I know there are a lot of threads on the forums along these lines, but I couldn’t find a precise answer to my question, so here’s yet another “scruples or grave matter?” question. Thank you all for your patience!
Firstly, (for clarity’s sake) I am a young, single woman with anxiety/OCD that usually manifests itself in the form of scruples; that is, when I am stressed out and/or going through some sort of trial, I become afraid I have committed–or will commit–a mortal sin, and it can be difficult to shake that notion on my own.
Additionally, I believe I am called to married life someday and, while I know I am not ready to wed yet by any means, I am currently oscillating between the “Saint Anne, Saint Anne, find me a man!” and “Lord, Thy will be done” attitudes. Basically, I am trying to trust in God’s plan for my life (not the easiest thing to do, of course), but am struggling to be patient.
Now, for the full disclosure, I watched The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers last night with some friends. I adore LOTR, (my senior project as an English major will be an analysis of Tolkien’s theology; I think he was a brilliant apologist not only for the Catholic faith, but for the importance of fantasy or “fairy stories” as a component of the well-rounded education. Yes, I know I’m a nerd. ), and so have read and seen TTT several times before. During the film, I started to sort of daydream about Aragorn; not sexually (though that temptation was there, I was able to fend it off), but in an “oh, he would just be the perfect husband! What a great example of a Christian man Aragorn is! So strong, brave and self-sacrificing, a wonderful protector! I wish for a husband like him!” way, and I’m afraid I entertained this daydream for quite a while. Now I feel guilty, as though I’ve objectified a fictional character and created this “perfect man” for myself, against whom I am unfairly judging the real men in my life, and though I know feelings are often untrustworthy, I can’t shake the notion I’ve committed a grave sin here.
Any thoughts, advice, and help would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks, and God bless you all!
Hi, Joy Therese!
Please give this a read:
Whenever you feel anxious, refer back to it. Item #9 might be particularly helpful to you.
And always trust in Our Most Blessed Mother’s intercession.
Hi there. I have OCD as well, so I feel your pain. Also, I love LotR as well.
Firstly let me tell you you HAVE NOT commited any sin if it wasn’t sexual. Its fine to daydream about that kind of stuff.
However, if you are like me, eventually no amount of reassurance will help soothe you. As well, even if you do feel better after reading this, your OCD will eventually pick on something else you did that was not a sin and make you feel bad for no reason. I think therefore, for a long time solution, you should stop asking for reassurance. I know, I know, it is very difficult! However I see it as a compulsion for us with this type of OCD. It might help at first, but it will not help us in the long run. Perhaps seeing a therapist would also help (assuming you are not already.)
I hope this helps. I’ll keep you in my prayers and please keep me in yours.
Yes, my opinion is that I see no sin here as well. But, I have an anxiety disorder and it pairs up well with OCD in that I constantly worry about my sins. You will get the reassuring advice here but you will continually find another thought that you didn’t mention here or another way of looking at how you told us and so forth. It becomes a vicious cycle. Many will say that you should not frequent confession as it just feeds the scrupulosity. I feel differently as I try to go weekly. What that does for me is it alleviates the constant “what if’'s” and allows me to know that I can mention my week in the confessional in the areas like yours that bothered me the most.
Now I have come a long way in that I know that we have an infinitely loving God and even if I think that I sinned mortally I can know that God can forgive me before I get to confession. This way I continue my prayer life and know that God still loves me. Some times I will refrain from the Eucharist if I know FOR SURE that I committed a mortal sin, ie. all three conditions fully met to the best of my conscience. If I am not sure and wonder as you do here I go and receive the Eucharist for grace and strength. Many on this board will disagree with me here but then this board is a bit on the very conservative side almost legalistic at times. I love the folks here and that is why I always come back but I just don’t want some of them to scare you away.
God loves you and knows your heart better than you know it yourself. WIth anxiety or OCD we cannot know our hearts the way that God does because of the cloud of this affliction. So, continue to discern and pray. Utilize the sacraments and find the peace that God intends for you. God bless you always…teachccd
Thanks, you guys! After a good night’s sleep, some prayer, and reading your responses, I can’t help but think I was worrying over nothing.
Marian Devotee, I think I am going to print these commandments out and stick them up in my dorm room; thank you so much! And you’re right to remind me to trust in Our Lady! I said the rosary last night, and that certainly calmed my fears. I have to remember to run to our Mother more often.
Flame4, I do see a therapist, but haven’t been going as often as I should. This was a wake-up call for me, and I know I need to go see her again to talk about this anxiety. I certainly shouldn’t be constantly asking for affirmations from the forums; this is a place for lively debate and faith sharing, not for me to temporarily eliminate my compulsions! I’m so glad, though, to find a fellow Tolkien lover! While I was reflecting on my day last night, I remembered the Battle of Helms Deep: even though everything seems lost and hopeless, the night always has to end, and the dawn must come. When we feel overwhelmed and are tempted to give up hope, we should remember that God’s light and love can and will banish any orc army (that is, fear)! Anyway, I’ll certainly pray for you; thank you for praying for me.
teachccd, thank you for reminding me of God’s infinite and unfathomable love for us, and of the necessity of the Sacraments! I commend you for fighting a brave and difficult battle. From one sufferer to another, have you heard of the STOP technique? When I remember to use it, it works quite well for me: take a couple of index cards, or small pieces of paper or whatever, and write “STOP” on the first one (stop whatever you’re doing or thinking. Remember you’re in an anxiety cycle); “Two deep breaths” on the second (take two deep breaths to clear your mind); “On a scale of 1-10, how important is this?” (evaluate the importance of your problem. One is equivalent of not at all, and ten is the equivalent of an atomic bomb); and “Change tasks” on the last one (this one’s a no-brainer; just change whatever you were doing or thinking that triggered the anxiety in the first place). Then, whenever you feel overwhelmed by anxiety and fear, use the cards to help you break out of the cycle. Come to think of it, I really should have used it last night! Haha, hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it?
Anyhow, thank you all very much for your kind words and encouragement; I’ll keep you all in my prayers!
Peace and Grace,
Compendium of the Catechism ( issued by Pope Benedict XVI)
- When does one commit a mortal sin?
One commits a mortal sin when there are simultaneously present: grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent. This sin destroys charity in us, deprives us of sanctifying grace, and, if unrepented, leads us to the eternal death of hell. It can be forgiven in the ordinary way by means of the sacraments of Baptism and of Penance or Reconciliation.
- When does one commit a venial sin?
One commits a venial sin, which is essentially different from a mortal sin, when the matter involved is less serious or, even if it is grave, when full knowledge or complete consent are absent. Venial sin does not break the covenant with God but it weakens charity and manifests a disordered affection for created goods. It impedes the progress of a soul in the exercise of the virtues and in the practice of moral good. It merits temporal punishment which purifies.
Sounds like you began think “if it was grave matter?” AFTER it happened…and then began to worry…
(that you were just enjoying the movie up to the worrying afterward…)
such would be a sign that the three aspects were not present together…
(not saying such would be grave matter…)
Make sure you have a regular confessor…such is important for those with scruples or those with OCD and Scruples.
You are so very kind to offer this help when you came here seeking help. And you know what? That is how it is supposed to be! I did go to therapy for quite a while and they gave me excercises very similar to ones that you mentioned. They work to a great degree. I used to keep a journal and give intensities (1-10) of my thoughts just as you mentioned. While I am still on a low dose of medication, through cognitive throught processes and mostly through prayer I can keep this at bay. May God be with you always. Today’s Gospel speaks directly to us. And Jesus could not be more clear. Have a great day!!