The Wounds We Do Ourselves
Hurt and sin go hand in hand. Sin always causes wounds, and woundedness often gives rise to further sins. Sometimes this is a reciprocal process. I sin against and wound you, you strike back with sin of your own, and soon we're reenacting our own personal Hatfield and McCoy drama. Other times it is an outward spiral. Those who are abused often turn into abusers. I take out a bad day at work on my wife and kids.
Every sin has multiple victims. There is the immediate person we act against. There are those caught up in the destructive ripple effects. The victim we often fail to acknowledge, though, is ourselves.
We wound ourselves when we sin against others. When we drive someone away with cruelty or pettiness, we are impoverishing ourselves by depriving ourselves of their friendship. When we belittle someone, we are robbing ourselves of their greatness. When we act in ways that are less than the good design of God, we are diminishing our dignity and humanity. When we harbor anger and bitterness, we are devouring our own souls.
Part of the enduring power of sin is that, as we wound ourselves by doing it, that actually breeds more sin. I feel lonely because of my poor choices and that loneliness drives me to make even worse choices. I feel guilty because of the dark, hidden places in my heart and medicate myself with more things to feel guilty about.
What makes this so hard to see and to confront is that the only way to begin to find healing for such wounds is to acknowledge my own complicity in them. When I am hurt, my immediate response is to erect the bulwark of self-righteous pride. To blame others. To point the finger anywhere but at myself. After all, to own my sin will, in the short term, make me hurt even more.
Yet repentance is the only way to find true healing. Repentance is a surgery of the heart. The only way to excise the cancer that is killing us is to go under the painful knife of confession. I will never pretend such surgery is easy, but it is the only way to stop the festering wound of our wrong actions.
What Christianity offers is a call to such repentance and the resources we need to undergo it. Scripture is a mirror that calls us to confront the warped parts of our own humanity. It is a lens through which we begin to realize the enormity of the damage that crookedness causes, both to others and even more to our own souls.
More importantly, Scripture offers us the assurance that the hurt of repentance is the hurt of healing. In Jesus we are offered an acceptance and welcome that does not depend on us, which means we don't have to hide our sins. In Jesus we are offered the presence of God with us to support us through the painful process of owning our sins. Most of all, in Jesus we are offered the promise of resurrection. There is life and healing on the far side of our woundedness. The only way to experience it, though, is to first join Jesus in that death that is acknowledging and turning from our own complicity in our destruction.