We have all been there and done it. Sitting on a couch, consoling a friend over a terrible mistake that has been made, and used our own personal flaws as a buffer before giving advice on what to do about the mess at hand. This is self deprecation, and while a very useful tool while navigating social situations, there is a fine line between using it as a tool, and using it as a facetious psychological mind fuck.
Usually, self deprecation is a general statement of flaws, like,"Well, Judy. I've been in your shoes, sweetie. I've had my bouts with - insert flaw here -. But I learned from it. Did my best to make it right, and now all is okay. And you will be too."
Basically, what is being said is, "I'm a fuck up too."
I think it is a given that in most awkward or stressful situations, one rarely goes wrong diffusing some of the tension with a little self deprecation. There is a time and place for doing so, otherwise you will come across as unbelievably modest, or as a conceited asshole that is rubbing in the faults of the other person(s). It seems Christianity, and most religions in general, have not figured this important detail out though.
"I'm a fuck up too." This seems to be the motto emblazoned on every calling card, tract, and service invite that the religious use to spread their message of idol worship. While admitting one isn't perfect is admirable, there seems to be a twisted psychology behind its use in religious doctrine that I will get more in depth about as we go along. For the sake of length, I am not going to go into the fact that religious self deprecation is just another form of secret narcissism, as well. Nothing grabs attention like,"Oh, I fucked a married man before too! We all make mistakes, but Jesus it away, mkay?"
First, as many reading this blog already have learned, it is important to recognize mistakes, seek to correct those mistakes, and try to seek the forgiveness of those you wronged. Additionally, it is essential to forgive yourself too. That is the problem with the religious and their usage of self deprecation. They skip the last step that involves forgiving oneself.
Well, not really.
They just do not realize that by going to God for forgiveness, they are simply granting themselves the right to move on. It's really messed up when you think about. Until one feels they have shown enough penance to God (I couldn't put in literal terms how one knows if it is enough), they live in a state of self perpetuated guilt. Now, this is where a Christian that I discuss such topics with likes to say,"See, atheists have no conscience. Why do you get to decide you've done enough for your sinning against another?"
With an eye roll, I explain for the umpteenth time I am not erasing what I have done wrong (which is impossible in the real world anyway). I am simply allowing myself to move forward so I can apply the lesson learned. One should always reflect on the mistakes made. Repetition needs to be avoided after all. Dwelling on mistakes for an unspecified amount of time?
Waiting for an unseen deity to somehow communicate that enough penance has been suffered?
It just doesn't make sense to do such a thing because it isn't truly helpful to the situation, and it is downright unhealthy. Now, it doesn't just stop at living in a constant flux of self hate and pity parties. Many take it a step further and try to pull others into this depressing view of reduced value when attempting to convert others. It is the same scenario taking place, only instead of an atheist consoling Juday, let's imagine it is a Christian friend. Not only will this Christian friend declare s/he is imperfect and has made many mistakes, this friend will also point out that s/he could not have learned the real leasson without accepting God, and that Judy needs to get a clue.
Yes, that's right. Claims of not being able to accept who s/he is, an imperfect sinning child of Yahweh, until s/he laid everything at His celestial feet. S/He learned that without Him, s/he would have always been a fuck up beyond repair. It's like sitting down next to Judy, saying,"You aren't just a whore, Judy. You're a godless whore. And you will never understand how horrible it is to be a cock gobbling godless whore until you let God pull the cock out of your mouth once and for all. Put Him there instead, honey."
Okay, maybe that is a little too crude, but you get the idea. "We're all fuck ups, but I am not as bad a fuck up as you because...God."
Which translates even further into,"You are such a fuck up that you have no way of ever becoming better because you don't have God. You are not capable of improving your life on your own."
It is a disgustingly facetious use of self deprecation, which leads into attempts at completely undercutting any positive self image in his/her target. Not only was zero tension alleviated, but the Christian in this example compounded the damage on a psychological level. Why is it necessary to further pound a person's self worth to dust in order to show how wonderful faith is?
It is akin to a pick up artist at a bar, trying to find an emotionally vulnerable woman he can proceed to lay out all his accomplishments to while gently pointing out his target's failures. Ironically, this stands a chance of elevating his desirability as a role model in the victim's eyes, hopefully eliciting a knee jerk response to want to prove she is worth his interest.
The bottom line within religious communities is that you are not allowed to decide for yourself what your true worth is. No, you aren't worth a wooden nickel without completely demoralizing your personal confidence and then allow it to be determined by God's influence in your life. Any boasts of "I am successful and am so happy in life" must be immediately followed by "but there was a time I wasn't. I owe it all to my Lord God for helping me stay on His path to heavenly reward."
Self worth is always the primary target in any religion. An individual's healthy level of self confidence and value is equated to arrogance. To assess yourself ,and independently determine that you are valuable, is treated as self righteousness in religious circles. So, as you can see, self deprecation in proselytizing is just another insidious method of grinding down your personal confidence. This leaves you vulnerable, sometimes even desperate. Simple psychology that we all use from time to time in order to ease crisis, tension, or a really awkward first date. In Christianity, though? It is an effectively mean little hammer to beat you down into the mold of hopeless screw up.
If you are ever in Judy's shoes, and wonder if your proselytizing friend might have a point, think before you act. Don't rush to any decisions while in a vulnerable state. Most importantly, understand what the real message is. It isn't only about accepting God, but agreeing you aren't worth two shits unless God is in your life.