Healthy Soul/Lessons Learned/My Life/Teen Life

Please Stop Saying You’re a “Bad Catholic”

I used to hate running.

“I’m so tired,” “I’m so out of shape,” and “I can’t do this anymore.” would repeat over and over again as I ran.

But then I read a psychological study that showed if you tell yourself encouraging statements like, “I’m strong” or “I can do this” while working out, it can dramatically change your workout.

I thought it was cheesy, but when I tried doing it I realized just how much I was telling myself these toxic phrases. When I encouraged myself I found that I actually kind of enjoy running. And in fact, the first time I did this I ran twice as long as I usually did.

The same goes with our faith. Specifically, when we call ourselves a “bad Catholic.”

I often hear it like this, “Yeah I haven’t gone of confession in a while, I’m a pretty bad Catholic” or “I’m kind of a bad Catholic, I don’t really believe in the Church’s teachings.” I’m guilty of saying it about myself and even assigning that title to to others. But I’m learning, we need to stop. Because the truth is there is no such thing as a bad Catholic.

The literal point of the Church is to take in broken people wherever we are and to allow Christ to make us whole. Holiness is a lifelong journey, and we’ll always fail on earth. Failing us doesn’t make us bad. It makes us humans who are in need of grace.

Here’s why that phrase is toxic:


The underlying message with saying “bad Catholic” is that it makes holiness a checkbox list. Like if I do or don’t do X,Y, Z, then I’m holy or bad. But that’s not what holiness is. Holiness cannot be checked off, labeled, and quantified. Holiness is not about you and what you do. It’s about allowing Christ to love you. It’s trusting in Him. It’s saying yes. Holiness is Christ in you.

Who He is

If we call ourselves bad Catholics, if all we think about while praying is how bad we are, then those are telling signs that we’re actually not encountering Christ. Christ didn’t come to tell us how bad we are, He came to tell us how good we are. He came to tell us how the world does not deserve us. (Hebrews 11:8). And how precious and loved we are (Isaiah 43). Christ is merciful.

Who we Are

When we constantly tell ourselves that we’re bad Catholics or a terrible sinner, that’s who we become. We set limits. We become stuck and unmovable. We hide in a false identity. But our real and true identity is in Christ. We are children of God. And since God is so much greater than we can fathom, we also have unbelievable potential to be more saintly, more holy than we could ever imagine. Our capacity for greatness lies in the capacity of how great God is. And God has no limits. Always remind yourself of this. Drown out the lies. As Fr. Mike Schmitz said, “If Jesus is who He says He is, then you are who He says you are.”

It’s not Humble

We might say it because it sounds humble. On the same line, I often hear people say, “I’m just lucky if I get into purgatory.” But that’s not what humility is. Humility is all about knowing who you are in Christ eyes. It’s recognizing both that one, you’re not God and that we constantly need grace, but two, that the God of the universe created you with all the love infinitely possible.

I learned from St. Therese of Lisieux that it actually pains God when we call ourselves bad Catholics or that we’re such a terrible sinners that our only hope is purgatory. Because it doesn’t recognize who Christ is, and it doesn’t recognize who we truly are. God so desperately, so achingly, wants to pour His merciful love on us. He wants us to get to Heaven. But by saying these things, we reject His merciful love. We reject who Christ really is.

The Right Way

I’m not saying don’t examine yourself and the ways we’ve fallen short. Absolutely examine yourself and ways you can grow. But there’s a right way of doing it. It’s seeing how Christ sees you.

He doesn’t see you wrapped up in sin. He sees you. He’s not looking down at us saying, “How could they possibly do that again?!” Because He knows precisely why. He’s never writes us off as bad, we do that to ourselves. We even do that to each other.

But He calls us good, very good. And when we’re firm in that reality, we find ourselves with a greater desire to conform to the good God whose image and likeness we are made in. We stop trying to conform to the world, because we find that the world isn’t worthy of us. Aware of the way Christ sees us, sin stops being as attractive as it once was and we have more motivation to actively avoid it so that we can be free to seek Him. We find that we are so good, as sons and daughters of God, that sin stifles who we were made to be.

All of us, from the atheist to the saint, are all just pilgrims. We are travelers going from this world to the next. We sometimes get lost and take the long way, some days we may have no idea where we’re going. But the point is to to keep moving, keep learning to understand, and to keep trying knowing that the Lord never never gives up on us.

About the Author

Teresa Nguyen

I'm a twenty-something gal who's a big advocate for picnics, long walks, and dancing (even if you suck at it). I want to spend my whole life delighting in the Lord's love and being in awe of the sacredness of the human person.

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