The Feeling of “Sinfulness”

As abuse victims, we can be tremendously hard on ourselves.  The slightest misstep, the smallest error may seem a catastrophic failure. More than that. An unpardonable sin disqualifying us from love (even, in a spiritual sense, from Salvation, itself).

The feeling of “sinfulness” — that vague sense of guilt with no real cause — is just one of the scars left by abuse. We relive the trauma of having been treated as worthless. This opens wide the door to depression.

The feeling of “sinfulness” rebounds from the abuser to us because there is no punishment this side of eternity sufficient to fully offset the harm done to us. The best we can do is strive to forgive and move on.

It bears repeating that abuse victims were innocent victims. But acknowledging this intellectually will not always translate into our accepting it emotionally. A childhood filled with negative experiences must be overcome.


Though the feeling of our own “sinfulness” can at times be overwhelming, the conclusions drawn on the basis of that feeling may not be accurate. The situation is complicated by the fact abuse victims must re-learn as adults to trust their own feelings.

Unfortunately, some Christian sects feed into this by emphasizing Salvation through works, i.e. through our own unrelenting efforts, rather than through  faith in Christ alone. This can readily morph into legalism (a focus on the letter of the law, at expense of the spirit).

Legalism marries well with the perfectionism to which abuse victims are prone.

But being unworthy of Salvation is not the same as being worthless.  Christ died for our sins despite our unworthiness — victims and non-victims alike. That actually highlights our value in God’s eyes.

We were never worthless, except to those who abused us.

Encouragement v. Condemnation

If we have sinned, God encourages us to do better [1]. It is Satan who condemns us – his goal being to discourage (and effectively “paralyze”) us [2].

He [God] has not dealt with us according to our sins; nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103: 10-12).

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned…” (John 3: 17-18).

Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony…’ ” (Rev. 12: 10-11).

Warped Lens

The adversary is a liar [3]. Lies are his tools in trade. We are the more vulnerable if early in life we did not receive the nurturing that God intended. Abuse warps the lens through which we see ourselves, the world, and God, Himself.

” ‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool’ ” (Is. 1: 18).

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things are new” (2 Cor. 5: 17).

If we confess our sins, He [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John: 1: 9).

Sadly, worthlessness can feel so familiar to abuse victims that we have difficulty accepting forgiveness for ourselves.

We did not cause, we did not contribute to the abuse. We were powerless, coerced and manipulated at every step. Yet “forgiving” ourselves – even for imagined shortcomings – may be necessary before we can put the abuse behind us.

There may be things for which you choose to make amends [4]. There may be behavior on your part you wish to change. We all fall short at times.

But when you list your supposed “sins”, ask yourself whether the conduct you now regret was not a result of the abuse to which you were subjected. Finally, ask yourself whether you would use the same unyielding standards you set for yourself to pass judgment on another abused child.

Be as merciful with yourself.

[1] This is not to suggest that God approves of sin.

[2] Christians believe Satan (also, known as the adversary or accuser) to be a spirit personifying evil. Satan is referred to throughout the Bible. In the Koran he is called Iblis or Shaitan. For purposes of this post, those who do not believe in Satan can substitute the word “depression”.

[3] In contrast with Satan, Jesus is our advocate with God the Father (1 John 2: 1-2).

[4] When correcting mistakes is beyond our ability, we have to hand them over to God. He can accomplish what we cannot.



Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Justice, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

12 responses to “The Feeling of “Sinfulness”

  1. Q's Corner

    Anna, once again you have touched me where I am living, thank you. Legalistic pastors have added much pain and sorrow, upon an already bruised heart and mind.

    • There are all too many pastors and so called spiritual advisers who have very little understanding of abuse. Legalism, too, is widespread. Yet Christ offers victims real comfort. Do not be discouraged, Q.

  2. Dear Anna, thank you for bringing me comfort today. I just took my first deep breath in many hours.

    • Dearest Kimberly, it breaks my heart to think that anyone as talented, and full of life as you would have to wrestle with this crippling issue. I’m glad the post did some good.

  3. This is such a powerful post, Anna!

  4. Mam I think must add the full form of holy scriptures.I am curious about this and as a Hindu not so much knowledge of these books.

  5. Mam, you are awesome in your writing I am not satisfied with one thing that any holy text will allow for sins.As it is fomous saying in Sanskrit Awasymev bhoktavam kritm subhaasubham.It means one has to pay for their karma.There will be no escape.As Shakespeare has given us new idea earlier Character is destiny.We create our destiny.God is always merciful no doubt but we must control our sins.Sorry mam if you are disagree with this. Anyway nice post.

    • Thank you for commenting, Rachana. I agree that we must pay for our sins. I believe that God is just as well as merciful. Abuse victims, however, tend to feel guilt for the sins committed against them. They often punish themselves, in an effort to expiate a guilt which is not truly theirs. ❤

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