This Simple Idea Will Help You Ignore Blasphemous Thoughts

Scrupulosity Video Post

Jaimie Eckert

Published on Jun 29, 2023; Updated on Jan 25, 2024

If you’re a Christian and you’ve been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, you might be among the ranks of those who get weird, unwanted blasphemous thoughts. And if you’re in therapy for your OCD, you probably know that a big part of recovery is learning how to ignore blasphemous thoughts.

But how can a devoted, sincere follower of Christ learn to ignore blasphemous thoughts?

Sure, we understand that mental health disorders can do all kinds of odd things to our brains. People get split personalities and hallucinations and psychosis and manic episodes and yes, even the ego-dystonic intrusive thoughts of OCD. Talking about mental health can be a strange topic indeed, especially when it starts to intrude into the sacred halls of our private spiritual experiences.

Ignoring blasphemous thoughts is hard work, but I guarantee that’s what will make these thoughts go away. And in this brief article, I’d like to share one simple idea that I think can help you ignore those thoughts more easily and stop wasting so much time trying to “deal” with the thoughts!

But first, a case study…

Trina’s Blasphemous Thoughts: A Case Study

Trina contacted me from behind the locked doors of a mental health facility. She loved God with all her heart, she said, but she couldn’t stop having “bad thoughts” and “weird sensations” about Him.

I asked her to tell me more about what was going on.

Trina described having disrespectful thoughts against God whenever she read the Bible. These thoughts were sexual in nature, and when these thoughts came, she would also experience a corresponding physical sensation. She would try very hard to discipline her mind against these thoughts, and she had developed a blinking/squinting tic which seemed to help her force them out of her mind.

this simple idea will help you to ignore blasphemous thoughts

She kept analyzing why she was having these thoughts. Did she mean to disrespect God? Was it really true that she was “like that?”

The more Trina fought against these unwanted thoughts, the more destabilized she became (hence her stay at an inpatient treatment facility). It seemed like arguing with her thoughts wasn’t working. That’s when her biblical counselor began telling her that it was time to ignore the blasphemous thoughts.

Of course, it felt blasphemous for Trina to ignore blasphemous thoughts! Someone referred her to speak with me, and that was the first time she heard that there were others like her who also had unwanted thoughts about God that could be dirty, disrespectful, or blasphemous in nature. It came as a great relief to know that there is a name, and a cure, and a whole recovery community!

Coping with Blasphemous Thoughts

Do you feel a bit like Trina? It is hard, or next to impossible, to ignore the blasphemous thoughts when they come?

Maybe you’ve developed coping mechanisms. The unhealthy coping mechanisms are called “compulsions.” Perhaps you blow air, tap, count, clench your fists, blink repeatedly, purse your lips, shout “no,” or shake your head. Or maybe your compulsions are mental, such as analyzing your thoughts, thinking hard about whether you intended to have that thought, or scanning your spiritual life for any indicators that you’re turning against God. You might have a compulsion to punish yourself for your blasphemous thoughts–perhaps skipping dessert or entire meals, or refusing to allow yourself to go on a day trip to some favorite destination, or even cutting yourself.

The casual observer who doesn’t understand the intricacies of obsessive-compulsive disorder would probably imagine that these methods ought to work.

After all, you can teach a dog not to pee on the carpet by giving him a fierce look and a stern word over and over. Repeated, constant discipline works even for animals. Why not for intrusive thoughts? Why do all our attempts to sternly discipline our thoughts utterly fail to cure us?

Well, part of the issue is that we are working against brain abnormalities. The OCD brain differs in both function and structure than the non-OCD brain. You can be as Christian as Christians come, and you can try to pray away your disorder, but that’ll do about as much good as trying to pray away your broken leg.

When we sternly discipline and chastise ourselves for having intrusive thoughts, we are hyping up our emotions and creating a fight-or-flight response. This fight-or-flight response will be aroused in proportion to how “dangerous” we believe our thoughts to be. If you believe your negative thought is going to immediately consign you to an eternal burning hell, wow! Those are high stakes! Of course you’ll label your thought as “extremely dangerous” and will get a massive jolt of adrenaline.

But what if these thoughts were not spiritually dangerous? What if they were just ghosts of an idea, wafting through the corridors of your brain, looking for a landing place but finding none? What if they were just “passing through” and didn’t have any meaning at all?

OCD's intrusive thoughts are just ghosts passing through

Elsewhere, I’ve written about what I call the “Storymaker” function of our brains. The narrative-based construal function of our minds can spin “possibility narratives.” These imaginary narratives help us avoid danger and come up with creative solutions. It is the “what if” part of the mind, and it is often very helpful to us.

Sometimes these possibility narratives will come in the form of a “what if” question. “What if I leave my laptop in the car while I go into the store? Will it be safe?”

Other times, these possibility narratives come in the form of mental images.

*Masked robber punches through car window and runs away with laptop.* “Hmm, I better not leave my laptop in the car.”

And sometimes, these possibility narratives can be disturbingly self-reflective in nature, such as imagining yourself breaking into someone else’s car to steal their laptop, a thought which would cause great distress and confusion.

Of course, these are all forms of your brain suggesting possibilities. As such, they are all figments of the imagination until action is taken to turn these possibilities into realities. And this is where my simple idea for learning how to ignore blasphemous thoughts comes into the picture.

How to Ignore Blasphemous Thoughts

Most people with religious OCD get caught up with trying to figure out if that intrusive thought was true.

I think this is a waste of mental energy.

The only thing we need to determine is if the thought is useful.

If our brains come up with thousands of thoughts every day, there are bound to be a lot of useful thoughts and a lot of nonsense thoughts. It’s not worth analyzing whether or not we meant to “generate” our weird thoughts. Here’s what would make a thought useful to us:

  • Does the thought help me solve a problem?
  • Does the thought help me avoid danger?
  • Does the thought draw me closer to Christ, make me a better Christian, or give me spiritual joy?
  • Does the thought support my core values as a Christian?

Let’s look at a few examples for each of these points.

are your intrusive thoughts useful?

Does the Thought Help Me Solve a Problem?

Here are some examples of a helpful and an unhelpful thought, both of which come to us from the topical category of “blasphemy.” One thought helps us solve a problem, and the other does not.

Useful thought: “Would it be blasphemous if I make a joke about having godlike powers and being able to pardon people’s sins? Hmm…I think that would be spiritually inappropriate. I better not joke like that.”

Intrusive thought: “God, I reject you and want to be god of my own life!”

Thought #1 is useful and helps us solve a problem–a fundamental question about how to behave. Thought #2 does not help us solve a problem–in fact, it seems to create another problem by leading us into a rumination cycle. It’s the kind of thought that tempts us to spend several hours trying to figure out if it was true or not.

But if the thought isn’t useful to us, then we don’t adopt it as our own. And if we don’t adopt it as our own, it’s clearly not true for us.

Does the Thought Help Me Avoid Danger?

Useful thought: “I would like to study the books of Daniel and Revelation more so that I can avoid end-time deceptions that are predicted in Bible prophecy.”

Intrusive thought: “I must be the antichrist!”

Okay, so thinking you’re such a horrible person that you classify as the antichrist might not be the first thing you think of when you think of blasphemous thoughts. But I’ve had a few people email me about this, so I’ll include it as an example of disturbing religious intrusive thoughts.

And, as discussed, it’s simply not a helpful thought. Not only is it theologically useless (believe me, friend, you’d have to twist the Scriptures mightily to call yourself the antichrist of Bible prophecy), but it’s also psychologically useless. It doesn’t help you avoid any real danger. It doesn’t help you create any positive solutions. It’s just pure negativity.

Does the Thought Benefit Me Spiritually?

As I mentioned earlier, a “useful” thought is one that helps you draw closer to Christ, makes you a better Christian, or gives you spiritual joy. Most of our intrusive thoughts do not accomplish any of these goals.

Useful thought: “God has always been with me during my life. In the good times and in the bad, I can genuinely look back and see evidence of His presence. That makes me so grateful.”

Intrusive thought: “I curse You, God!” (A thought that comes “out of nowhere” to a person who actually loves God very much.)

Again, more useless static. Don’t stop to analyze whether these intrusive thoughts are “true” or not. We ignore blasphemous thoughts due to their lack of pragmatic worth. Out of the millions of random thoughts passing through your mind on a daily basis, huge percentages of those thoughts will be false and invalid. Figuring out if the thought is “true” or if it says something “true” about you is a waste of time. Is it useful? Keep it. Is it useless in drawing you closer to Christ? Ignore it and keep moving.

Does the Thought Support My Core Values as a Christian?

Useful thought: “Oops, I just got a spammy text message. Someone is sending me a link to what I’m guessing are explicit images. I’m not going to click on the link, because I want to be pure in heart.”

Intrusive thought: *Sees a mental image of Jesus engaging in sexual acts and freaks out*

Let’s just talk for a moment about values. Your values are chosen; the thoughts crossing your mental radar are not necessarily chosen. You can’t help seeing a half-naked person walk across the street in front of you, but you can choose whether or not to dwell on that thought and let it “nest” in your mind. Likewise, you can’t always choose the thoughts that pass through your mind, but you can choose to focus on them or ignore them if they don’t match your values. Your core values are the chosen virtues that help you structure your life. They are characteristics and goals that you find worthy.

And this is perhaps THE defining feature of an intrusive thought: it is completely opposed to your values. This is where we get the term “ego-dystonic” to describe intrusive thoughts.

don't pay attention to your ego-dystonic thoughts

If you ever get a thought that cuts across the grain of your chosen values, you can swiftly judge that thought as unuseful to you and ignore it. We can safely ignore blasphemous thoughts because although we can’t always choose what thoughts pop up in our minds, we can choose our values.

Conclusion

Everyone, everyone gets random, useless thoughts that pop into their minds. But the person with OCD will have a higher-than-average quantity of such thoughts. The person with OCD will also tend to analyze these thoughts with more intensity, and have a much more anxious reaction to them. Then, the anxious reaction to intrusive thoughts creates a habitual atmosphere of fear around the thoughts and hypes us up into intensive rumination or compulsive behavior.

How much better it would be to ignore our blasphemous thoughts!

I hope this simple tweak to your thought process will help you tremendously: stop trying to figure out of the thought was true, and just ask yourself if it was useful.

This has helped me move past so many intrusive thoughts. I try not to let myself get horrified with whatever mental picture entered my mind. Instead of asking, “would I really do that? Did I really mean that?” which is, in essence, a “truth” question, I simply ask if the thought was useful to me.

Not useful? I slap it with a big, fat, sarcastic “whatever.”

Just another wacky thought.

Moving on…

And voila, in a little while the thought is gone, minus the crazy-making cycle of rumination about it.

I would love for you to have the same experience. You can move through your anxiety; you can ignore blasphemous thoughts effectively. You can get back to normal and enjoy the precious life that God has given you.

I know recovery is tough, but don’t give up hope. You’ll get there. Keep taking baby steps and keep looking up. God will continue helping you.

Best wishes on the journey,

jaimie-eckert-signature
  • I have a question is it good to use Natural pills for anxiety in this time or would it better Not i feel better and so anxius While using them

  • I like read this Thank you so much so often i thought no one Else can inderstand me and no one Else have it that Bad with my thoughts as i have Thank you so much now i now i am not alone and i want to grow more and i have a question so much time i know what i will but it feels Like i have no feelings anymore maybe its because i have it for so Long i have it now for 26 years i so much want to come free and i am Thank full so Thank Full for this Page Thank you for sharing

  • Hey Jamie, it's me Rocky again. Sorry to bother you with this but I just wanna know that something that let's say that if I am showering or doing something at the toilet and a thought of praying happens though I do plan to do so, I don't want to have thoughts atm because I don't feel they're appropriate in those situations or scenarios. Again, am I guilty of those thoughts? am I sinful for doing so?

  • Thank you so much Jaimie!! This article was super helpful! As are so many of them. My OCD has been debilitating recently, mentally, its all mental for me. And some days I think I'm going crazy, but I have to stop and remember its just your ocd. Its gonna be ok. Its just a thought. I attach wayyyy too much meaning on my intrusive thoughts, and create a never ending rumination cycle that i almost start to believe is true. Ugh. I've never gotten help for my ocd and believe I've actually had it for quite a long time now. Its been about a year since I've been doing more research about it and really considering some therapy. Church has been super hard lately because of it. My sticky thoughts are just so intense and hard to let go of. Grateful I found your page! Thank you and God bless!!

    • Nooo, don’t worry, you’re not going crazy! We all feel like that at some points on the journey, but I promise you’re going to be alright. I’m a big fan of therapy, so if you’re on the fence about doing it, I’d say go for it!

  • Hi Jaimie.
    It has been quite a while since I have left a post. Regarding these types of thoughts (words), I have never read anything that mentions actually uttering the words, unintentionally, while in the battle with one's mind. It has happened to me on a couple of occasions and when I hear my own voice utter the words, I have difficulty NOT taking ownership of them. As a result, I feel a need, as a Catholic, to race to Confession, which now takes this beautiful Sacrament and, from a medical perspective, also becomes a compulsion. Well, we know what reacting to an obsession does; fuels them rather than starve them. However, spiritually, Confession appears to be the right thing to do, in the eyes of a Catholic. I think the reality of all of this is that the Lord understands, better than we do, that we are dealing with a medical disorder and that Confession is not required because this event doesn't meet the requirement of a mortal sin. However, when we are suffering from Scrupulosity, we have to fight that "what if" question and seek out the certainty that we want to get from a priest through Confession. Scrupulosity is a "tough nut to crack" but we need to train ourselves how to live with that uncertainty.
    I am currently in counseling with a clinical psychologist associated with a Catholic organization who is trained in ERP so I consider myself very fortunate.
    Your thoughts and comments would be appreciated.
    All the best!
    Jerry

    • Sure, I’ve corresponded with some people with scrupulosity whose obsessions tend to be a bit more intense than average, or the thoughts come rolling in one after another without a break, and certainly there are those who verbalize the thoughts as a way of making them stop. Not everyone does this, but I’d say it’s fairly common for those who are in a more intense place with their thoughts. I’d still say that it’s not the “real you,” because we hate the fact that we said it, we obsess about it afterwards, we try hard not to do it, and it generally freaks us out when it happens. I have a short video where I talk about the “momentary” agreement with the thoughts/words (either mentally or verbally) which is usually nothing more than a desperate attempt to deal with our anxiety. If you haven’t seen that video, maybe take a look and see if it resonates. Sorry this is an old video with poor audio, but I think you can still get the idea 😉

      https://scrupulosity.com/evil-thoughts-from-the-devil/

  • Hey Jamie, thank you soo much for your help. your articles have helped me so much in helping me deal with my ocd and intrusive thoughts. I've been having them for quite a while already with some examples being e.g. praying but my mind pops up with a thought to go to the toilet after praying or my thoughts sometimes associate a random action like turning my head around with something terrible or blasphemous. I know that it isn't me but sometimes ocd can get so intense that it makes me feel as if it's me. How do I better cope with them?

      • Thanks for the help Jamie! the article has helped me a lot but I just have one question. let's say that while I'm praying and my mind thinks of going to the toilet after I finish praying and even though I plan to go to the toilet though I don't want the thought of me going toilet yet since I'm still praying, am I guilty of the thought? Also, is it rude to plan to do so while praying? I honestly feel guilty when a situation like this does happen.

        • This sounds like the typical “mental contamination” issue in scrupulosity. When you’re in a thought space that is supposed to be sacred, and then your mind goes somewhere not-so-sacred, then you feel guilty because it feels like maybe you’ve messed up that holy moment.

          What can help with this is realizing we are holistic creatures and very little in life can be compartmentalized to the extent that OCD demands.

          Interestingly, God talks about toileting in the Bible. Check it out in Deuteronomy 23, when God gave the Israelites an early sanitation system to keep their camp clean as they traveled through the wilderness. God’s not above talking about basic human needs. He cares about all aspects of human existence. Thinking about going to the toilet after prayer sounds like……a very normal human thing. Don’t stress it. 🙂

          • Thanks for the advice Jamie, it's helped me alot and has helped me even further to help deal with my intrusive thought. Sorry to bother you again Jame but, I'll be honest there is a song I listen to called 'God is a Freak' and while I don't believe in the lyrics of the song (the song is meant for people with religious trauma) though I do like the beat, rythem and the sound of the song. Does this make me a terrible person. Am I sinning for listening and even dancing to the song (I won't sing the song though as it contains many words and sentences that I find blasphemous as the song wasn't intended for someone like me.)?

          • I think it would take quite a lot to label someone as a “terrible person.” But my initial thought about listening to songs with blasphemous lyrics (though I haven’t heard the song you’re referring to) is why bother? There are millions of songs out there with nice rhythms and melodies. Intentionally exposing ourselves to these lyrics can have a spiritual impact, but it can also bring about emotional deregulation just from the fact that we’re trying to figure out, “is this okay? is this not okay?” and I don’t think there’s a song in the world worth all that emotional stress. So from a mental health and a spiritual perspective, I’d suggest skipping it and finding a better song.

  • Jamie…
    thank you so much for this article dealing with sexual intrusive blasphemous thoughts. they were taking a toll on me telling me i was gonna go to hell. your advise and information have changed my life, GOD sent you to me so you could tell me HE loves me no matter what thoughts intrude into my mind. i know HE has already won the battle!!! thank you so much your article is definitely a GOD send, GOD bless a sinner saved by GRACE!!!!!!!

    • Kevin, I’m so glad the topic was timely for you. Yes, God loves you no matter what crazy thoughts pass through your mind! You are not your thoughts, you are your choices and your commitments!

  • Thank you for this article. It is helpful. When you get time would you consider writing another article exploring the ego dystonic nature of OCD further?

    Do you think the enemy is aware of and uses our OCD against us?

  • Jaimie, my son doesn’t have blasphemous thoughts himself, but worries that other things are blasphemous, eg: thinking the words “lord,” “spirit,” etc. are meant exclusively for God and any other usage could be bad, so he avoids. How would you deal with that aspect of fear of blasphemy? I know you understand that the truth and logic doesn’t work with OCD, so when things “feel” bad, how do you ignore that?

  • Nice thoughts, Jamie! What is your suggestion when the Intrusive thought is Scripture truth? Like, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy", Ex 33:19, Rom 9:15. Or, "No one can come to me unless…"John 6:44. These are terrifying scriptures if you believe they are true the way I do – I believe they mean that God decides who to have mercy on for salvation, not us humans. And that is a core belief for me – I am not willing to change that belief. What is your practical suggestion for what I should do when I am terrified by these scriptures? I see them as intrusive thoughts because they terrify me but I also know that I am supposed to study my bible but these verses and others like them (they are all over the bible) are like intrusive thoughts for me. What should I do?

  • Thank you for this post! Today was very stragain! for me. I kept trying to "counteract" the intrusive thoughts I kept having against God. I kept telling Him isulently that I didn't mean them, and if any part of me meant them to please forgive me. I kept asking God to please help me. This kept going on while I was at work, caused me distress, and kept repeating over and over in my mind. I felt like if I ignored them, then they must not bother me enough and show how evil I really am, but thinking about them kept making them recycle themselves. This post was very needed. Thank you afain!

  • Jaimie,

    Thank you so much for this article and your website. I, like so many who have found your website, have been dealing with OCD and Scrupulosity for nearly 50 years. I wish I had found this kind of support many years ago.

    Anyway, I've found a few things that have helped me along this painful journey. In the area of blasphemous thoughts and the tiresome wracking of my mind to try to determine if I could have really wanted these thoughts—long ago, I decided to put my thoughts through a test–I have, as many of us have, put my thoughts or prayers down on paper to help provide a release of emotion, feeling, etc. I've even written letters to God which include my feelings, frustrations, etc., and then signed them with my name.

    So, the test that I use to determine whether the blasphemous thoughts were really something that I wanted is this—Would I write the thought down on a piece of paper, and tell the Lord that this is really my thought. Am I in agreement right now with the thought, and then would I be willing to sign my name to it?

    Well– Of course not. It finally clicked with me that if I was not willing to sign my name in agreement with these unwanted thoughts, that they then really ARE NOT MINE. This has been very helpful for me for years now and it has almost entirely eliminated the the brain wracking and the painful overexamination of motives, etc.

    Maybe this may be of some benefit to other sufferers. I'm so happy to have found others who think and feel like me. There is nothing like association! Thank you all so much.

  • Thanks Jamie. I found this article particularly helpful.
    I struggle with unwanted words / thoughts when saying my prayers.
    I can find myself repeating my prayers until I have satisfied myself I have said them correctly .
    It can take me an hour to say my prayers that should take about 3 or 4 minutes.

    I appreciate your understanding.

    Thanks,

    Paul

    • Paul,

      I struggled intensely with the same thing about 35 years years ago. Prayers were a burden that I dreaded instead of looking forward to. I came to realize that if I wanted to build a relationship with God then prayer would have to be more about expressing my feelings and thoughts honestly vs. perfectly. I prayed asking God to understand and accept my new approach and although there are still traces of ritualistic OCD in my prayers, they are much shorter, more meaningful, and feel more relational. Hope this helps.

  • Alongside your excellent thoughts, it can help to be reminded that not everything in the Bible is addressed to my life situation or your life situation, just as not every rule of a sport is controversial. Baseball rules need to say that the team with more runs wins. God's rules need to say that it's bad to blaspheme. It doesn't mean that it's likely to come up, or that we each need to check everything against it.

    This logic seems most pervasive from U.S. sermons of 30-60 years ago about watching television. Because few people were walking around with actual idols, it gave a lot of preachers (and brains of listeners) a kind of permission to stick television watching into that culturally dormant passage. But there's just no indication in the Bible that we have to come up with a personal application of every passage.

    I write this while acknowledging it's easier written about that done.

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