12 Ways To Overcome A Scrupulous Conscience Catholic National Register
Most of us have experienced qualms in our spiritual life and some of us have found them spiritually crippling. Saint Ignatius of Loyola defines scruple as “when I freely decide that it is a sin which is not a sin”. The scrupulous conscience sees sin where there is none.
We must distinguish that from a sensitive or tender consciousness. A tender conscience is a true conscience. He is sensitive to occasions of venial sin. For example, he avoids ever speaking against what is believed to be true, even in small things, the so-called âwhite liesâ. He avoids watching television shows that disrespect the Lord, his commandments, or the Church, because one does not want images and blasphemies in his mind. He refrains from negativity, especially when talking about others who are not present.
A scrupulous conscience is a mistaken conscience. He worries about things that are not sin. The scrupulous concern that their prayers are insufficient, that God does not love them, does not forgive them, gets angry with them, is indifferent to their well-being or even does not exist. They fear God will punish them and often have a morbid preoccupation with hell. They fear being possessed by the devil or doing things open to the devil. They may experience a fixation on numbers, often numbers with religious significance like three or seven. Obsessed with doing what’s right, they can find decision-making crippling: damned if they do and damned if they do. ‘they don’t. They berate themselves when sexual images cross their minds and feel a particular loathing for themselves when the thoughts involve religious figures such as Our Lady or Jesus. They carry a pervasive sense of guilt, the feeling of having sinned.
Some psychologists characterize scrupulousness as an expression of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The scrupulous experience intrusive (obsessive) thinking – let’s say God is angry with them. To decrease tension, they perform religious rituals such as repeating a prayer, making confession, making the sign of the cross, or typing three times. But they feel that their prayers or their behaviors are not enough, so they repeat the rituals, compulsively. They carry their scruple in the sacrament of confession, confessing things that are not sins or sins that they have already confessed. They feel relief for a while, then fall back into a messy thought. They constantly feel the need to be reassured that everything they are doing is right: was it right? Did I do the right thing? Have I mortally sinned?
The bitter irony is that a disproportionate preoccupation with avoiding sin can incline someone to certain sins: despair, disgust and avoidance of spiritual things or people, neglect of prayer, preoccupation with worldly pursuits, abandonment of the faith. Christian.
The 12-step programs, so valuable in helping people overcome addiction slavery, are filled with people who see themselves as “Catholics in recovery” – people who have come to see that unfounded religious guilt is part of their agenda. problem. But rather than face their obsessive religiosity, many let go of the faith. They blame religion, not their pathology.
The good news is that scruple is not incompatible with holiness. Some of our most revered saints have struggled with scruple: Sts. Alphonse Liguori, Ignace de Loyola, ThÃ©rÃ¨se de Lisieux and Faustine Kowalska.
Another good news is that the disease can be overcome. I offer the following 12 tips for overcoming a scrupulous conscience.
1. Recognize that you are scrupulous, that you frequently perform unusual rituals to “get in order” with God, that you struggle to see moral truth clearly, especially when it relates to your own decision-making. Recognizing that you have a spiritual illness is the first step in overcoming it.
2. Seek help from a good confessor – one who is faithful to Catholic truth and whose judgments you trust. And stay with him. Do not jump from confessor to confessor. If after a while you find that the ordinary counseling offered by your confessor does not resolve your problem, you should find a faithful Catholic therapist to help you with those elements of the condition that a priest is not trained to deal with. .
3. Decide to accept the judgments of your confessor or therapist on your own distorted standards. It is not a vow of obedience; it is simply a handy tool and can be stopped at any time. But relying on reliable people who model a healthy conscience can help us emulate good moral measure for judging between sin, temptation, and pathology.
4. Observe the example other good and healthy Christians. Take their examples as a reliable standard for yourself: what is good for them will generally be good for you.
5. Boldly resist temptation to act by compulsion to relieve the tensions caused by scruple. Above all resist the temptation to confess the same sin twice.
6. If you are in doubt as to whether you have sinned, you must be wary of your own judgment and tentatively conclude that you did not. Then ask your confessor. If your doubt arises from a catechetical deficiency, again ask your confessor if your choice was wrong and accept his judgment. Resist the compulsion to confess questionable sins.
7. If you have doubts about your consent to bad thoughts, again, conclude that there was no consent. Persistent and obsessive temptations are not in themselves a sin. It is only when we identify a time when we are certainly consenting to entertain or take pleasure in the thoughts that we need to repent.
8. If you doubt that your confession was quite complete, you can conclude that it was. If you forget some venial sins, that’s okay. There is no obligation to confess venial sin. In addition, venial sin can be forgiven in several ways outside of confession: acts that give grace, for example, the reception of Holy Communion or the sacrament of the sick; acts which involve a hatred of sin such as beating the breast or reciting the Our Father; and acts of reverence for God such as the sprinkling of holy water (see St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Tertia Pars, Q. 87, art. 3). Unless you are aware of a clear choice not confess a sin which is certainly mortal, you can confidently receive absolution and be certain that “absolution takes away [your] sin â(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1459).
9. If you doubt that you were penitent enough in the confessional, you may take the fact that you have confessed as sufficient proof of sadness.
10. Strive to keep in mind the truth that God loves you. Frequently remember his mercy, generosity, and kindness. Repeat to yourself that he receives you freely and always and forgives your sin even with your scruple.
11. You can write on a 3×5 card and keep with you – even better, commend in memory – the great words of Saint Paul in Romans 8:35, 38-39:
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? … For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will not be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.
12. Whenever you have success in this area, observe your behavior – learn what you did, how you felt, and try to act the same in the future. The goal is to be able to trust your own judgments.
A final note for dedicated parents. Religious parents may not pay enough attention to their children’s signs of qualms because they are busy taking pleasure in their child’s religiosity. The scruples can appear from the age of 5 to 7 years. Even before the age of reason, habits can form and be perpetuated in childhood and adulthood which can distort the experience of religion and hinder the necessary transition from childhood to faith. adult faith which usually begins during puberty.
Do not neglect the spiritual maxim: scrupulous parents raise scrupulous children. And later, when they come to see that their feelings of guilt were unreasonable, they risk becoming “recovering Catholics.”