Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Every Time I Fail

19 Comments

I saw this picture over at The Agnostics Wife’s Blog :

 In her comments Zoe said the picture reminded her of this song:

Feel the Nails
Ray Boltz

They tell me Jesus died
For my transgressions
And that he paid that price
A long long time ago
When he gave his life for me
On a hill called Calvary
But there’s something else
I want to know
Does he still feel the nails
Every time I fail?
Does he hear the crowd cry
Crucify again?
Am I causing him pain?
Then I know I’ve got to change
I just can’t bear the thought
Of hurting him
It seems that I’m so good
At breaking promises
And i treat his precious grace
So carelessly
But each time he forgives
What if he relives
The agony he felt on that tree?
Does he still feel the nails
Every time I fail?
Does he hear the crowd cry
Crucify again?
Am I causing him pain?
Then I know I’ve got to change
I just can’t bear the thought
Of hurting him
Holy holy holy is the lord
Holy holy holy is the lord
Do you still feel the nails
Every time I fail?
Have I crucified you Jesus
With my sin?
I’m tired of playing games
I really want to change
I never want to hurt you again
Holy holy holy is the lord
Holy holy holy is the lord

I agree that’s the message that’s being sent by this work of, um, art.  Every time you fail, every time you mess up, every time you fall short you are crucifying Jesus all over again.  He feels it every time.  That last line, I never want to hurt you again, is an impossible standard to hold yourself to.  Most rational, sane, normal people don’t want to hurt anyone.  They don’t wake up in the morning and say to themselves, “I wonder how I can hurt someone else today.  What can I do to royally screw somebody over?”.  It happens as a consequence of being human, of being imperfect.  No amount of believing in any deity will make you perfect.  You keep messing up and keep feeling guilty and keep needing your deity to forgive you.  It’s a vicious cycle designed to keep you feeling guilty and keep you coming back for more forgiveness.  
Before long you’re so deep in that cycle that you perceive everything you do as falling short, missing the mark, because no sin is greater than another.  You didn’t read your Bible enough, you didn’t pray enough, you didn’t eat your fried chicken to the glory of God enough.  You don’t have to be a murderer or a thief or an adulterer to be wretched.  We’re all wretched worms begging for the love and affection of an invisible father figure; always trying to win his love and approval. 
Even doubting as I do, even having relinquished inerrancy and even divine inspiration, even realizing that belief in the God of the Bible is probably nothing more than believing in the Tooth Fairy, when I see these images and hear the words to songs like Feel the Nails the guilt and shame wash over me anew and I have to remind myself that I don’t crucify Jesus every time I fail.
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19 thoughts on “Every Time I Fail

  1. That comes off to me as, well, not the Christianity I remember. I mean, even when I was a Christian, I didn't have that sort of shame and guilt; my impression was more that we were expected to do our best, make amends when we (inevitably) screwed up, and leave the rest to God – who really ought to understand our perfections better than anybody. But that's the lukewarm, cafeteria-Christian Episcopalian church, I guess. Probably wasn't real Christianity.

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  2. Part of that is the programming of your environment. You were brought up to believe that knowing what is right and what is wrong comes from God, and that Jesus paid for all of your wrongdoing. So who can help being sucked right back into that mentality when experiencing the guilt and shame from our past mistakes?As I see it, though, guilt and shame are essential in helping us become better people overall, prompting us to make amends when we've wronged people and to guide our behavior for the better. Embrace guilt, but don't ruminate on it. Learn the lesson and move on. At least that's what I try to do. 😉

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  3. Ugh. This brings back horrible feelings and memories. Much better to grow up and take responsibility for my own actions and define my own morality. And interestingly, I find people who feel the same are amongst the most moral people I know.

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  4. How ridiculous is the notion that someone else could "pay" for our sins for us? Exactly why should we owe God for being sinners? When you consider that – according to the Bible – we are the handiwork of God, then he, not we, should bear the blame for his defective workmanship. At least that seems logical. I'd rather "man up" as they say, and confess that I did the best I could with what I had to work with. I don't want Jesus to "pay for my sins," and I don't want him laying a guilt trip on me for being human and less perfect than divinity.None of that makes any sense to me.

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  5. After getting your comment I had to come check out your entry. I liked your comment: "Most rational, sane, normal people don't want to hurt anyone. They don't wake up in the morning and say to themselves, "I wonder how I can hurt someone else today."I think if people focused more on their intentions (like you said, most of us don't INTEND to hurt others) then we would all be a little happier. At this time I don't find myself feeling guilty over many things like I used to and it's really been liberating. Some of my friends who are Christians seem to get caught up over the smallest things on a daily basis. It seems almost everything is a reason to feel guilty, a reason to repent and that is entirely too oppressive for my taste.

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  6. I went and got my comment D'Ma. :-)As follows: "That pic of the drug user and Jesus gives me the shivers. In my Christian days, I’d see that picture as trying to make a point. Every time you shoot-up, you’re shooting up Jesus too. Anyone remember the Ray Boltz tune that implied every time we sin, we crucify Jesus again? I would have believed the artist was trying to make a point. Your sin is killing you and Jesus. You are playing Russian Rulette (sp?) with your life. Note the gun on the table."This song was sung a lot in the churches we attended. I remember turning to my friend (a gospel singer) and asking her about the theology behind Jesus actually feeling the nails…every time we sin. I told her it made no sense. I was a bad fundamentalist conservative evangelical Baptist Christian. I kept seeing myself in the righteousness of Christ instead of the mudpacked hole of the wretched worm. Good lord I'd think, how is it we can ever rise above the idea that we keep crucifying Christ? Why this constant barrage of wearing ourselves down with sin, sin, and more sin?Keep in mind that though he wasn't out of the gay-closet yet, imagine the guilt and shame Ray was living with knowing he was/is gay. I don't know but in hindsight, looking at the lyrics of this song, the intent behind it, it's like a prayer he sings to God. A prayer sung in agony over his homosexuality and his own efforts to turn-away (change) from his sexuality and do what the Bible and his associated faith demands. You see it in these two lyrics:Am I causing Him painThen I know I've got to change

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  7. The old testament has some really terrible passages if you go looking for them. Its one of the reasons people start questioning whether it is even true.

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  8. The whole concept of sin in Christianity is full of contradictions. Why do we still die if our sins are forgiven? How could Jesus forgive a sin before he died on the cross? How could Adam be a respresentative of humanity when another human might have done something completely different? If I am so sinful that I am worthless then why should I even still be alive let alone receive the golden rule?

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  9. I think Jiddu Krishnamurti had a point, D'Ma, when he said guilt is a useless emotion.I once thought that, when I felt guilty, it was because I had done something wrong. But when I looked at it more carefully, I noticed that I felt guilt only when I expected that other people might think I had done wrong. It was a difficult thing to see at first, but once I saw it, it was hard to ignore.Unfortunately, other people can be just as mistaken about what is right or wrong as I myself can be. So, relying on guilt to determine when something is right or wrong does not prove to be wise in my case.Hence, I have come to agree with Krishnamurti — guilt is, for me at least, a useless emotion.Strangely enough, ever since recognizing that fact some years ago, I have felt guilt far less frequently — and less intensely — than I did before I examined it.

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  10. D'Ma, your post got me to thinking, so I ended up blogging about shame and guilt here. I blame you for keeping me up late.

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  11. No D'Ma, you don't crucify Jesus all over again when you fail. None of us does. It took me a long time, though, to not feel that way.And yay! You made Paul blog!

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  12. Guilt is a useful emotion so long as it steers us towards what is healthy and just . . at least that is what I believe. There is definitely a question of how much of it is actually inherited vs trained. How much of guilt is genetic? Its a tough question.

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  13. I felt that way for a long time, it was panic inducting at times for me. Like I was shameful and wrong for having doubts about God. Every once in a while they come back. I don't like that feeling. As a Christian though I felt like our sins as humans is why Jesus suffered on the cross for us, but I was never one of those Christians who felt I was just a dirty sinner who deserves nothing.Now as an unbeliever those type of Christians, and I have some within my family, kind of make my stomach turn. My family member goes on and on about how sinful and crappy we are as humans and we should feel ashamed and guilty for even breathing.

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  14. It seems to me that guilt is a social emotion that has some kind of triggering mechanism. If a person can create a guilty fear into you they can train your guilt to respond to new things. That is, they can flip this mysterious switch and from that moment on you might feel guilty about that thing. The only way to adjust your guilt is to adjust your sense of morals.

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  15. in reply to theagonstics wife; I think there is a balance. If you value yourself to little, then you will be self defeating. If you value yourself to much then you will hurt others. Everyone, I believe, deserves some basic value. It is not that you deserve a castle. Some self value must be earned. But a certain small degree of respect and well being is something everyone ought to have. Everyone has some value and so need not beat each other up. But at the same time there are greater values that can only be earned. Otherwise you risk becoming spoiled as a person. That is the balance . . . neither self crucifying nor spoiled . . but somewhere in between. There is of course nothing wrong with giving a person more than they deserve, but that is the domain of mercy and/or sacrifice. It is not something one is entitled to. But you are certainly entitled to some basic well being and respect. Part of the struggle here as you can see is finding out whether or not one is being self defeating or spoiled. As long as one avoids these extremes then they are on good ground. I'm still trying to work out my moral philosophy on it but I hope this is better than nothing.

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  16. @Mikealotof0'sanda1-:) I agree there should be a balance. I strive for the balance. Sometimes it's of kilter one way or another, but usually there is, well, balance within me. That is the case for most of my family and friends Christian or not, though I have in my family, both someone on the spoiled, narcissistic side and someone on the self crucifying side. It's interesting to say the least.

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  17. Wow! This post has generated a lot of good discussion. @MM,I'm glad you weren't a part of that kind of Christianity. It took me a long time to figure out just how damaging it is. As for that cafeteria Christianity, I used to believe that and there are those who do, but I really don't think it's any.body's.place to judge another person's faith. What is a real Christian anyway?===============================================@TWF,I think Paul Sunstone had a pretty good post about whether or not guilt and shame are essential or even useful. If you haven't read it I encourage you to check it out. I wasn't raised so much with guilt I don't think. My parents didn't shame us or guilt us about anything, really. I've a pretty good idea where it came from and I'll be following this post up with one about that.==============================================@Zoe,I did think about the agony Ray Boltz must have been in every time he sang this song. Thinking back on it, you can hear the pain in his voice. I can only imagine what he must have been going through, to have to keep up that facade because he'd become famous for singing Christian music. 😦

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  18. @CD,…better to grow up and take responsibility for my own actions and define my own morality…I find people who feel the same are amongst the most moral people I know. I've found that to be true in my own life. I once thought apart from God there was no morality, that if you made up your own it would be subjective and you'd have a greater tendency to hurt people. In reality, people are hurt every day by their religious morality. Maybe my own morality is subjective but at least it's not hurtful. I can take each situation as it comes and make the best decision at the time for all parties involved without having to feel badly for forsaking some antiquated moral code.=============================================== @DougB,This whole discussion has prompted another post and in particular something you said in your comment. I'll have it up in the next couple of days.===============================================@Faithless,There's something to be said for giving others the benefit of the doubt. I generally try to put myself in another's shoes and see things from their vantage point. That usually helps me to "get over" whatever's eating at me. I tend to do that to a fault. That's how my ex-husband got a free pass. I never once thought he woke up in the morning looking for ways to hurt me. It was just a product of his personality, who he was, and when it was triggered, it was triggered. You can give someone too much benefit of the doubt. 🙂

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  19. @Mikealotof0'sanda1…hehe (thanks AW),I do think some portion of guilt and shame is personality, part of our DNA. And it is definitely a triggering mechanism, at least in my case, that makes me easily manipulated. I find the whole sin/guilt/forgiveness dichotomy in Christianity to be a bit twisted and sick at this point.===============================================@Paul Sunstone,Thank you for your comments and your very thought provoking post at your blog. I had never considered the uselessness of guilt and shame. I just thought it was….part of life, part of me, part of growing up. But I'm starting to see no real purpose in it. Empathy and sincerity go a lot farther. ============================================@Kay,Thanks for stopping by. I just have to remind myself of that every now and again. I've been so heavily engrained with that doctrine in the Southern Baptist Church. Palm Sundays are always reserved for the grueling details of the crucifixion and how I put Jesus on the cross. ==============================================@AW,I'm finding more balance within myself, but there are days when it's just out of whack. I think it's just something that's engrained in folks who have left fundamentalism.

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