WHY are you sad? Is it because you have blown it again? Is it because you have many faults? Is it because you don’t meet “the standard”?
I understand those feelings. In my younger years, I frequently dealt with scrupulosity—strong overriding guilt for the slightest faults. So, when I left home, I was driven by a nagging need for approval from others because I could never approve of myself, and certainly, God could never approve of me. What my parents, friends, and others thought of me subtly decided whether I was “good” or “bad.” This carried on into my marriage. How my wife looked at me, how my children reacted to me, what my neighbours thought of me… this too decided whether I was “okay” or not. Furthermore, this bled into my ability to make decisions—obsessing over whether I was making the right choice or not.
Thus, when I failed to meet “the standard” in my mind, my reaction was often a blend of self-pity, self-deprecation, and anger. Underlying it all was a burgeoning fear that I was not the man I should be, and therefore, quite unlovable.
But God has done much in recent years to heal and liberate me from this terrible oppression. They were such convincing lies because there was always a kernel of truth in them. No, I am not perfect. I am a sinner. But that truth alone is enough for Satan to prey upon vulnerable minds, like mine, whose faith in God’s love was not yet deep enough.
That’s when that lying serpent comes to such souls in their moment of crises:
“If you are a sinner,” he hisses, “then you cannot be pleasing to God! Doesn’t His Word say that you should be “holy, as he is holy”? That you must be “perfect, as he is perfect”? Nothing unholy will enter Heaven. So how can you be in God’s presence right now if you are unholy? How can He be in you if you are sinful? How can you please Him if you are so unpleasing? You are nothing but a wretch and worm, a… failure.”
You see how powerful those lies are? They seem like truth. They sound like the Scriptures. They are at best half-truths, at worst, outright lies. Let’s take them apart one by one.
I. If you are a sinner, you cannot be pleasing to God.
I am the father of eight children. They are so different from one another. They all have strengths and weaknesses. They have their virtues, and they have their faults. But I love all of them without condition. Why? Because they are mine. They are mine. That’s all! They are mine. Even when my son fell into pornography, which really messed up his relationships and the harmony within our home, it never stopped my love for him (read The Late Consecration).
You are the Father’s child. Today, right now, He simply says:
(Insert your name), you are Mine. My love, you always have.
Do you want to know what is most displeasing to God? It’s not your sins. Do you know why? Because the Father didn’t send His Son to save a perfect humanity, but a fallen one. Your sins do not “shock” Him, so to speak. But here is what truly displeases the Father: that after all Jesus has done through His Cross, you would still doubt His goodness.
My child, all your sins have not wounded My Heart as painfully as your present lack of trust does that after so many efforts of My love and mercy, you should still doubt My goodness. —Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1486
Here’s the Scripture that Satan has left out of his little diabolical monologue:
Without faith it is impossible to please him, for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
It is not the absence of perfection but of faith that saddens God. To be healed of scrupulosity, you have to learn to trust in the Father’s love for you personally. It’s this childlike trust—despite your sins—that causes the Father to run to you, kiss, and embrace you every-single-time. For you who are scrupulous, ponder again and again the parable of the Prodigal Son.cf. Luke 15:11-32 What caused the father to run to his boy was not his son’s reparation or even his confession. It was the simple act of coming home that revealed the love that was always there. The father loved his son as much on the day of his return as on the day he first left.
Satan’s logic is always a reversed logic; if the rationality of despair adopted by Satan implies that because of our being ungodly sinners, we are destroyed, the reasoning of Christ is that because we are destroyed by every sin and every ungodliness, we are saved by the blood of Christ! —Matthew the Poor, The Communion of Love
II. You are not holy as He is holy; perfect, as He is perfect…
It is true, of course, that the Scriptures say:
Be holy, because I am holy… Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (1 Peter 1:16, Matthew 5:48)
Here is the question: is being holy for your benefit or God’s? Does being perfect add anything to His perfection? Of course not. God is infinitely joyful, peaceful, content; etc. Nothing you can say or do can diminish that. As I’ve said elsewhere, sin is not a stumbling block for God—it’s a stumbling block for you.
Satan wants you to believe that the commandment to “be holy” and “perfect” changes how God will see you from moment to moment, depending on how well you’re performing. As stated above, that’s a lie. You are His child; therefore, He loves you. Period. But precisely because He loves you, He wants you to share in His infinite joy, peace, and contentedness. How? By becoming all that you were created to be. Since you are made in God’s image, holiness is really just the state of being who you are created to be; perfection is the state of acting according to that image.
As I write this, flocks of geese are flying overhead as they obey the seasons, the earth’s magnetic field, and the laws of nature. If I could see into the spiritual realm, perhaps they would all have halos. Why? Because they are acting perfectly according to their nature. They are in perfect harmony with God’s design for them.
Made in the image of God, your nature is to love. So rather than see “holiness” and “perfection” as these daunting and impossible “standards” to live up to, see them as the path toward contentment: when you love as He loved you.
For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)
Jesus is demanding, because He wishes our genuine happiness. —POPE ST. JOHN PAUL II, World Youth Day Message for 2005, Vatican City, Aug. 27th, 2004, Zenit.org
III. Nothing unholy will enter Heaven. So how can you be in God’s presence right now if you are unholy?
It is true that nothing unholy will enter Heaven. But what is Heaven? In the afterlife, it is the state of perfect communion with God. But herein is the lie: that Heaven is confined to eternity. That is not true. God communes with us now, even in our weakness. The “Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” Jesus would say.cf. Matt 3:2 And thus, it is among the imperfect.
“Who art in heaven” does not refer to a place, but to God’s majesty and his presence in the hearts of the just. Heaven, the Father’s house, is the true homeland toward which we are heading and to which, already, we belong. —Catechism of the Cathlolic Church, n. 2802
In fact—this might surprise you—God communes with us even in our daily faults.
…venial sin does not break the covenant with God. With God’s grace it is humanly reparable. “Venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness.” —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1863
This is why the Good News is good news! Christ’s Precious Blood has reconciled us to the Father. So those of us who beat ourselves up ought to reflect again on who exactly Jesus communed, ate, drank, spoke, and walked with while on earth:
While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Matt 9:10-13)
The sinner who feels within himself a total deprivation of all that is holy, pure, and solemn because of sin, the sinner who in his own eyes is in utter darkness, severed from the hope of salvation, from the light of life, and from the communion of saints, is himself the friend whom Jesus invited to dinner, the one who was asked to come out from behind the hedges, the one asked to be a partner in His wedding and an heir to God… Whoever is poor, hungry, sinful, fallen or ignorant is the guest of Christ. —Matthew the Poor, The Communion of Love, p.93
IV. You are nothing but a wretch and worm, a… failure.
It is true. Objectively speaking, all sinfulness is wretched. And in a certain way, I am a worm. Someday, I will die, and my body will return to the dust.
But I am a loved worm—and that is all the difference.
When the Creator gives His life for His creatures, that says something—something Satan jealously despises. Because now, through the Sacrament of Baptism, we have become children of the Most High.
…to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God. (John 1:12-13)
For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26)
When the devil slyly speaks to you in his derogatory way, he is talking (once again) in half-truths. He is not drawing you toward authentic humility, but acrid self-hatred. As St. Leo the Great once said, “Christ’s inexpressible grace gave us blessings better than those the demon’s envy had taken away.” For “It was through the devil’s envy that death entered the world” (Wis 2:24). cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 412-413
Don’t go there. Don’t adopt Satan’s negativity and self-loathing language. Whenever you buy into that kind of self-deprecation, you are sowing bitter-root judgements that you will begin to reap in your relationships and other areas of your life. Trust me on this; it happened to me. We become our words. Better yet, trust Jesus:
My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire world. Who can measure the extent of my goodness? For you I descended from heaven to earth; for you I allowed myself to be nailed to the cross; for you I let my Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come, then, with trust to draw graces from this fountain. I never reject a contrite heart. Your misery has disappeared in the depths of My mercy. Do not argue with Me about your wretchedness. You will give me pleasure if you hand over to me all your troubles and griefs. I shall heap upon you the treasures of My grace… Child, speak no more of your misery; it is already forgotten. —Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1485
As for being a failure… you are never a failure for falling; only when you refuse to get up again.
In closing, I invite you to take action in the areas of your life where you have believed some or all of these lies. If you have, then there are five simple steps you can take.
I. Renounce the lie
For example, you can say, “I renounce the lie that I am a useless piece of garbage. Jesus died for me. I believe in His name. I am a child of the Most High.” Or simply, “I renounce the lie that I am rejected by God,” or whatever the lie is.
II. Bind and rebuke
As a believer in Christ, you have “the power ‘to tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy” in your life. cf. Luke 10:19; Questions on Deliverance Standing on that authority as a child of the Most High, simply pray something like this:
“I bind the spirit of (e.g. “self-deprecation,” “self-hatred,” “doubt,” “pride,” etc.) and command you to depart in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Wherever you have bought into these lies, you need to ask God’s forgiveness. But it is not to gain his love, right? You have that already. Instead, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is there to cleanse these wounds and wash away your sin. In Confession, God restores you to a pristine baptismal state.
Were a soul like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint, there would be no [hope of] restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. Oh, how miserable are those who do not take advantage of the miracle of God’s mercy! —Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1448
IV. The Word
Fill the places in your soul—once occupied with lies—with the truth. Read the Word of God, especially those Scriptures that affirm God’s love for you, your divine rights, and His promises. And let the truth set you free.
V. The Eucharist
Let Jesus love you. Let Him apply the balm of His love and presence through the Holy Eucharist. How can you believe God does not love you when He gives Himself to you fully—Body, Soul, and Spirit—in this humble form? I can say this: it has been my time before the Blessed Sacrament, inside and outside of Mass, that has done the most to heal my heart and give me confidence in His love.
To rest in Him.
“My love, you always have,” He says to you now. “Will you accept it?”
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|↑1||cf. Luke 15:11-32|
|↑2||cf. Matt 3:2|
|↑3||cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 412-413|
|↑4||cf. Luke 10:19; Questions on Deliverance|