Between scrupulosity and laxity

By: Fr. Roy Cimagala

WE have to do our best to have the right conscience which is where we can hear the voice of God who guides us throughout our life. We should not just depend on our light, no matter how brilliant and smart we think we are. We have to realize that God is always guiding us with the Holy Spirit’s constant promptings that we should learn to discern quickly and correctly in our conscience.

Simply relying on our estimation of things will most likely lead us to fall into some extreme cases of scrupulosity on the one hand, or laxity on the other. Both extreme cases are clear signs that we have not understood the promptings of God, or worse, that we have ignored him completely.

To have a scrupulous conscience is to be too severe or  unduly strict with ourselves as a result of our misinterpretation of  what is true, right and moral as taught and shown by Christ, and now taught by the Church. It is to be too focused on our weaknesses and  sinfulness that we miss the all-powerful mercy of God.

To be scrupulous is to have a perfectionist attitude,  overly sensitive to the unavoidable weaknesses and mistakes of people in general, including himself. A scrupulous person is usually rigid in his character, often afflicted with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and with a strong urge to control others and things in general. This makes him uptight most of the time. He tends to over-think and over-react.

He usually gets stuck with the letter of the law while missing the spirit of the law. He can be very judgmental as he projects his fears, doubts, limitations, and weaknesses on others.  He finds it hard to deal with others as they are. He wants them to be like him.

A lax person, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. He may appear to be carefree, but he knows that his life is quite empty and that it is simply following the ebb and flow of his emotions and moods. He is quite shallow and merely reactive to the different events of his life. We cannot expect him to have a long-term plan or any plan at all.

Concerning his religiosity, he tends to unduly rely on God’s mercy without giving due importance to the effort he has to make to correspond to God’s love for all of us. He is quite presumptuous in this regard. He forgets that while God is always merciful, he wants us always to “enter by the narrow gate.” (cfr. Mt  7,13)

He often cherry-picks only those parts of the Christian life that are convenient to him. Like the scrupulous person, the lax person is quite self-centered also. He is mostly indifferent to other’s affairs and concerns. The worst scenario is when he loses the sense of sin.

If ever they come to a lax person’s mind, the promises, vows and commitments are usually not taken seriously. They may be good and hot at the beginning, but they cannot maintain that state for long. As they say, they are good only at the start. They only give the appearance of fulfilling their promises but their heart is not in them.

We have to try our best to stay away from these two extremes. God is always merciful but he wants us also to do our part because we are supposed to be like him. He only wants what is good for us, but he does not impose it on us. We have to accept it freely and lovingly and act accordingly.

To do the right thing, we have to have a personal, intimate relationship with God, studying the doctrine of faith and morals, developing the virtues, engaging in a lifelong ascetical struggle, availing of the sacraments like confession and Holy Communion, having spiritual direction, etc.