Oh that pesky overactive conscience

Feb 28, 2012Heal from the past

I am enslaved to my overactive, hyperdrive conscience. I’ve written about it on this blog before, and whenever I have, I get very interesting comments showing me I’m not alone. I’m not the only one held hostage by overthinking every. single. thing I do. Trust me, you do not want to take a vacation in my head. It would not be leisurely or uncomplicated.

I’ve not figured out exactly why I’m this way. Part of it could be that when I was a young kid, I didn’t have many rules in my home, at least they weren’t stated. I didn’t have an external system in place of right and wrong. So to feel safe, I created my own boundaries. The problem came when I became a relentless taskmaster, demanding perfection in every endeavor. I couldn’t forgive myself for not measuring up to my impossible to follow standards. Grace didn’t have a place in the way I treated myself. I ended each day feeling like I couldn’t measure up.

After I met Jesus, I did have a rudimentary understanding of grace, but it didn’t translate into my day to day life. I made a lot of lists, basically Christian to do lists, and if I didn’t accomplish my tasks (like be nice to everyone, sacrifice, etc.), I would feel sure that Jesus had a scowl on His face when He thought of me.

I’ve walked a lot of miles since then, and I’m getting better. But sometimes when I’m feeling super insecure, my overactive conscience jumps back in. And I have to remind myself of a few things:

  • I am not the sum of my failures.
  • I am harder on myself than God is.
  • I am wildly loved by the One who created me.
  • I can rest in knowing that if I am truly messing up, the Holy Spirit will kindly convict. His conviction always, always, always comes with a huge dose of hope.
  • I may need to run my conscience by some friends to see if I’m overreacting and overthinking my faults.

I did the latter thing yesterday, and oh the freedom! One friend wrote this:

“You take on too much guilt and angst for things that are beyond your control and things God has already handled on your/others’ behalf.”

Having someone outside of me shed light on my tendencies helped me to know I was overreacting again. Thank God for friends like that!

So maybe just maybe I’ll learn to rest in Jesus’ grace. Maybe I’ll let go of my hyperactive conscience and better rely on the Holy Spirit. I hope so. I think it will mean more freedom.

What about you? Do you struggle with an overactive conscience? What have you learned? What has helped you overcome it?




  1. Amy

    I found this while searching for information on scrupulosity, which is another term for of “moral/religious OCD.” I like the term “overactive conscience” but wonder how it differs from a true mental health issue. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    I have read that this can also be caused by hypercritical parents, so it is interesting to me that you feel this is a result of the opposite. Extremes do produce negative consequences, no matter which side they’re on.

    • Mary

      I have no doubt this is a mental health issue. But, yes, for me it came as a result of non-scrupulous adults in my life. I rebelled by creating rules!

  2. Mary DeMuth

    I don’t off the top of my head. So sorry!

    • Ross Sisson

      Yes! Same problem here. I have severe Scrupulosity. It’s torture.

      • Mary DeMuth

        Scrupulosity = genius term

  3. Liz Perreault

    Do you have any articles, books, or thoughts regarding the spirit of the law vs letter of the law?