Summary: You are not a uniquely bad person. Everyone is messed up to some degree. Everyone has something in his or her past or present that could torment him or her.
Summary: You are not a uniquely bad person. Everyone is messed up to some degree.
Don’t Think You are a Uniquely Bad PersonEscape the trap of self-condemnation
Doug Britton, MFT
Part two of a two-part series on “Overcoming Guilt and Shame”
Many people think something is severely wrong with them—something that makes them different from other people. They are sure they are bad people, or that they are messed up in ways other people are not.
They often say things such as, “I know God forgives sin, but what I did was really bad.” As a result, many feel hopeless in their Christian walk, or they go through life feeling like failures or second-class Christians.
There are countless reasons you may think something is uniquely bad or wrong with you. Here are some common reasons. Check each one that describes you:
___ You have ugly thoughts or temptations.
___ You sinned after accepting Christ.
___ You think you blasphemed the Holy Spirit.
___ You have battled a sin for years without success.
___ You had an abortion, or you encouraged someone to have an abortion.
___ You don’t feel like reading the Bible or praying.
___ You have been divorced.
___ You committed murder, sexually abused someone, or committed another crime.
Make it personal
1. Do you think something is wrong with you, something that makes you different from other people? If so, what is it?
2. Do you often think God is angry with you? If so, why do you think he’s mad at you?
3. Have you felt condemned or hopeless because of any of these reasons? Explain your answer.
4. Do you often feel like a hypocrite? If so, how does this affect you?
Realize that early Christians also were imperfect
Many people think the early Christians were perfect—that they didn’t sin the same way we do. That’s not true.
As you read the New Testament, keep your eyes open for their faults, and you will see that the early Christians had the same faults as you. For example, sometimes they were disobedient, selfish, and hypocritical. They also argued.
Sometimes they were hypocrites.
When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. (Galatians 2:11-12)
Sometimes they gave in to peer pressure.
The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. (Galatians 2:13)
Sometimes they argued.
I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. (Philippians 4:2)
Sometimes they were selfish.
I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 2:20-21)
Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only. (Philippians 4:15)
Sometimes they didn’t disbelieve.
But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. (Luke 24:11)
When Rhoda, a servant girl, said Peter was at the door, many people said, “You’re out of your mind.” (Acts 12:15)
Sometimes they were afraid.
When he [Saul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. (Acts 9:26)
Sometimes they disobeyed God.
Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” (Acts 10:14)
Make it personal
5. What lessons can we learn from these verses?
6. Which of these verses give you hope? Why?
7. Do these examples give us an excuse to choose to sin? Why or why not?
Related: Guard your thought life
Related: Defeating Temptation
Accept that everyone sins, including you
Acknowledge that everyone, including you, is messed up to some degree, and that everyone has done something or many somethings) that could torment him or her. As James wrote, “We all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2).
When God forgives you, you are forgiven
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
Remember that you are in a growth process
When you became a Christian, you didn’t automatically become perfect. I’m sure you are aware of that. But after days, weeks, or years of being a Christian, you might have began to feel guilty, thinking you should have become perfect by now. That would be a shame, for God doesn’t expect you to be perfect in everything you do. You are in a growth process, one that will continue as long as you live.
… The new self … is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:10)
What do you think?
8. How can knowing that Christianity is a growth process encourage you?
We start as babies in Christ.
Jesus said that when we are reconciled with God, we are “born again.” Spiritually, we become like a newborn baby. We have a lot to learn!
Babies are not able to walk, feed themselves, or change their diapers. Babies need help. And they make lots of mistakes as they grow. The same is true of us. As we grow, it’s inevitable that we will stumble from time-to-time.
In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3)
What do you think?
9. Does God expect a new baby to be able to walk? Explain your answer.
We grow in maturity.
Just as a baby grows into maturity, you and I grow in the Lord.
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
What do you think?
10. How can knowing you are in a growth process encourage you?
We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. (James 3:2)
Read and discuss 1 Timothy 1:12-17.
1. Have you thought you are a uniquely bad person, that something is wrong with you that isn’t wrong with other people? If your answer is “yes,” why have you thought this? In view of this study, how do you look at yourself now?
2. Name three examples of early Christians who sinned that describe something you have done (being a hypocrite, giving in to peer pressure, etc.). Beside each answer, briefly explain your answer.
3. Looking at these three examples, did God give up on the people who sinned? Choose one example and write how God used that person.
4. Read 1 Timothy 1:12-17.
a. How serious did Paul say his sin was?
b. Do your sins make you a worse sinner than Paul? Why or why not?
c. Given your answer, are you a uniquely bad person? Why or why not?
d. Given your answer, will God forgive your sins? Why or why not?
e. Did God still use Paul in spite of what he wrote about his sinfulness? Explain your answer.
f. Given your answer, does God want to use you? Why or why not?
Doug Britton, MFT
Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)
Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com for practical, biblical, cross-cultural books, Bible studies, and ebooks.