Am I Selfish If I Fear Being Sent to Hell?
Is being a good person selfish if I am doing it out of fear of being sent to hell?
The Baltimore Catechism:
Q. 767. What is imperfect contrition?
A. Imperfect contrition is that by which we hate what offends God because by it we lose heaven and deserve hell; or because sin is so hateful in itself.
Q. 768. What other name is given to imperfect contrition and why is it called imperfect?
A. Imperfect contrition is called attrition. It is called imperfect only because it is less perfect than the highest grade of contrition by which we are sorry for sin out of pure love of God's own goodness and without any consideration of what befalls ourselves.
Q. 769. Is imperfect contrition sufficient for a worthy confession?
A. Imperfect contrition is sufficient for a worthy confession, but we should endeavor to have perfect contrition.
It is obviously better to be sorry for sin solely because it is wrong and is an offense against God's love, but being sorry primarily because we are afraid of hell is still a good thing. It shows that we trust what Jesus has taught us about the effects of sin and that we respect his judgment. Imperfect contrition is a good starting point to help us focus on why sin separates us from God and one another and deepening our relationship with God.