Todd grew up in a religious environment and believed that if he obeyed God’s commandments and follow the tenets of his religion, he would be blessed in many ways including having the spirit of God with him at all times.
When he was younger he had spiritual experiences and as he got older he yearned to be closer to God. He thought that if he lived his religion perfectly, he would be greatly blessed. He became hyper focused on this goal. “I need to pray longer. I need to read more chapters from my scriptures. Am I being perfectly obedient? Do I have the right intentions? I need to engage in more service and teach my faith to everyone I meet. Did I sin? I’d better confess!” Todd didn’t know that the rigidity he was experiencing was related to a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder—scrupulosity OCD.
No matter how much he tried to be perfectly obedient, he felt guilty, anxious and frustrated at the end of the day.
It has been said that rituals are useless unless they are strengthening a relationship. Todd had no idea his religious habits were actually taking him away from his relationship with God.
Have you noticed if you are living your religious values with flexibility or is scrupulosity OCD twisting things around for you? Are your rituals strengthening or weakening your faith and relationship with God?
The questions below can help you recognize whether your actions are moving you away from God because you’re listening to the scrupulous mind, or if you are living your religious habits faithfully and flexibly.
Is the scrupulous mind leading you to act rigidly?
- Are you engaging in religious practices to find relief from unpleasant feelings (e.g., shame, guilt, and uncertainty)?
- Are you doing what you do out of fear because you “feel” uncertain about whether God is going to withdraw blessings or punish you?
- Are you constantly worried that you may be sinning with impure thoughts?
- Are you blaming your faith and religion for the anxiety, uncertainty, guilt and other unpleasant feelings you are experiencing?
- Are you spending excessive time looking back (ruminating) at past events and behaviors hoping to find resolution to actual or perceived sins?
- Do you constantly feel overwhelmed when trying to live your spiritual values “perfectly” because “God expects more from me.”?
- Do you tend to avoid spiritual and religious events to prevent anxiety, uncertainty, guilt, and other unpleasant feelings?
- Do you “feel” like you have to do specific tasks to achieve perfection so God will approve of you and bless you?
Are you being faithful and flexible?
- Are you engaging in religious practices to strengthen your relationship with God even when unpleasant feelings are present (e.g., shame, guilt, anxiety, and uncertainty)?
- Can you recognize that fear, anxiety, uncertainty and other internal experiences are natural events everyone feels at one time or another, and that OCD may actually be the driving force behind your behaviors (compulsions)?
- Are you able to recognize that thoughts are just words coming out of your mind and that you can choose how to respond to them, as well as where to focus your attention?
- Are you able to utilize your faith and religious principles as sources of strength despite the OCD challenges and adversity you experience in life?
- Are you aware that ruminating about past real or perceived sins is not helpful and that focusing on the present moment is what will enable you to find vitality and meaning in life?
- Are you able to remember that God is omniscient and does not expect you to be perfect no matter how much he has blessed you and/or how much you understand his precepts? Is it possible that He is more interested in your progress—what you do and who you become while on your mortal journey?
- Are you willing to participate in all your religious and faith related events, even when unpleasant internal experiences (i.e., thoughts, images, memories, feelings, sensations) arise because your faith is more important?
- Are you willing to be imperfectly good because you understand God and his purpose for you despite your scrupulosity OCD challenges?
There is a way to find flexibility. You can apply your faith as you continue to learn how to respond differently to the scrupulous mind so you won’t get stuck in the scrupulosity OCD trap.
God loves you unconditionally, and you don’t have to show him you are perfectly obedient and that you love Him. He knows that.
Please remember that it takes time to change unhelpful habits and that it is possible!