One of the difficulties of thinking about our faults and what we have done wrong, and then feeling sorry about them and ‘repenting’, is that this can become a process of disowning these parts of ourselves. In the miserable sinner syndrome then we bewail our ‘sins’ such as envy, hostility, meanness and lack of joyousness as somehow being unworthy of God. These are the parts of us that we are told are not like Christ, and so they ‘should’ be obliterated or denied or at the very least distorted to become the ‘good’ fruits of the spirit – love, joy and peace and so on. Except that takes us away from being human.
All the splitting into ‘good’ and ‘evil’ leaves us split too. If we think of ourselves as say behaving in a ‘greedy’ way then that can become a ‘thing’ in itself – in other words ‘miserable sinner that I am I am greedy’. In relationship with the false god this gets turned into condemnation and from there into an absolute of the wrong sort. Quickly I then become a disaster and it’s hard to recover and see oneself differently. One way to try and recover is to split that ‘greedy me’ off and alienate it from the rest of me – but that obviously cannot last – the greedy me is waiting to pop out again for further condemnation by the false god who plagues me and keeps me submissive.
Another way to try and manage these parts of ourselves that the false god condemns is to begin to understand our inner world. So, for example, if I set off driving to my destination but find myself on the wrong road it is essential that I try to avoid condemnation from the false god – such as ‘my stupidity’ or ‘my aging brain’ or ‘typical – I always get things wrong’ and so on because it is this judgement that evokes the ‘miserable sinner – worm that I am syndrome’. A kindly approach is to accept and from acceptance to integrate without what Neville Symington calls ‘a hint of hatred’. It just is the case that sometimes I am like this, and sometimes I am like that. Sometimes I make mistakes, and sometimes I don’t.
As has been pointed out all this ‘miserable sinner syndrome’ fits neatly with one of the theories of redemption, the one where when Adam sinned it was an offence against God, and so God sent his Son because the Son had to repay such an infinite offence, and could do because he was the of the same stature and nature as God Himself – who is Himself infinite. Calvary becomes then the way of repaying God for our sin. An alternative version which eases up the miserable sinner syndrome is rather that God looked down and saw how we were damaging ourselves, and how wounded we were, and so sent His Son to try and repair our state. Symington comments that if we follow the first theory what sort of God is it that is going to take offence like this, ‘like a sensitive soul offended at a cocktail party? It’s just absolute nonsense …it is to be repudiated’ and with it goes the miserable sinner.