Thursday, April 26, 2018

Being a Good Person by Feeling Bad About Yourself

Not long ago, I watched an episode of Gilmore girls with my wife. One of the main characters, Rory, a college girl was chosen as editor of the Yale Daily News while Rory's best friend was ousted from the position.  Rory felt bad about it but thought it was a good move and went along with it. Rory's friend took a while to accept her new position at the paper with anything resembling grace, but the story reminded me of the number of times we feel bad about doing things but choose to do them anyway.

In Mark chapter 6, we find King Herod in a similar position. He had been married to an Arabian princess but had an affair with his brother's wife (who was also his niece) and they each left their respective spouses to marry each other. John the Baptizer criticized Herod for breaking the Jewish law in this way and so Herod had him arrested.  But scripture describes this weird paradox. Herod knew John to be a righteous and holy man so he protected him in prison from his own wife's scheming ways. At one point Mark tells us this, "When Herod heard him he would be very disturbed, yet would hear him gladly" (Mark 6:20, HCSB).

Why in the world would Herod enjoy being so disturbed by John? Well, we do that very thing all the time. I have counseled with a number of people engaged in ongoing activities that were wrong and that they felt very badly about. But the more we talked, I discovered that they were satisfied with feeling bad about what they were doing rather than fixing it.  You see, in many people's minds, feeling bad about doing something bad means you are not really a bad person. So, while they continue doing the thing that is wrong, they decide that feeling bad about it is enough to be a good person "at heart". In an odd way, these people feel better about themselves when they feel bad about what they have done.  And ultimately, these people are only really interested in feeling good about themselves...which happens because they felt bad about behaving badly.

What about us? Do we ever catch ourselves relieved that we feel bad about doing something wrong? Do we feel better when we admit we're doing something wrong even though we don't really have any intention of putting things right? If so, we are only interested in feeling good about ourselves and not in doing the right things.

If feeling bad makes you feel better, something is out of balance.  Focus on doing right and setting things right and you might feel good about yourself for something other than just feeling bad.

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