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Volume 7, Issue 6: Femina

Self-Evaluation at 11 P.M.

Nancy Wilson

"If we would have peace in our souls, we must maintain a war against our favorite sin and never leave off until it is subdued."
Thomas Watson 1

While sin in others is often blatant and obvious to us, our own sins are sometimes disguised to us. Because we don't see them for what they really are, we can trick ourselves into fighting and confessing the wrong sins altogether.

One such sin is morbid introspection. While confessing our shortcomings and sins over and over, and finding no joy, we fail to see that we are responding to self-accusations, and not to the Holy Spirit. Though we may think we are being pious (thinking we are such miserable creatures), we are actually indulging in a self-centered, me-focused, self-pitying activity that is not looking to Christ for grace, strength, and forgiveness.
Consider the following scenario.
It's been a long day.You were up at 5:30 with the baby, got a good breakfast on the table for husband and kids. Got the lunches packed, the kids off to school, cleaned up, showered, dressed, fed the baby again, read to the toddler(s), got the six-year-old working on his letters and the eight-year-old working on math, stopped for lunch, put the little ones down for naps, baked cookies, folded clothes, watered the petunias, took the kids to the park, listened to the events of the school day over cookies and milk, fixed dinner, greeted your husband, served dinner, cleaned up, gave four baths, read bedtime stories, snuggled with the little ones, fixed your husband some coffee, and collapsed in a chair to enjoy it with him. After an hour of visiting or reading you can't keep your eyes open. You look at the pile of ironing that didn't get done, and you remember the letter you meant to write, but sigh and go to bed.
Suddenly you are wide awake. Now with a quiet moment to think, thoughts flood into your mind. You remember that on top of the unfinished ironing you were short with your daughter when she asked for the third time when dinner would be ready. You confess it to God, but you still feel bad. You wish you had spent more time coloring with your six-year-old. You remember his look of disappointment when you told him you had to hang out the laundry. Now your stomach is in a knot. What a terrible mother you are, you tell yourself. You don't even act like a Christian. You didn't even read your Bible today, and you haven't for three days. Besides, you've gained five pounds and you look terrible. No self-discipline at all. And if you were really disciplined, you would work out. Your husband is probably unhappy about those five pounds, you tell yourself. And so it goes on.
Hold it! This is not the time for self-evaluation! After a long, draining day, you are not qualified to do any evaluating! This type of thinking, any time, especially after 10:30 P.M., is unfruitful. It only breeds self-pity, condemnation, hopelessness, and ungodly sorrow. This is an unwise and dangerous mindset to indulge. One sin always leads to a host of others. Introspection leads to anxiety and depression. It is an unfruitful and misleading mindset, for the real sin is not the five pounds, etc.; it is the act of engaging in this self-condemning activity. "Set your minds on things above ." The real sin being committed is this mindset, this morbid introspection. This is what you are least likely to repent of, for your failures of the day distract you away from the real sin. And this is what needs to be confessed. A godly sorrow produces repentance, a worldly sorrow produces death (2 Cor. 7:10). If you really have sinned (as with losing your temper), then do, by all means, confess it to God. If you still feel guilty and sick at heart, then you may need to get up and make restitution to your child (if she's still awake), or write a note of apology. But then do not dwell on it!
If it is not an objective sin, but an accusation that is grounded on nothing more than vague feelings about the day, dismiss it. God is not the author of accusation and condemnation of His children. He chastises and forgives, He delights to show mercy. He is the Father of all comfort. He does not pile on accusations in the night!
In reality, you will see things much more clearly in the morning. If you think you are rotten mom at 11 PM, decide to sleep on it and ask the same question in the morning. You may be emotionally and physically drained and therefore vulnerable to this sort of temptation. In the morning you may feel like you aren't such a horrible mom after all. Remember, it is God's Word that is the standard, not your feelingsgood or bad, late or early.
In the light of day it is easier to see your weaknesses, call for grace, confess your sins, and thank God for His love and forgiveness. Like other sins, this sin of introspection can become a habit. As Thomas Watson said, "If then, you would show yourself godly, give a certificate of divorce to every sin." 2 When confronted with your sins and failings, look to Christ and thank Him for a perfect justification.

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