Wallowing in self-pity

By Dave Henning / March 31, 2023

“Concentration on our sin against God is the opposite of self-pity.  Wallowing in self-pity may appear to be repentance, but it is not . . . . Our sorrow is not over how we wronged God or others but over the trouble it has brought us.  We are not truly troubled by the sin, and if the consequences go away, we slide back toward the wrongful behavior.”- Timothy Keller

Timothy Keller continues Chapter 9 of Forgive with the second counterfeit of repentance, self-pity.

2.  Counterfeits of Repentance: Self-Pity.  Real repentance, Pastor Keller underscores, involves grief over the sin itself.  But false repentance centers on sorrow over the consequences of the sin.  And the trouble your sin has caused you.

Certainly, David abused his royal power to initiate an affair with Bathsheba, a married woman.  In addition, David arranged the murder of her husband, Uriah.  Also, in abusing his kingly power, David violated the trust of his people.  Yet, in Psalm 51:4, David confessed: “Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Most significantly, Pastor Keller notes, David’s statement serves as a cri de couer, a passionate appeal.  Because the doubling of a word in Hebrew indicates intensity of emotion.  Of course, David knows he sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah.  However, his sin against God was foundational to it all.  Furthermore, as Martin Luther argues in his Large Catechism, you never harm others (commandments five through ten) without breaking the first commandment.

Above all, pastor Keller observes, self-pity never leads to change.  Because it takes love to be sorry for the sin itself.

In conclusion, Stephen Charnock (1628-1680), an English Puritan clergyman, once described a truly evangelical, gospel-based repentance, He wrote that such a person cries:

“I have incensed a goodness that is like the dropping of the dew, I have offended a God that had the deportment of a friend. . . .  Oh my . . . hard heart . . . to run from so sweet a fountain to rake in puddles.”

Today’s question: What Scriptures help you avoid wallowing in self-pity?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Teach us humility? – Satan’s offer”

About the author

Dave Henning

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