Re: Going To Hell, 2nd response

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Posted by John 16's Mom on May 13, 2002:
In Reply to: Going To Hell posted by Ken on May 12, 2002:
Dear Ken,

Sorry that this is so late. Today was busy.

I'm glad that you are getting to talk with some sort of a counselor so that you can have someone to talk with face-to-face who has expertise in the field. But as we have said before, be careful that you eventually get seen by an expert in treating OCD. You are exactly correct that traditional coping therapy does not help OCD. Yes, you do have to face your fears and learn not to give in to compulsions. My son went to two therapists who only made him feel worse before we found the OCD therapist. The other therapists had good intentions, but they try to figure out what issue from the past started your feelings, what your upbringing had to do with it, if you have a bad childhood, how do you feel about all this, and blah, blah, blah. It does nothing to relieve the OCD fears, which are not in any way related to what they are trying to talk about. Use your good solid information that you have from the internet regarding OCD and how it works. I would rely on that and your own ability to help yourself, before depending upon a talk therapist who has no experience in treating OCD. I'm not trying to slam them, I just want you to get better, not worse.

Regarding the fear of going to Hell...that's a big one. I think that most of the OCD thought processes are tied in to guilt, moralism, and self-esteem. Only people who CARE about being good are going to have OCD. That is because OCD can only work in a person who has a conscience. That's how the OCD fear grabs hold of you. You want to do the right thing. The OCD knows that, and tries to establish a "what if" thought process which will always keep you in a heightened state of anxiety. The fear grows and will not let go. You being the conscientious person that you are, you worry about the fear which OCD is throwing your way. Thus, the anxiety cycle begins. To make sure that you are not a bad person, you perform compulsions to check your credibility.

The masturbation issue is one that you will just have to decide on your own. I think that you know already that it is not good because it is affecting your relationship with your wife. I have no judgment about it one way or another. Many people believe that it is totally sinful. Others see it as a release, an alternative to unsafe sex, or just a natural thing. You can't go by anyone else's opinion because you will get fifty different opinions. Who's to say which person is correct? Just use your own judgment on what is right for you. If you think that it is causing damage to your marriage, then you will know what to do. Moderation, rather than abstinence, may be the answer.

I went to church today, which is very hard to do now in face of all the sexual abuse accusations against priests. I think that it just gives me one more excuse not to go. Organized religion has always been hard for me, and I don't know exactly why. But if you don't participate in something, how do you maintain a connection with God that is more exciting and fulfilling than personal prayer? So I go, sporadically. Sometimes the Mass is so good, and other times, I get nothing from it. So much depends on the priest being effective. If he lacks charisma or does not give a meaningful, applicable sermon, then I am a lost sheep. That makes me reluctant to go the next time.

Today was a good day for church because I heard many uplifting messages. It was the feast of the Ascension of Jesus into heaven. The words from one song caught my attention in regards to how you are feeling about death and going to Hell. The song is called, "Be Not Afraid". They play it often for funerals. When I hear it at Mass, I always remember the funerals of special people in my life where the song was played. The words of the refrain and one verse in particular are below:

Be not afraid.
I go before you always.
Come follow me.
I will give you rest.

If you pass thru raging waters,
in the sea you shall not drown.
If you walk amid the burning flames,
you shall not be harmed.
If you stand before the power of hell,
and death is at your side,
Know that I am with you
through it all.

To me, that is the most comforting song ever written about death and the afterlife. Some of the words are taken from Bible verses spoken by Jesus.

I know that OCD can be causing a lot of the fears that you are having about the uncertainty of death and life beyond that. That is typical of an OCDer, to worry about anything that is uncertain. Perhaps it is easier to feel in control by being an atheist or agnostic. So I think that you are very brave to stick up for your faith and live with the doubt, which by the way, even most non-OCDers have. It is hard to have faith in God every day, never wavering in our beliefs. And sure, He knows that. We are humans and we are not perfect. But as long as we are trying, I believe that our God is a loving God. He is not out to "get us". Effort and good intentions will go a long way in His book. Our whole life is going to be a struggle of one sort or another. There will be good times, and maybe a lot of bad times. But faith is what gets us through all the life struggles and gives us hope for the future. Don't look at the afterlife as some dark, formidable uncertainty. Have hope that it will be a beautiful adventure that we can all take part in, free of all the human frailties that we now experience. Be excited, not afraid.

Confession is not something that I have worried about much since I was a teenager. I went to confession for the last time when I was about fifteen. The priest was asking me all about sex, whether or not I had "done it", and did I need to confess anything else. I wasn't even dating then. All I had on my list that day was how many times I had disobeyed my mother or been mad at my brothers! I was so insulted that I never went back. From then on, I did my confession on my own, in my heart, directly to God. I still took Communion after that and did not worry about it. I was not going to deal with a priest any longer to confess my sins. It did bother me some to not receive one of the sacraments, but not enough to try it again. Finally, about two years ago, I went to a retreat with John's confirmation class. There was the most beautiful priest there who spoke of forgiveness and the sacrament of Confession. He invited us all to come to Confession while the rest of the retreat was continuing. I stood in line for confession with many teenagers and a few other parents for about one hour. During the wait, there was Adoration of the Eucharist with beautiful music playing. When I finally got in to confess, I was able to do it with the priest who had spoken to us. He first apologized for what the priest had said to me when I was a teenager. I was so impressed that he did that. I asked him about my reluctance to have faith. He came right out and said that there are sometimes dark powers (as in the devil) who can try to tempt us away from God. That made sense to me. It was such a moving, spiritual night. I will never forget it. My advice to you is don't worry about going to confession. Do it in your heart, as I did. Wait until you come across a priest who you have confidence in, and then you can get the official sacrament. Unless you have committed some deep mortal sin (like murder), I don't think that this idea goes against our religious beliefs.

Faith is something that you have to work on every day. It has a lot to do with having a positive, open attitude about life and our fellow human beings. We aren't going to do it right every time. It is a struggle and you have to keep picking yourself up each time and trying hard again. God appreciates it when we keep fighting and don't give up. I don't care how many times that I get tempted to give up, I'm going to hang in there for what may be ahead. It will be worth it, it will be beautiful, it will be there. I know, because God is helping me to believe it with His gift of faith. I just have to learn how to use His gift.

I know that this is long, and I apologize. I know that it is not all about OCD, but since you asked for input, Ken, here are my humble feelings. Hope that it helps you a bit. God bless us all tonight.

John 16's Mom

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