Are vows made because of OCD compulsions to be kept?



I have a question about OCD and the Bible. I have been a member of the church of Christ for about five years. I have been diagnosed with OCD and most of my issues revolve around my faith. I went for a few years undiagnosed and untreated because I didn't know what was wrong with me. I have recently reached out and gotten on medications and gone through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Looking back on my behaviors, I noticed a trend in my thought process:

  • "If you aren't willing to kneel right now when you pray in public, that means you are ashamed and proud, and God won't listen to your prayer because you aren't willing."
  • "If you don't teach this person, you are ashamed of Jesus and proud like the Pharisees."
  • "If you aren't willing to do [this] then you will go to Hell because you value [this] over Heaven."
  • "If you don't give this person all of your money, then that means you are greedy and love money more than God, so you will go to Hell because your priorities aren't right."

And many other thoughts like these.

Basically, OCD has two driving factors: doubt and certainty. Someone will receive a doubt, seemingly out of nowhere, about something they care about and that will cause huge spikes in anxiety and fear/guilt (obsession). The untrained way to cope with that obsession is to perform an action to gain certainty about your doubt and alleviate the anxiety (compulsion). So, in my case I would get doubts about being willing to do something for God, I would know it isn't necessary, but there would be an intense doubt accompanied by anxiety, and I would perform an action to assure myself that I was willing to do the action and, therefore, alleviate the anxiety that came with the consequences of not being willing to do an action.

My specific question is this: During the time when I wasn't medicated or trained, I would get thoughts to make vows: "You could make this vow for God." "No, it is unnecessary and I don't want to." "You aren't willing to do [this] for God?" "Yes I am, but I don't have to and don't want to." "You must value [this] over Heaven then." Thus, I would make the vow to make myself feel better because I feared. Based on my understanding of God, these aren't really legitimate because I was only doing these actions to alleviate fear, doubt, and anxiety due to OCD. But I wanted a second opinion from someone who has dealt with people with OCD and is a Bible believer.

Thank you so much.


I appreciate the observation regarding what is behind OCD. Your compulsions were more than assurance to yourself. Because they were rules of your own making, you ended up adding to God's Word. "Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar" (Proverbs 30:6). I don't mention this to cause you further anxiety, but to point out that we must do (or not do) things based on what God actually said. Our own thoughts or personal challenges are inadequate. "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20).

Therefore, vows made to yourself (or to God) because of compulsion are a violation of God's Word. They are not valid vows because they involve wrong (adding to God's Word). God does not accept vows to do wrong. See: Can you accidentally make a vow?

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