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Feeling Bad Can Be Good

For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.

2 Corinthians 7:10

It was a typical afternoon, and we were in the middle of our after-school routine: homework, chores, preparing dinner. I corrected my then 6 year-old daughter about something she had done. Cue the meltdown!

Before I knew it, she was in her room sobbing “You made me feel bad about myself!” As I prayed for God to make me gracious and patient, it was like He snapped to get my attention and asked, “Did you hear it? Did you hear what she said—'You made me feel bad about my?' You didn’t insult her. You corrected her behavior. Don’t miss this. She’s confusing her behavior and her identity. This isn’t just a meltdown. It’s a lie taking root. Go do some tending!”

The mistake my daughter made that caused her emotions to get all riled up was this: She believed the lie that her behavior and her identity were the same. Because of this lie, my correction of her behavior felt like rejection of her. Her hurt over this perceived rejection prevented her from being able to evaluate and change her behavior. The enemy’s strategy was brilliant and effective, and he uses it on us adults too! There are two truths that combat this lie.

Our identity comes from our Creator and our value is not reduced by our behavior. ( 1 John 3:1)

Identity determines Behavior, so the two are closely connected. But we must resist the temptation to reverse them. We say things like: I am a runner. I am a singer. When paired with positive things, it seems harmless. But when paired with negative, the problem becomes clearer: I am a liar. I am a thief. I am a gossip. The truth is Identity determines Behavior.

The truth is also that we are fallen people, and will sometimes misbehave. So, when we allow this lie that behavior = identity to take root —negative behaviors become identity. Once that takes root, the behaviors repeat. “I am a person who lied” is a behavior that can be corrected. “I am a liar” is an identity statement that removes hope and kills motivation for change. The end of 2 Cor 7:10 says “Worldly grief produces death”. The pain my daughter felt came from the enemy’s lie that her behavior was her identity.

Sometimes feeling “bad” is good. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Once behavior is separated from identity, we are free to deal with behaviors that need to be corrected. What my daughter was experiencing without recognizing it was the Godly sorrow described in scripture. It was the Holy Spirit convicting her to change her behavior.

If you place your hand on a hot stove, it hurts. That’s the body’s way of saying “Stop! This is harming us!” The pain is hard, but it serves a good purpose. In the same way, sometimes we feel pain over our actions. That isn’t necessarily bad. That pain should be what drives us to change! Notice the verse says “godly sorrow leads to salvation without regret”. We don’t have to stay in a place of pain. True freedom is found in repentance, grace, and forgiveness!

- Amber Fisher

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