When is restitution required?


I’m aware that I am very scrupulous. I’ve become very very numb to God because on one end I’m entirely too obsessive and want to be perfect. Then on the other end, I become numb to avoid trying to gain perfection. I’ve quit jobs due to my religious anxiety and feeling the need to confess my sins and faults or else risk eternal damnation. I listen to some “holiness” preaching that teaches heavily about restitution. I sometimes used to listen to one preacher and his message was about when God saved him and the list of sins he wrote down to confess to people.

Years ago a patient in my care was hitting me. Instead of walking away, I retaliated. I’d done bad things in the past. Now I would never dream of it. I always walk away. Anyway, on this particular day, my patient was bending my finger backward. It was painful and I was in their grip. I can’t remember if I bent the patient's finger back out of retaliation or to get her to loosen her grip. Her finger was bruised the next day. A month later the guilt ate me up and I confessed to my employer. The employer basically brushed my behavior off and that was it. The thing that eats me up is the patient's family paid to have X-rays done to be sure there were no broken bones. The family doesn’t know I did the bruising whether intentional or not. I felt for years that unless I paid the x-ray fees, God couldn’t forgive me.

Is restitution necessary for salvation? When is it required?


Let's focus on the one issue that you raised. I suspect that you tend to paint your memories in a negative light and spend a lot of time condemning yourself.

While the rule is to walk away from confrontation, it isn't always possible. You stated you should have walked away, but you also noted that you couldn't at the moment because the patient had a grip on you and was bending your finger backward. Self-defense is not wrong. You did not harm the patient. You got her to release you so that you could walk away. After the fact, you looked for ways to condemn your action and you thought your motivation for getting her to release you was possibly flawed. But I note that like many people with scrupulosity, you aren't certain. You have doubts about your memories. Scrupulosity is a form of OCD, which is appropriately labeled "the doubter's disease." Even when you told your employer about it, clearly the employer thought that you had not done wrong, but since you compulsively condemn yourself, you decided the employer didn't seriously consider what you told him.

Restitution is not always possible, but when a person repents of sin, they try to make sure they have not profited from their sins. This doesn't mean you have to confess every slight you might have made against any person. When Zaccheus declared his repentance, he said, "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much" (Luke 19:8). He didn't want to have profited from his past sins, so he gave away half his earnings to the poor. He offered to repay four times the amount if someone showed him that he defrauded them in his tax collections. He did what he could, but notice he didn't try to make a list of all the possible people he might have defrauded.

In this case, the family was concerned that there might have been a break and they chose to have the finger x-rayed. The x-ray showed that they had no reason for concern. It also proved that even though you were being hurt by a patient, you managed to stop the problem without harming the patient, even if the family didn't know about it. This is not a case requiring restitution. It is only a learning experience to be more careful not to be caught by a patient that leaves you with limited options.

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