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Testimony & Tips From a Scrupulous Person

This article brought back to me a time when I was young….in my late teens and wanting to come closer to Our Lord, I would often kneel and say a Hail Mary. I said it painfully slow and would often repeat it again and again, thinking I did not say it well enough. It was a bit of a torture. Then I read in the book “Light and Peace”, which is an amazing and consoling book written in the 1700’s, that St. Francis de Sales said never to repeat any prayers. That saved me! I have often, throughout my life, used that axiom. St. Francis knew the human mind very well!

by Fr. T. E. Tobin C.SS.R.


One of the bulletins carried a Portrait of a Scrupulous Person, written by a young woman. This contained some magnificent insights. She writes:

I would like to offer my experience with scruples in the hope that it will inspire others to know that scruples, even the worst cases, can be cured.

 My scruples began when I was about fourteen, just after my mother died. They were not discovered until I had a breakdown at twenty. At that time a psychiatrist told me that I had “the most rigid conscience structure he had ever met.”

I used to tremble at the mere mention of hell. I would hear a noise in the night and shake for fear that it might be the end of the world. I rarely received Communion and then only in great fear and only if I had been to confession the evening before, as I could not last from Saturday afternoon confession to Sunday morning Communion with out committing many ‘mortal’ sins.

I would pace the floor on Sunday debating whether it would be servile work to wash my hair or to go for a walk. Every involuntary angry thought was a “mortal sin” of hatred.

Sunday Mass was especially burdensome; I panicked if I thought I had not made the sign of the cross at exactly the right moment in the Mass. And so on. You get the picture. It was sin, sin, sin everywhere.

By way of contrast I am now nearing my thirtieth birthday and have received Communion at least once a week for the past four years. I am active as religious chairman in our church youth group and am beginning to love our Lord, to enjoy serving Him, and to appreciate something of His love and goodness.

With this background I feel that I can offer some suggestions that will be helpful to members of the group.

1. Associate with people you know to be good Catholics. You will be amazed at the number of things they do or say in all good faith which you, in your mistaken judgment, might have considered sinful.

2. Join one of your parish organizations or undertake some other good work or charitable activity. Because scruples are an emotional condition the positive knowledge that you are trying to please God helps offset the guilt and the bad feelings.

3. Develop some positive and creative outlet for your imagination. Scrupulous people often have a strong imagination that runs wild. It can be directed into proper channels and made useful and profitable.

4. Resolve not to feel sorry for yourself. Every night, even if you feel resentful or hypocritical about it, think of the good things you have received during the day, even just an ordinary blessing such as a good cup of coffee in the morning, a nice compliment, a sunny day, and so forth. It will help you.

5. In moments of doubt and anxiety say a little prayer to yourself. “Dear God, You know that I am all confused and do not know what I am supposed to do in this situation, so please tell me the answer.” Then you know that no matter what you do you are trying to do the right thing and you can never do the wrong thing when you are trying to do the right thing.

6. The most important rule is to go to confession frequently. It seems to me that besides providing the help we need most of all, help from God, it builds up a habit of positive thinking.

7. Ask your confessor to give you some definite rules to follow in those areas which trouble you the most. For example, if you worry about making a bad confession, your confessor may order you never to repeat a confession under any circumstances. If you worry about not hearing Mass because you did not pay attention your confessor may order you never to go back to another Mass to make up for that one no matter how you feel about it.

Looking back over my past life, my scruples might very well have been my salvation. While they were extremely painful and I resented them strongly, I can see that they have had many beneficial effects. My worst fault, I believe, is pride, and scruples made me get down on my knees.

They also led me to an investigation of my religion which I might otherwise never have made. I grew up as a product of a mixed marriage in which the Catholic partner died. I attended public schools and very likely could have become a fallen-away. I believe I have gained a good deal of understanding and insight through my own suffering. So my point is we must believe that the scruples are serving some good purpose.


Each month the priest-director of Scrupulous Anonymous offers a few words of instruction, inspiration and encouragement. One issue, for example, pointed out the need of having set principles on which the scrupulous person can fall back at the time of emotional turmoil.

So often a scrupulous person is in the yes-no, maybe-maybe, perhaps-perhaps state, and he needs to stop this constant torment by having a thought ready to insert into his anxious state to put a stop to his torment.

Such principles are, for example:

⚜ “I cannot have committed a mortal sin unless I know with absolute certainty that I did so.”

⚜”God forgives and forgets.”

⚜ “I should not have a longer memory than God.”

⚜ “A hundred per cent assurance is not possible for a human being.”

⚜ “Go to Communion unless I am completely certain that I am in mortal sin.”

Another issue stressed the fact that everyone, and especially a scrupulous person, must learn to like himself. If a man does not see anything worthwhile in himself, if he regards himself as doomed to failure in everything he attempts, then he is completely paralyzed and unable to put one foot ahead of the other.

Confidence in God and in one’s self is necessary for a happy human and Christian life. A person must like himself if he expects others to find anything likeable in him.

During the many ages before the invention of printing, from what did the Catholic study but from the figures of the saints and holy scenes? Whoever cast his eyes upon the sweet face of a Madonna, and did not wish to share the priceless purity that beams from her motherly countenance? ~Fr. Arthur Tonne

“Kind deeds are a source of happiness in the family. Little acts of kindness and little courtesies are the things that, added up at night, constitute a happy day. The best part of your life is spent in the little nameless acts of kindness and love you have performed in your home. Faithful, self-forgetting service – love that spends itself – is the secret of family happiness…”

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