Repentance, Vainglory and Self-Justification

With all the benefits of repentance, why isn’t everybody jumping into it? Remembrance of events important in our life but now forgotten. Deeper and deeper self-knowledge and understanding of our behaviour. The cure of passions that can interfere with clear thinking. A revelation of our special calling, and of the wisest decisions to benefit ourselves. When repentance brings such blessings, why isn’t everybody lining up to go through that wonderful narrow gate that leads into life (Matt. 7:14) for anyone who earnestly calls out, God, be merciful to me a sinner (Lk. 18:14)?

Here’s why: Because of a monstrous allergy we have to blaming ourselves for anything, seeing anything “sinful” in ourselves. This creates in us an allergy, also, to repentance, because¬† repentance involves the confession that there is something wrong in our souls – something we’re responsible for discovering and changing, through repentance.

The passion that sets us up for this allergy is Vainglory. It attacks our will, giving it a strong desire to impress other people, rather than obeying God, so they’ll approve of us. The will then develops a whopping allergy to any suggestion that we’re not looking good to others. A suspicion that we could have some fault that might keep us from being accepted and admired by others can make us feel very uncomfortable.

To calm this allergic reaction to the thought that there could be something wrong with us that it is our responsibility to recognize and correct by repentance, there’s a psychological antihistamine. It is called “self-justification.” Self-justification is like a thick, anesthetizing salve that soothes away every aggravating hint that there’s any sin in us for which we could be responsible. It cools any suspicions that we could be blamed for anything.


Never try to blame your genes, something many people suggest, for whatever inborn passions you have that keep you from being in the image and likeness of Christ as we were created to be. Why? Because assuming the nature we’re born with is the unavoidable nature God gave us, so that we aren’t responsible for having it or correcting it, cuts off belief in any need for repentance or recovery. And how can we believe we need a Saviour to redeem us from inborn sin that we’re convinced is natural and needs no correction? People who consider all their inborn characteristics as natural, and therefore not in need or redemption, have no way to worship Jesus as a Redeemer. That sort of self-justification prevents them from believing and practicing what the Gospel teaches.

God’s Path to Sanity: Lessons from Ancient Holy Counselors on How to Have a Sound Mind, p. 80-82, Dee Pennock

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