Scrupulosity and Procrastination

Scrupulosity Video Post

Jaimie Eckert

Published on Apr 7, 2024; Updated on Apr 7, 2024

Can we talk for a moment about scrupulosity and procrastination?

There are a few unique features to religious OCD that can contribute to procrastination and excessive distractibility. Some people ask me if OCD and ADHD are cousins. (I don’t know the scientific answer to that, but I know that this can be an issue for many!) Others have been blown away by their OCD diagnosis because, in their own words, “my house is always a disaster! How could I possibly have the ‘neatness disease?'”

Scrupulosity Mindsets that Contribute to Procrastination

However, some of the not-so-healthy mindsets of scrupulosity can be key contributors to procrastination. For example, black-and-white thinking, which insists on polarizing all aspects of reality into either perfection or disaster, is extremely pertinent here.

“Perfectionism,” which we discuss extensively in the scrupulosity community, is a spin-off of black-and-white thinking. Rigid insistence on perfection can only exist in a mental world where you have already created a false dichotomy between black vs white, perfection vs disaster, a world where no gray area or “imperfect-but-good-enough” exists.

polarized thinking of religious OCD

This mindset can contribute to procrastination because we may wait for everything to be “perfect” before we begin that long delayed task on our to-do list.

As an example, me writing this blog post: I’ve been conceptualizing of it for over a week, but I’ve been waiting for the “perfect” situation to sit down and write it. Now it’s Friday (my husband doesn’t work on Fridays) and he just took our baby outside in the stroller.

Yes! I have time! Let’s write!

But–I procrastinate because I’m trying to create the “perfect” work scenario. First I need to get a glass of water, because I really should be working on getting enough water while I write.

And then–oh wait, there’s laundry that needs to be started. Wouldn’t it be just amazing if I could multitask writing while laundry is actively running?

Ok. Here’s my laptop. But wait, I’m cold. I need a sweater. I can’t work well if I’m not comfortable.

[Puts on sweater.]

Wait, that’s not the one I wanted. That’s the old gray sweater, but the new gray sweater is fuzzier and more comfy. Maybe I should go and find it, then everything will feel “just right” to sit and write…and anyways, shouldn’t I just wait until I have more than 20 minutes to write? I mean, how much can I write in 20 minutes anyways? I won’t be able to finish, and I really hate having unfinished work on my mind over the weekend…

Sound familiar? It’s not that I am forgetting what I’m supposed to be doing, or that I’m chasing every butterfly that flits in front of me. I procrastinate because of the black-and-white thinking, the perfectionism, which makes me search for the “just right” feeling before beginning my work. These mindsets are ALL endemic to the scrupulous mind.

Distractibility and Scrupulosity

Being easily distracted is very similar to procrastination, but it can come from different causes. As it relates to religious OCD specifically, there are a few major ways that a scrupulous person might be a very distracted person:

  1. Being preoccupied with negating or “dealing with” intrusive thoughts
  2. Being preoccupied with internal rumination (i.e. being in a conversation with someone but being mentally “checked out” — you’re “there” but you’re not really there)
  3. Being a highly creative person, a man or woman of many ideas (this is often on positive topics, not necessarily on obsessive themes; the same brain that churns out endless obsessions also can be incredibly creative and intensely active)
  4. Intentionally turning to various forms of distraction as a mode of shutting your brain off from the constant barrage of doubts or intrusive thoughts (people with scrupulosity may struggle with escapist strategies–book or movie addictions, porn, substance abuse, maladaptive daydreaming disorder, etc.)
OCD and maladaptive daydreaming disorder

What Does the Bible Say About Scrupulosity and Procrastination?

This is going to sound a little blunt, but the first place I landed when I started searching the Bible for relevant themes was counsel to “lazy” or “slothful” people.

I know, it sounds like a terrible title to use for ourselves when we are procrastinating! But, let’s remember that God would have never bothered addressing this issue if He viewed it as an incurable problem. Advice given means there is hope.

So what advice does the Bible extend to procrastinators? Consider this passage:

The lazy man will not plow because of winter;
He will beg during harvest and have nothing.

Proverbs 20:4

This procrastinator doesn’t plow “because of winter.” Other translations say, “by reason of the cold.” Apparently, after he gathers in the harvest in the autumn, he needs to keep working and till the soil for a new planting season. But, he’s too cold.

Circumstances aren’t “just right” for him to work.

He can’t find the right fuzzy sweater.

So he tells himself, “I’ll do it later.” The problem is that when “later” comes, it’s harvest time again, and he’s hungry and impovershed.

This verse is a reminder not to wait until the warmth and sunshine come before we head to our tasks. Don’t let the black-and-white thinking get us stuck waiting for perfect conditions before we start working!

In all labor there is profit,
But idle chatter leads only to poverty.

Proverbs 14:23

This verse reminds us that there is profit in ALL labor. Perfectionistic thinking will lead us to believe, “If I can’t do it perfectly, why should I even start?”

Well, maybe you can’t clean your entire messy kitchen in the time you have right now, but you can put a few dishes in the dishwasher and wipe the top shelf of your fridge, right? (References to dirty fridge shelves…I bet you’re wondering how that example was at the top of my mind…)

Don’t wait until you can get everything perfect before starting. There is profit even in the little bits that you do. Your little bits are enough. Because if you add up all the little bits, you’ll have so much more than you expected! (And eventually, I’ll publish this blog post with enough 20 minute chunks of time!)

Isn’t it a terrible thing how the false guilt of scrupulosity is constantly telling us we’re not good enough? You and I can take back our dignity one little chunk at a time as we choose to labor bit by bit, ever-so-imperfectly, not waiting for the “perfect” circumstance. We are telling ourselves, I am God’s child. I am enough because of the blood of Jesus. I have nothing to prove. My little bits for Jesus will all add up to a fruitful result at the end of the day. Jesus accepts my little bits with joy.

What Does the Bible Say About Scrupulosity and Distractions?

If you struggle with scrupulosity and distractions (see my list of 4 items above), I want to just share one simple thought from Scripture.

The lazy man says, “There is a lion outside!
I shall be slain in the streets!”

Proverbs 22:13

Note what the verse does NOT say: it doesn’t say that a lion is actually outside in the streets. Elsewhere, Scripture says “a prudent man foresees evil and hides himself” (Proverbs 27:12). If there was TRULY a lion in the streets, it’s a good thing to stay inside till it goes away, gets trapped, or gets killed. But the “lazy man” allows himself to believe that there are dangerous situations that await him if he goes forward in doing what he ought to be doing.

OCD and distractions

Isn’t that like scrupulosity?

We know we ought to be “doing the next thing” and not getting caught in our obsessive spirals and spiritual ruminations. We ought to just get busy with our everyday responsibilities and let the excessive energy of our thoughts peter out gradually.

But we just can’t seem to do that because it feels so dangerous to let go of our thoughts. Every passing thought distracts us from the duty at hand because they feel terrifying. It is as if there is a lion outside our door. We stay inside, paralyzed, convinced that we will be slain in the streets if we dare move outside our obsessive-compulsive house of sticks.

For those who find themselves easily distracted by the internal racket of OCD: this issue is directly tied to how dangerous you view the thoughts and feelings that you’re trying to “solve” before moving on to do the task at hand.

Sometimes, we just need to step outside, ignore our obsessions, and go to work, even if it feels like a lion is just around the corner.

Conclusion

Scrupulosity and procrastination and distractibility are all related. But they don’t have to be a power in your life. I believe that learning to shift our mental patterns away from black-and-white thinking, perfectionism, “just right” thinking, and fear-based reasoning will help us to have better time management.

What about you? What has helped you to overcome procrastination and distractions as a person with scrupulosity? Share your thoughts in a comment below!

Best wishes on the journey,

  • Thank you so much Jaimie for another informative and very helpful article, I really needed to read such kind of article in these days and I can honestly say that it was God’s gift to me!!!

    God bless you and all your family and dear ones!

  • I do daydream because there is not much happiness in my life. I’m going to check into maladaptive daydreaming. But I know I need to work on loving Jesus more. I know we aren’t here to be happy but to be Holy, but I’m finding it hard.

  • Thank you! God just gave me a similar revelation about my ADD (Or is it OCD? Or ADD + OCD?) recently, even with Proverbs 22:13. I am so happy to see someone else sharing this!

    Looking at the ADHD angle (ADD is classified as another type of ADHD now.), I never related to the emotional dysregulation; in fact, I have a very difficult time knowing what I am actually feeling, and it has taken a lot of training to even understand when I am feeling distressed at all (I had to, because my feelings were destroying me physically!). Somehow, I had an epiphany moment where God reminded me of this, and how there have been times where I had the ADD brain freeze moment, and He performed some cognitive-behavioral therapy on me in the moment, and helped me push through and get the work done that I needed; and, it came to me that I DO have problems with “emotional dysregulation,” it is just that I have suppressed my ability to express or realize my own negative emotional states. The main problem for me with executive functioning was that I had a lot of fear associated with these tasks; how and why this came about, I can only guess at this point; I am prone to OCD and perfectionism, though. Looking up “ADHD low emotional intelligence,” I found a very interesting article that verified this, and mentioned that although many professionals know about this, it is little talked about (???).

    This is such an important message! For ADHD, and OCD, just telling someone to “stop being lazy” or “try harder” is so ineffective; it is very destructive, because they are already trying their hardest, and they do not know why it is not working. They do not have the tools to get past their emotional issues, if they even recognize them to begin with. Most of us do not want to be “lazy.” I like to work hard and achieve. I have many ideas that I would like to bring to life. It was kind of painful to realize that the thing keeping me back in life was low EQ.

    Thank you again! This was God’s encouragement to me to help me to move forward this week. God bless you!

    • Very interesting thoughts, I really appreciate you sharing! And in the verses I quoted, I hope it didn’t sound like I was calling anyone lazy per se…just that it’s the closest biblical wording I can find that begins to relate to the issue of procrastination 😅

  • Its pointless for me to even try
    God has rejected me because I’m completely 100% useless
    Everything I’ve ever touched or tried to do has gone wrong God created me useless then rejected me for being useless
    After all the years of complete failure I’m really really tired !

    • You are loved by God . You have potential to be your best but you have to do your part – God provides food for the birds but he doesn’t put it in their mouth for them. I work in rehab where people have had strokes or other disabilities and the thing therapists have to do is challenge their body and mind to do more than they think they can do and not do everything for them. Otherwise they won’t get stronger.

    • 1 Corinthians 3:6-7. God gives the increase, not us. Often we have no idea how much we have affected others. it’s a wonderful life has a great point.

    • That is so not true, God loves you for you, even if you can’t see it. Jesus came for the broken, not the whole, he is the same today as he was when he touched the lives of all the broken people their society said were useless or didn’t count. If he came and sat next to you right now, what would you tell him?

    • Hello!
      I cannot imagine how horrible you feel when you feel like God created you useless then rejected you for being useless! You were very brave to put your words out there and express how you feel. You have a lot of courage hidden down there beneath the feeling of being useless. I hear your pain. You matter. Your exhaustion matters. You are worth fighting for. Please reach out and allow yourself to find the right person to confide in. There is hope that it won’t always be this way. There is a better future available for you. And it might start with being vulnerable with God and telling Him exactly what you feel. He can handle it. He already knows it anyway so you might as well talk to Him about it!

  • Procrastination has never been my issue.I usually feel driven to do something especially my thoughts do operate in perfectionism though.Have you ever listen to Mark Dejesus? He has quite a good grip on OCD

      • Also want to add, that I’ve always been a procrastinator of sorts; you brought up a good point. I’m always waiting until I “feel” like doing whatever it is-if I feel just right, then that means everything’s going well. 🙂 I wonder if having a very short attention span can also factor into having OCD?

    • Somehow I am like you as well! I can be very much a procrastinator on some things and then on other things I’m totally the “git ‘er done” girl. It really depends.

  • Thank you for this article. You are helping so many people like me. God bless you and please keep writing these articles.

  • Maybe your post was intended to be simpler but my mind took this turn…by the way, forgive my bad English, I write everything from the translator.

  • Hello, I have a little problem with sharing the gospel, yes I have done it sometimes, but I don’t always dare to do it and that makes me feel bad… I don’t dare to talk to people so I have some triptychs, but neither I don’t even dare share them… I’ve done it a couple of times, but I don’t always do it and that makes me a little nervous.
    I know that not all of us are called to be preachers or evangelizers, but we are called to share the gospel in one way or another… but I don’t know how to go about things.
    I’ve done it with some people, but I don’t dare go down the street handing out leaflets and that makes me feel bad…
    I don’t know how to put into practice the spirit of love, power and self-discipline.

    • Benjamin,
      I read your comment and had a couple of thoughts! I am not a professional; just a reader who also struggles with scrupulosity daily.

      First, I wanted to remind you that the Lord loves you so much, and you don’t have to do anything to earn this. I can see how much your heart cares for the gospel, and by believing in Jesus you are already saved–there’s nothing you can do to erase or earn more of Jesus’ love for you.

      Because we are sinful, we will NEVER be perfect in practicing love and self-discipline. However, Jesus graciously guides us in doing this–aka, we are not practicing alone. Luke 18:27 says “But he (Jesus) said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Therefore, although our hearts and scrupulous minds like to lead us in all kinds of directions, Jesus can overcome all and will help us become more like Him.

      Jesus also promises us the Holy Spirit who will never leave us. John 14:16 says “And I (Jesus) will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.” Because you and I have the Holy Spirit, we can pray and ask Him to guide us in situations in which we can share the gospel with others.

      Jesus does call us to share the good news with others, but this is not just handing out leaflets on the street (that would definitely be hard for me)! This includes loving others the best that we can! God is love, and Jesus calls us to love others as ourselves. When we do this, the Lord will work through these situations to bring others to Him. In your daily actions, you can try to find fun ways to spread Jesus to others! Sometimes I will make a simple effort to hold the door for people or compliment a worker throughout my day. The important thing to remember is that we will mess up, yet God still loves us eternally! We plant the seeds, and God waters them!

      You are loved Benjamin, and I will be praying for you.

      Jordan

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}
    >