God Hates Me: Uncovering the Hidden Root of Scrupulosity

Scrupulosity Video Post

Jaimie Eckert

Published on Nov 30, 2020; Updated on Nov 30, 2020

“I know God is love. I know all the verses that talk about His grace and mercy. There’s absolutely no excuse for why I’m acting like this.” Vincent shook his head in disbelief over his own struggles with scrupulosity. “Sometimes I fall into these compulsive cycles or blasphemous thoughts and then I think God hates me. But it’s not true — is it?”

Vincent’s voice ended on a questioning note. What he knew from God’s Word didn’t match what he felt. It was a ping pong match between “God loves me” and “God hates me,” a common pain point for many others with religious OCD.

Vincent would never verbalize the sentiment, “God hates me.” But there it was, eating away at his mental health (and spiritual life) like a canker. It wasn’t a belief, it was a feeling — a subconscious dread of God that undercut all his beautiful doctrines.

For many people who suffer from scrupulosity, our deeply-held views of God may be so awful that we dare not express them for fear of offending Him. But it is only as we place a finger on these hidden fears that we can begin to find healing.

In this article, I want to talk about this unspoken feeling that “God hates me,” and how it plays out in our experience with obsessive compulsive disorder.

Scrupulosity’s “Danger Paradigms”

In my work as a scrupulosity coach, I have found that there are two problematic paradigms that people with religious OCD hold about themselves and God. These two paradigms lie at the root of a great deal of our anxiety. I call them scrupulosity’s “danger paradigms.”

They are:

  1. The “Dangerous God” Paradigm, and
  2. The “Dangerous Me” Paradigm

These two seem quite different from one another, but actually, they both stem from the idea that God hates me. At the foundation of religious OCD is a misunderstanding of God’s character, which in turn impacts our sense of safety.  

Sure, OCD is a mental health disorder that feeds constant “danger signals” to our brains. We can’t chalk this whole thing up to being a faith issue. But at the same time, our biological predispositions to anxiety are feeding off something — and that “something” is our thoughts.

Every single OCD theme out there — religious OCD, contamination OCD, sexual OCD, and all the others — is powerful because it invokes a sharp sense of danger.

So we must ask ourselves — do we view God as dangerous? Do we view ourselves as dangerous? How does our understanding of God’s character influence the way our religious OCD manifests?

I usually illustrate the two danger paradigms as follows: either God is big and dangerous and I am small and powerless, or I am big and dangerous (to myself and to others) and God is absent, weak, and powerless.

When it feels like God hates me: scrupulosity's danger paradigms

Let’s look at both paradigms in a bit more detail.

God Hates Me: The “ Dangerous God” Paradigm

People with the “dangerous God” paradigm view themselves as being small and defenseless in the hands of a big and scary God. They are simply at the whims of an all-powerful Being whom they can’t control or influence. Talk about feeling helpless!

This paradigm is sometimes more common among those who believe in the more radical forms of predestination. Whether they want to be saved or not, the choice is out of their hands.

It’s not hard to imagine how this can cause us to develop a scary view of God.

But the “dangerous God” mindset can go deeper than theology.

Many people who hold the “dangerous God” paradigm have experienced spiritual trauma of some form. This also influences our picture of God. Maybe someone at church judged us harshly, or an authoritative spiritual figure abused us.

When this happens, we sometimes project our experience onto God, leading us to have the same feelings about God that we have for those judgmental or abusive people.

“God is dangerous. If I make a wrong step, He will harm me. In fact, maybe it’s too late and God hates me already. I need to be careful so that nothing bad happens.”

danger paradigms and OCD

Remember, these are usually not conscious beliefs. They are feelings that influence our behavior — feelings that you may have never stopped to think about before. In fact, you might sit in church every week and sing “Amazing Grace” and be able to give a stirring testimony about the love of God. But yet, your feelings about God are different from what you know to be true.

Common Coping Mechanisms

How do we cope when we feel helpless in the shadow of a powerful and dangerous God? 

Ironically, we try to control every detail of our lives to appease this capricious God, resorting to ritualistic behavior such as counting, mantra-like Scripture recitation, or repetitive prayers. (Check out my video, “When Have I Prayed Enough?”)

For example: Avery believed that she had to visualize each person of the Godhead in order to feel authentic when praying. If she failed to get it right, she would force herself to start all over. Sometimes, Avery would pray the same section of her prayer a dozen times before getting it “right.”

Getting her prayer “just right” was the only way she felt safe enough to go to sleep at night.

Despite knowing that God is love, she couldn’t manage to feel safe in His presence.

The Problem with the “Dangerous God” Paradigm

This paradigm presents a very twisted and unbiblical picture of the character of God.

Avery viewed God as unsafe, so she attempted to manipulate God by her rituals in order to feel like she was in a safe place with Him. To her, God was capricious and unpredictable — out to punish her if she failed in any small detail.

Relating to God in this way is incredibly traumatic. In fact, it’s the same way that people in abusive relationships relate to their abusers. They seek to placate the abusive person in hopes of feeling some sense of security.

Treating God in the same way reveals a deep-seated disconnect between our daily experience and what we really believe.

God hates me: the dangerous God paradigm

We know God is love. We know He is trustworthy. But deep down — deeper than we may have analyzed up till this point — we are terrified of God and we believe He hates us. And so our compulsions become tools to manipulate. Our obsessions are a way we try to protect ourselves.

So how do we move away from this version of “God hates me”?

The Solution to the “Dangerous God” Paradigm

The first step in moving away from the “dangerous God” paradigm is recognizing what shaped this picture of God in our minds.

For some, it may be an actual traumatic circumstance, like a manipulative relationship or spiritual abuse.

For others, it may be a doctrinal misunderstanding. The OCD mind tends to be so black and white that it often overemphasizes certain biblical concepts.

Want to know the three “biggies” that make up 2/3 of all religious obsessions? In order, the religious obsessions that take the cake are:

  1. The Unpardonable Sin
  2. Hell
  3. Predestination

Now, does Scripture talk about a final punishment? Yes. Does God hold the events of this world in His hands? Yes. Are there final limits beyond which we may not safely cross? Absolutely.

But these three ideas can be taken to such an extreme that they cease to be accurate portrayals of the true Biblical teaching. And that happens — a lot — with scrupulosity.

The first step to overcoming the “dangerous God” paradigm is to seek balance in our views of God and Biblical concepts. We must recognize that the OCD mind tends towards polarized thinking, and almost always paints things in a much more black-and-white manner than it really is.

finding balance with scrupulosity

Develop the ability to leave room for “maybes” and “I’m not sures.” I know your mind is 100% sure that you’ve committed the unpardonable sin, but try to leave room for other possibilities.

Secondly, overcoming the idea that “God hates me” involves putting trust in who God really is. I’m sure you’ve heard of cognitive behavioral therapy — that process of changing the way you think. Think of this like “spiritual CBT.” Learning to trust God — I mean, really trust God, at a deep and visceral level — means we have to stop blabbing those pat praise lyrics and come face to face with how we honestly feel towards God.

Sometimes it isn’t pretty. Often we’ll dig out some nasty spiritual skeletons from the closet. And that’s ok. We’re moving forward. We are learning what it really means to trust.

Psalm 97:2 speaks of God in this way,

Clouds and darkness surround Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.

Though we may not be able to understand everything about God—that is, when clouds seem to darken our understanding—we can know with certainty that His character is trustworthy. He proclaims Himself as a God who is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6, 7).

God is not a fickle deity who changes how He feels about us depending on His mood on a given day.

On the contrary, He is totally trustworthy!

spiritual CBT: learning to trust God

And He invites us to put our trust in Him:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

God Hates Me: The “Dangerous Me” Paradigm

At first glance, the “dangerous me” paradigm seems opposite of the “dangerous God” paradigm. People with this second viewpoint see God as weak and absent, while they themselves are dangerously powerful in ways that terrify them. They feel they are in danger of harming others or being damned themselves if they don’t control these latent powers.

The “dangerous me” mindset often plays out in connection with other types of OCD, such as harm OCD, pedophilia OCD, or sexual OCD.

For example, John may get intrusive thoughts about hurting someone he loves every time he sees a knife in the kitchen. Because he doesn’t understand where his thoughts are coming from, he fears that these thoughts will materialize. Soon, he’s overwhelmed. “God can’t stop me from stabbing someone with a knife,” he fears. To him, God is distant and uninterested in protecting him from these thoughts.

Laura isn’t bombarded with fears of harming someone, but intrusive thoughts about sexuality and bestiality keep popping up in her mind. She’s disgusted by these thoughts, but can’t seem to control them and fears that she’ll be condemned by God for them. She believes that God can’t (or won’t) stop her from carrying out the gross actions in her mind. After all, she’s responsible for her own actions — not God. Right? And so her thought process goes.

As both John and Laura find themselves battling these thoughts, they come to the conclusion that “God hates me. If He really cared, I wouldn’t be in this awful situation. If He really cared, He wouldn’t have created me like this.”

Common Coping Mechanisms

Those of us with a “dangerous me” paradigm cope in very similar ways to those with the “dangerous God” paradigm. We also follow compulsive rituals that they believe will prevent us from doing bad things.

John might repeat a mantra or blow air out of his mouth every time an intrusive thought enters his mind. His compulsive response is incredibly sourced in himself, not God. He makes himself responsible for preventing harm and takes little to no comfort from genuine prayer — because in his mind, God is not accessible enough to provide the same level of security that his own compulsions can.

Laura, on the other hand, goes to confession several times per week to get these disgusting intrusive thoughts off her chest. She obsessively makes lists about the sinful thoughts she must confess — just in case she might forget one of them.

She fully believes that God has given each believer the responsibility to confess and seek forgiveness from God, so she views her compulsions as merely her “Christian duty.” However, she fails to recognize that at a deeper level, she is viewing herself as more powerful than God. She must keep lists of her sins because her own list is more reliable than the ability of the Holy Spirit to convict of sin (John 16:8). And, at some level, perhaps she believes it is not the blood of Christ that saves her, but her own properly-completed spiritual behaviors that close the deal.

Both John and Laura make themselves responsible for ensuring their salvation and preventing spiritual disaster. In theological jargon, we would call this very “anthropocentric.” That is, human-centered.

And we got ourselves into this human-centered spiral because at some point in our spiritual journey, our childlike trust in God was derailed. Or perhaps it was never there to begin with. And if God can’t be trusted, we default to trusting in ourselves.

A Third Paradigm?

When I’m working with scrupulosity clients, I will typically show them these two danger paradigms and then ask, “Which one resonates with you the most?”

Some people say #1, or #2, or perhaps they flip-flop between both of them.

Then, I begin to draw another picture: a stick figure that is smiling down on a baby in its arms.

I ask my clients, “If this were your image of God, how would that make you feel?”

It breaks my heart when, time and time again, they say, “I can’t relate to that one.”

Why? Because this picture represents a third paradigm that most accurately represents the character of God!

God Doesn’t Hate Me: The Fatherly Love of God Paradigm

We already know — cognitively — that God doesn’t hate us. But it’s a long way from our head to our heart. And when we have scrupulosity, we need to spend more than average time contemplating the love and kindness of God.

the paternal love of God heals our anxiety

This isn’t cheap grace or a dumbing down of the gospel message. This is a recognition that people who are predisposed to obsessive-compulsive thought patterns are naturally fixated on danger. We already pay way too much attention to the damnation passages — so as we contemplate the tender care of our Heavenly Father, we perform a kind of balancing act — spiritual CBT, if you will — to round out the picture.

And, by the way, I’m not the only one who favors focusing on the parent-child relationship we may enjoy with God. One of the favorite themes of Christ while on this earth was the paternal love of God for us. This idea surfaces over and over again in His parables.

In the parable of the lost sheep, He spoke about how “your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:14).

In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus emphasized the rejoicing that the Father has when His wandering children return to Him (Luke 15:11-32)!

In an unexpected moment of tenderness, Jesus set a child on His lap and reminded His listeners that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is he who takes the role of a child (Matthew 18:4).

Are you catching the theme?

John, a disciple particularly close to Jesus, summarized it this way:

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!

1 John 3:1

He seems to be saying, “See the love of God and the way in which it was revealed through Christ. Let yourself take it all in!” That sounds like a major shift from scrupulosity’s danger paradigms!

Here’s one more reassuring passage:

Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.

Isaiah 49:15, 16

Conclusion

The “dangerous God” paradigm and the “dangerous me” paradigm are founded on a wrong view of God and the idea that “God hates me.”

A key in healing from scrupulosity is unraveling these paradigms. God does not hate us. In fact, He loves us more than any earthly father or mother ever could. As we re-orient ourselves to God in this way, He will become a safe place instead of a dangerous one.

This healthy picture of God’s love for us and our position as His children will open a way for us to grow spiritually and learn how to overcome our religious OCD. Then, we can begin to take big steps forward in healing!

Where are you in your experience? Which paradigm resonates with you the most?

Best wishes on the journey,

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  • Thank you for this article, Jaimie.
    I’ve been struggling with unwanted doubt about God and the Bible for years, and I’m realizing that I have had a fear-outlook on God since childhood.
    My parents (with good intentions) believed that a greater fear of God’s wrath and fear of being disowned/sent to live with relatives would convert me. (It didn’t.)
    I have a hard time reconciling God’s justice and love, and I often forgot that God is a loving Father. But it’s a process.
    Thanks again for reminding me of that. I’ll be embarking on my “spiritual CBT” journey this year.

  • How can I trust that I’m saved (Gods child) when I doubt if I am saved. I can’t pray the sinners prayer as intrusions always stop me. Something is always not right.

  • Wow, this was great. Paradigm 1 is definitely mine. I sometimes fear hell, but I also often fear that God will punish me someway in this life for sinning against him in one way or another, like making sure some of my biggest dreams don't happen or that some of my biggest fears become reality.

    I only just discovered your content and am interesting in looking into it more.

  • I took the quiz. I’m a recent convert and have taken religion to an extreme. I did cut back recently but then I’ve been anxious about cutting back, missing the exact time for the Angelus or Divine Mercy Chaplet, getting up at 3AM to pray.

  • It's understandable to feel like God hates you when struggling with scrupulosity, as anxiety and self-doubt can cloud our perceptions. However, it's important to remember that these negative thoughts are not reflective of reality. By seeking professional help and practicing self-compassion, it's possible to overcome these challenges and shift your perspective towards a more positive and fulfilling life. Remember that you are deserving of love and acceptance, and it's never too late to start living your best life.

  • I’ve struggled with blasphemy thoughts against God, and the enemy has tried to make me believe that they are mine and that I’ve believed them. I’m scared and want help. I know I struggle with ocd and scrupe

  • I asked God to be aggressive in His treatment of my OCD/scrupe, and His leading me to your site is definitely helping me to the next level. So much confirmation of what I sense God has been telling me along my way. Feeling safe with Him is obviously one of my deepest needs. (For all of us, really). You're right, this is a very deep root–let's pull! Thank you.

  • God is a very rotten evil filthy scumbag for punishing a good single man like me with singleness, which wasn't even my choice at all in the first place. And with so many very stuck up evil rotten feminists and narcissists women that God the fool created these days really didn't help much at all either. Just trying to start a conversation with a woman for many of us single men that are very seriously looking for love today has really become so very dangerous for us now as well, especially when we will just say good morning or hello to a woman that we would really like to meet,. There will be times for absolutely no reason at all when these moron women will curse us out too on top of it all since i know other single friends that had the very same thing happened to them as well. It is very obvious that God punished many of us men that would just want to have a normal love life just like so many others have. Just too many low life loser feminists and narcissists type of women that are everywhere now that have caused this mess today as well. It is very amazing how much nicer that most women were back in the old days since they were very old fashioned and real ladies, which made love back then so very easy to find at that time. Very obvious why our family members really lucked out back in those days when they found love with one another.

    • Very interesting thoughts here…I have observed a trend stemming out of the toxic feminist movement which has really affected men in a negative way (which is obviously to be expected). I think the longer this toxic feminist movement goes on, the more we will see men responding in at least two ways: on the one hand, they can feel neutered and have a loss of a sense of manhood and confidence, and they begin to hate women (as in cases of incel men). On the other hand, they will fight back with toxic masculinity, in which women are also hated and treated badly. So in either case, toxic feminism invites more hatred towards women, not less. It is the opposite of what the movement is trying to gain, because the agenda and tactics are outside the biblical depiction of womanhood.

      Dear friend, I don’t believe God is punishing you with singleness. I think you are a victim of the times we live in, where women are deeply confused and men often pay the price for it. Don’t give up on yourself or on God. There are still godly and feminine women out there, and if you trust God, He can help you find one of them.

    • Jaimie, Unfortunately it is the women today that have really changed for the very worse of all that has really caused this problem today which is why so many of us men can't find love at all, and we really have no reason to blame ourselves at all either. Women today are very different from the past, that is for sure. And it was just too very bad that God never created women today just like the old days when it really use to be very easy finding love back then, the way that are family members really had it at that time. Oh boy, were they very lucky when they met their loved ones. I always was hoping to meet the right good woman for me to have a family that i really wanted, but God very much cursed me very badly since he never wanted a good man like me to have that at all. And if it was meant to be, which then i would've had that to begin with. If this was God's intention in the first place, which then he shouldn't have created many of us single men to begin with. Gee wiz, didn't God say that man shouldn't be alone? Well so much for that unfortunately. And now most women today are so very high maintenance, very independent, and really don't want us men anymore, selfish, spoiled, greedy, picky, and the ones that are real gold diggers will only want men with money anyway to begin with. So you can really see how the women today have really changed from the old days since not to mention that so many women nowadays are real narcissists and feminists on top of it all. Back in the old days most women weren't like this at all since it was never about looks and wealth that most women do want today. And as you can see that many of us men aren't really to blame here at all. It is so very hard to believe how women are now compared to the past. What a change. And can you imagine that many of these women will curse us out for no reason at all by just saying good morning or hello to them? really? Why is that? This why why many of us men are just doomed to be single and alone, even though it wasn't even our choice at all.

      • Hey Man! As a single dude in his late 20s (almost 30) with Scrupulosity, I would like to add a few things here.

        One, yes, it’s difficult to find a godly woman to marry; especially as you get older. But they are out there. As all of my guy friends are either married or engaged, I can tell you there are good, godly women.

        Two, singleness is often a gift/calling from God (as in Paul’s case), or a choice. It seems like neither is applicable to our situation as we both desire marriage. But I don’t think there’s been a place where singleness is described as a punishment. Could be in this time or our lives that God is trying to show us something to prepare us for that woman.

        Three, I would ask what your church is like? Are there any single woman there? Are you currently attending a church and trying to integrate into the community of believers there?

  • I think calling or saying Avery is "manpulating God"f by doing this doesnt ring true. If you look at the old testament and a person had read a lot of it it can skew your view it was VERY ritualistic and where she probably instinctively got this idea from is directly related to the old testament .. strike the rock ONE TIME ..struck it twice POW! appeasing a hostile God is what that is manipulating is a negative word its like using I was being as perfect to the person that took me hostage so he would not hurt me .. Manipulation is really the last word I would think to use I w ould use defending yourself before this word.

    "Manipulation has many negative connotations, including carrying out devious behaviors designed to exploit and control others. Think of it like mind control — using emotional and psychological tactics to change or alter someone's perception or behavior in an underhanded, deceptive, or even abusive way."

  • I can most relate to #2 and #3 paradigms. I was raised in a Baptist church and I was saved at the age of 12. I know I trusted Christ's saving grace in the beginning, but I heard a sermon on blaspheming the Holy Spirit and I knew if there was something God would not forgive I would probably do it. I felt the need to block any bad or intrusive thoughts. I had, and still have such a fear of blaspheming that I can't even hear the name of the Holy Spirit without trembling with fear of what may come into my mind. I had a breakdown years ago and I became so angry at God that I was even created. Even though many have explained the verse to me on blaspheming, my mind just does not accept their explanation. I truly wish I had never been born.

  • I’m a flip flopper, but mostly landing in #1. Not quite like you describe though, I don’t believe God hates me, but because of his absolute righteousness and justice I fear, of a sad necessity, he will end up saying he never knew me, despite my belief in the saving death and resurrection of Jesus. There is likely some thing I’ve forgotten to repent of, or change about myself since I believed. I remember my sins and behave as though that can’t possibly be forgiven. I don’t forgive myself. I do forgive others, but continue to fear for myself. Which means I disagree with God, which is also dangerous etc. I know God is my father, but sometimes a father has to keep to strict standards. (My own was ok, but a bit remote, and we didn’t speak deeply of anything. Friendly enough as adults). And then back to God being righteous. I suppose I’m not finding relief in forgiveness and Jesus’ imputed righteousness. I don’t come confidently into the Father’s presence like I’m told we can. I’ve put the torn veil up in the temple again?

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