

shop.catholic.com/scruples-and-sainthood-accepting-and-overcoming-scruples-with-the-help-of-the-saints.html


#10

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