Are you Scrupulous?
I would like to share with my readers, something that used to be very personal in my life, but that I am now more open to sharing because I believe that God wants me to help other people that are going through what I used to have---Scrupulosity (though thanks be to God, I am now 98% healed!). Scrupulosity is a condition very often linked with a mental disorder called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCD can be expressed in many ways (most of which are not spiritual) such as fear of germs (Obsessive cleaning), doing things by numbers (doing everyday tasks by a certain number), and many other things. However, sometimes OCD can effect someone that is religious and turn them into a case of OCD scrupulosity. Many times these people will become obsessively afraid of "bad" thoughts, and exaggerate the gravity of smaller sins. So let's take of a look at what scrupulosity is and what we should do about it.
First of all, it is common that people will think that they should be scrupulous because they think that the saints were or that 'it's better to be scrupulous than lax'. Well, yes, some saints were scrupulous but that was never encouraged, or a sign of holiness. The saints were not canonized because of scrupulosity. Also, although yes it may not be as much of a problem to be scrupulous than to be lax, it is still not a good thing but rather an obstacle in the pathway to holiness, and can sometimes lead to other sins such as pride or despair which I will talk about later (but scrupulosity itself is not a sin.). Scrupulosity is the condition in which one constantly thinks that they have sinned where there was no sin, or thinks that a smaller sin is actually a bigger sin. The saints have spoken out against scruples numerous times.
So, if you are scrupulous here a few tips:
1. Pray! This is always the first step to healing in any spiritual problem. Spend five minutes a day asking God and His mother, Mary's intercession for healing. Remember that God loves you and does not want you to suffer this, as it is an obstacle to your spiritual growth.
2. Get a good spiritual director! Find (preferably a holy priest or religious) someone who is an orthodox Catholic who you can trust to help you. If you already have a spiritual director, that is great! Tell your spiritual director your difficulties and listen to him! It is important that once you have selected your spiritual director that you trust him, (unless of course he was telling you something DIRECTLY against the Catholic Church's teaching, which you should have solid proof of.) and it is vital that you listen to and obey his instructions. God has provided him to help you overcome your problem, so listen and obey humbly. Scrupulous people can tend to become prideful if not careful, because they sometimes want to only listen to themselves and not what God is telling them through their spiritual director.
3. Socialize! If you have friends (best if Catholic of course, but not necessary) spend some time with them. It is always good to get out and think about others which will distract you from your own problems. Being around mentally and hopefully spiritually healthy people is contagious.
4. Don't despair! Don't give up! One of the greatest temptations when scrupulosity is at its worst is the temptation to despair--- don't give in! Remember that there is always hope, and many times when things are at their worst is when healing and hope is just around the corner. Remember that many other people have gone through or are going through what you are. Remember that God loves you more than you love yourself. You are God's child and He will not abandon you, but he may have a lesson for you to learn through this experience. Trust in Jesus!
6. If needed seek counseling! If you have been suffering now for some time from scrupulosity, or have slipped into depression and cannot do everyday activities without anxiety, it may be wise to seek some counseling from a therapist. Do not feel ashamed or embarrassed, but humbly go to seek help so you can once again live your life normally. You have not failed if you need help in this way, but remember it may be necessary for healing and healing is a good thing indeed!
Tips to avoid scrupulosity:
1. Don't become perfectionistic in your mind. What do I mean? It's kind of hard to explain, but for example, don't pray the same prayer over and over again until you have said it with no distractions, or don't make examination of conscience go extremely long when you do them often. (Although you should examine your conscience once a day.)
2. Be careful when reading certain books. I remember reading a book about Purgatory once from Tan (BTW, Tan is a great Catholic publishing house) and it had many stories that have not been approved to my knowledge by the Church but were more of legends and traditions that may have or may not have been entirely true. The stories evoked fear in me that I let grow too much. God does not intend that we live in fear, but in His Love, and that we serve Him out of love. So be discerning in your reading and double check on things you are not sure of with what the Church really teaches. Don't entertain scrupulous ideas, but have a well formed conscience.
3. Have a well formed conscience! This is vital weather you are scrupulous or not. You must learn what the Church teaches so that you can live your life accordingly. You should follow what the Church teaches, but without adding more rules to yourself.
I hope some information has been helpful here, and I intend to have more articles coming in the future on the subject of scrupulosity. Please feel free to comment and ask questions about scrupulosity that you may have, (feel free to remain anonymous)---I would be more than happy to help in any way! God Bless you Always!