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I saw a TV program the other day where a group of religious and non-religious people were discussing faith and mental health. A psychologist mentioned the harmful effect it can have on some adolescents and in some cases it can be linked to OCD. This I believe is what happened to me although only recently have I become aware of this. When I read the information on your website I felt compelled to comment. Please know that anything I say is said with respect and with a desire to be constructive. My experience was unlike what you describe.

I was brought up a Catholic and at the age of eleven was an ardent and literal believer of all I had been taught and learned from the New Testament and Catholic Truth Society pamphlets. We had yearly retreats at school, usually from Jesuit priests and I found them marvellous experiences where I felt close to God and absorbed the experience.

Over a year or two I became much stricter in my observance of Christian morals, and as I approached puberty I was determined to lead a “pure” life. I began to realise that I thought God wanted me to become a priest. I attended mass every day and visited a chapel in my free time to pray.

Unfortunately, at the same time I began to feel that I was not obeying God's laws closely enough and found this feeling was invading every action—if I was eating, I’d believe I needed to fast or that I’d eaten more than I needed to, or if I prayed I hadn’t prayed enough. I would be washing and think I’d touched my nipple and therefore had sinned. Going to the toilet was a nightmare because I couldn’t carry out hygiene appropriately without thinking I’d sinned.

The consequence of all this was that I became utterly miserable and friendless; even my family thought I had gone crazy. I had no feelings of anger towards my parents. I was lucky to have a very caring family, and I felt no reason to be angry with them. My behaviour arose from a desire to please God.

As years passed the behaviours gradually ceased, and I decided that I really couldn’t live according to Christian principles because it affected me so negatively. People speak of being freed by Jesus’ words—I feel they imprison me; I become paralysed and lose my joie de vivre.

I would be very interested in your comments or thoughts if you have time. I’ve never really discussed this with anyone before, but now in my late fifties I am beginning to see it as unfinished business.

Outline of the Answer
• Actions, not feelings
• Anger
• The Father
• Legalism
• Parental Hypocrisy
• Love
• Unfinished Business

You may not feel any anger towards your parents, and you may not be able to see a reason to be angry at them, but, contrary to what most persons tend to believe, anger is not felt as an emotion; instead, it manifests very subtly in your actions. Moreover, anger is often unconscious, and for that reason you can be blind to it. In fact, you can be so spiritually blind to it that you cannot even interpret your own actions that evince the anger.


Now, in your comment, you reveal your anger quite plainly, even though you donít see it. When you say that Jesusí words imprison you, you are taking your redemption and throwing it back in His face. With the price of His own Blood Christ freed humanity from slavery to sin, and you claim that He imprisoned you. The truth is, you have imprisoned yourself in your own false beliefs. You have imprisoned yourself in your anger at God.

So what did God do to deserve your anger? Well, nothing. Absolutely nothing. But He has done everything to demonstrate His love for you.

So why are you angry at God? Well, you are really transferring your anger onto God from someone else. And who might that be? The answer should be no surprise to a real psychologist, rather than a TV psychologist: your father.

The Father

Here we get to the truth of your life. If your father had shown you how to love God with a vibrant, living trust, you would not be in your current mess. If your father had taught you the truth about sexuality at the beginning of your adolescence, you would not have feared it. If your father’s entire being had been based in true love, you would have seen that love demonstrated, and you would have learned its purity by example. But you didn’t. Instead, you had to learn it intellectually, from pamphlets. For you, love is just an idea in your head, not a vibrant warmth in your heart.


When love is all in your head and not in your heart, you will fall into legalism. Legalism, after all, is just a politically safe place to do battle with your father. A strict, literal approach to things allows you to overpower authorityósymbolically, your fatherówith logic and reason. You act out your anger through intellectual triumph, and all the while you push out of awareness the inadequacy you feel about yourself because of your fatherís failures.

But no one who loves God from the depths of his heart, and no one who values holiness more than any satisfaction of the world will fall into dry, intellectual legalism. This sort of obsessive behavior is nothing but an attempt to cover up a profound fear of love.

Parental Hypocrisy

Faith, then, is not harmful to adolescents. Parental hypocrisy is harmful to adolescents. Parents—especially fathers—whose real trust is not in God but in the satisfactions of the world (sports, politics, fundamentally anti-Christian entertainment, and addictions) may have prayers on their lips but their hearts are lukewarm. Parents like this cheat you of faith, and when you are cheated you have good reason to be hurt.

You have good reason to be hurt, but that hurt has fallen into anger, and, as I said before, you are blind to your anger. You have done such a good job of hiding it from others that you have hidden it from yourself to such an extent that you deny it even exists.


Still, deep in your soul, you do want God’s love, just as you crave the love of the father who angers you. You will never see this love, however, by denying your anger. Anger—even unconscious anger—makes love impossible. But if only you acknowledge the anger, understand it, and heal the hurt that lies beneath it, then you can forgive your father—and then you will be capable of real love.

Unfinished Business

So, if you really want to finish your unfinished business, accept the fact that you are spiritually blind and that no effort on your own will enlighten you. Let that acceptance allow you to seek the truth with all your soul. Discuss the matter with God Himself. Implore Him for mercy and pray that He will open your eyes and your heart to see the truth. Maybe then you will be able to interpret the depths of what you cannot now see: your unconscious anger.

Related Pages

Invisible anger in OCD
How a defense is a protection


Recommended Reading
A treasure of a resource for psychological and spiritual healing. Information gathered from my websites (including this webpage) is now available at your fingertips in book form.


Falling Families, Fallen Children by Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D. Do our children see a mother and a father both living in contemplative love for God with a constant awareness of His presence and engaged in an all-out battle with the evil of the world? More often than not our children donít see living faith. They donít see protection from evil. They donít see genuine, fruitful devotion. They donít see genuine love for God. Instead, they see our external acts of devotion as meaningless because they see all the other things we do that contradict the true faith. Thus we lose credibilityóand when parents lose credibility, children become cynical and angry and turn to the social world around them for identity and acceptance. They are children who have more concern for social approval than for loving God. They are fallen children. Letís bring them back.

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