The Problem With Self Punishment

Ever feel that you’re in the zone?  You’ve doing everything right spiritually, you’re flying high, and all is well?  Then suddenly you screw up big time and the bottom drops out from under you. Your milestone of success is gone and now you’re stuck in the tar pits of despair?

I know this feeling. We’re great when the going is good. But when we miss the mark, our amazing success turns into a horrific shame.  We try again and again to avoid a particular sin but keep failing. It could be pornography, illicit sex, substance abuse or even over-eating.  Or perhaps it’s a problem with uncontrollable anger or marital infidelity.  But whatever it is, we think we’re free of it but suddenly find ourselves doing the very thing we hate to do. And when we crash and burn we’re oh so full of shame! And so ready to punish ourselves for our transgressions.

At the heart of this is hidden pride. You may ask, so you’re going to  beat me down with pride now? Can’t you see I’m stuck in my wretched sins? Have you no mercy? Where is your grace? What kind of Christian are you?

It may surprise you, but when you deal with your hidden pride, you are now ready to be empowered with God’s restoring grace! It’s time to know your enemy. And how to fight him.

Godly And Ungodly Shame
There are two types of shame. The shame that leads to Godly repentance. And the shame that looks Godly on the outside but is really just self punishment.  Self punishment is nothing but self worship in disguise.  It leads to more sinning not less. Self punishment cuts off communication with the one true God. And puts everything back on the one who is powerless. (YOU)

Yes, this self inflicted shame further separates you from Jesus.  It’s a prideful self torture that says to the all powerful King of the Universe  “NO JESUS, YOU CAN’T COMFORT ME RIGHT NOW BECAUSE I’M NOT FINISHED HURTING MYSELF.

Godly shame is different. Godly repentance draws you back to Him. You come humbly before Him, and you confess to Him you’re sorry. You then admit you need His help not to sin again. And that you want Him to change your heart so you won’t do it again. You recognize that it all depends on Jesus. And so you don’t make stupid promises in your own power and your own strength. Since when did you have power or strength apart from Jesus anyway? The Lord Himself said “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Believe Him.

So don’t declare “OK God, I will never do it again.” That just gives the devil a foothold.  It’s not about you and it’s never been about you. It’s about you in Jesus. Not you in yourself or you in your strength or you in your pride.  You are powerless and it’s time to admit it.

Once you admit you have nothing to offer Him (not even the strength to abstain) then it’s time to allow our Jesus to embrace you and love you. This is exactly what He did with the adulteress who was dragged before Him. She went away refreshed and restored. Because sinner as she was, she was in direct contact with the Almighty God. The same thing happened with the Mary who weeped as she wiped His feet with her hair. An encounter with the living God will leave you refreshed.  As Jesus says:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Self punishing shame is ungodly. And it’s a trap. It has the form of Godliness but without its power.  Did you know that punishing yourself is idolatry? It’s a twisted form of self worship where you act as if you have more right to yourself than God does. Yet the Bible says just the opposite. “You are not your own; You were bought with a price.

So you are not to judge others.  Only God can. And this includes judging yourself.  Don’t defy the very living God who died for you. Get out of His chair and let God do all the judging! In fact He already did it two thousand years ago. He forgave you, just like He forgave Peter. And Peter did more than betray Him three times.

Don’t forget that even after Jesus reinstated Peter he screwed up yet again!  Peter had seen the transfiguration. Peter had seen Jesus return. Peter had even been given a divine vision that he could eat all foods because he was not to call something unclean when God has made it clean. So what did Peter do to screw up? Due to peer pressure from Jews who wanted to keep kosher, Peter defied the living God and wouldn’t even eat with believing gentiles.

Paul had to rebuke him and put him in his place!  So if Peter was forgiven for betraying Jesus, and then forgiven for a sin that sabotaged the early church, what makes your sin so special? Perhaps it’s time to be less full of how evil you are. And more full of how good Jesus is!

Why We Punish Ourselves
Ever wonder the reason we punish ourselves? The main reason we punish ourselves is because we think we can be good on our own power.  It’s all about pride. Deep down we actually believe we’re adequate. That on our own there’s something innately good we can accomplish.

So when we fail, we’re ashamed and angry at ourselves for not meeting these expectations. Think about it: Would you punish yourself for not being able to run 50 miles an hour? Of course not. You only punish yourself for things you think were within your grasp. The things you think you could have attained on your own.

The Two Questions You Must Ask About Sin
So let’s talk works and what you’ve attained on your own. It really boils down to two questions.

1. What was it that JESUS DID WRONG so that He assumed our sins and become sin in God’s sight?

2. What was it that YOU DID RIGHT to assume God’s holy righteousness and His eternal forgiveness?

The answer to both questions is NOTHING.  Your righteousness is a gift that comes from believing in Jesus. You never earned it. You could never get it on your own.  It is unmerited favor.  When you accepted Jesus, the Holy Spirit moved in and set up shop inside of you.  He is righteous and living in you.

If we really believed that, we would do whatever we could to keep the lifeline between us and our God open and active.  Sure this means avoiding sin. But sin will come!  And when it does, we must always stay plugged into this lifeline.

But all too often, we decide to disconnect ourselves from the divine power source. Ever try spinning a fan blade when it’s unplugged from the wall? Self punishment is just like that.  You can never make the fan spin a tenth of the speed as when it has power. So like the fan you too must stay connected to the power source. No matter how much you sin, never cut yourself off from talking, praying and praising our Jesus!

The Litmus Test For Self Punishment (The Focus Is on You, Not Jesus)

  • I’m too caught up in my sins to praise Jesus
  • I’m too caught up in my sins to pray to Jesus
  • I keep asking forgiveness for past events
  • I physically cause myself discomfort to keep showing how sorry I am
  • I spend more time mulling over what I’ve done than talking to Jesus about it
  • I spend less time praying for others because of the bad I’ve done
  • I spend less quiet time with Jesus because I’m so wretched
  • I navel gaze at my sins, and have nothing left of me to love my God, love my neighbor or even love myself

The Litmus Test For Godly Repentance (The Focus Is on Your Relationship With Jesus)

  • When I feel shame I immediately go to Jesus and sincerely confess my wrongs
  • I ask Jesus to free me/change my heart & mind so I won’t do it again.
  • If I’ve sinned against others, I ask Him for guidance
  • I praise Jesus directly, trusting that He loves me and forgives me-just like the Bible says He does
  • I make sure to have quiet time with Him
  • I ask Him how to love Him more, how to love others more and for me to see myself the way He sees me
  • I ask Jesus how I can delight in Him more (Trusting that He will make my life straight)

Inspiring Songs

No Impossible with You (I am They)
Holy Water (We the Kingdom)

For more, see Jesus In the Shower


  1. This article was sooo eye opening. I struggle with the same sexual sin over and over again and always do everything on the list that focuses on me, not Jesus. I always felt like wanting to punish myself showed effort on my part to do better. Boy was I wrong. This taught me a lot, thank you so much. God bless you <3

  2. This is a very important aspect of our spiritual growth and formation. If we punish ourselves we cut ourselves off from spiritual resources and limit ourselves in spiritual warfare, because the Devil will jump on this band wagon. Critical issue especially for Evangelicals. A subtle form or pride.

  3. Man I thank you so much for that information. You taught that self punishment it bad and terrible and that is also can be forgive I didn’t know that until not thanks you and God bless you

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