Why It’s Useful to Think of Yourself As a Sinner


One of the strangest ideas bequeathed to us
by religion is the notion that it might be wise and socially beneficial to think of ourselves
as being, every one of us, sinners. This seems, at first glance, both patently untrue – and
deeply unhelpful. The vast majority of us have committed no particularly egregious crime
and might feel understandably targeted and shamed to have to carry such a dark and archaic
title. Furthermore, a burden of non-specific guilt seems like a sure route to damaged morale
and a hounded personality. But the counter-argument runs like this. Simply stated: the only people
who can count as good are those who are modestly and openly prepared to acknowledge their potential,
and active tendencies, to be less than perfect. And the truly bad and dangerous among us are
those who have never suspected they might such things. It is, in other words, a sense
of innocence and purity that renders people properly unpleasant and dangerous, for it
removes their capacity for introspection, moderation, guilt and atonement, the ingredients
upon which true goodness is founded. Nice people aren’t without flaws; they’re just
unusually aware of them, and unusually committed to overcoming them. Only with an ongoing degree
of self-doubt and self-reflection can we check our myriad tendencies to native arrogance
and cruelty. We need to accept with grace that
we’re geniuses at fixating on the wrongs of others and at eliding evidence of our own
less than ideal natures. We can see the lies of others so clearly; our own mendacity is
frankly always a very real surprise. The aggression, stupidity and sheer evil exhibited by them
– the target group of our anger – renders us immediately incensed and impassioned. But
that we have been less than perfect in another area, this remains truly puzzling and unfamiliar
news. The cardinal sin here is a feeling of righteousness. Being right and being righteous
are painfully different concepts. When we are right, we are so within a specific context,
on one occasion, but we have no guarantee of being so again. The moment of rightness
has to be earned, never assumed. However, when we are righteous, we feel ourselves to
be right not only on this occasion – but on all others too. We trust ourselves to be
above being evil – and therefore become so with particular insidiousness. A sense
of purity is a particular error of the adolescent (and the adolescentally-minded) because they
are as yet more likely not to have sinned yet – or only in ways that are hidden, incipient
and tentative. They look only at the evidence of the sins of their elders and superiors.
How normal to conclude then, that they must be good in and of themselves – and that
it is the rest of the world that will always be corrupt and wicked. It is no coincidence
that in revolutionary armies, it has traditionally been the youngest soldiers, that is, the soldiers
most convinced of their own purity, who have shown the greatest ruthlessness to the enemy.
A good community isn’t one where there is a feeling that everyone can one day be pure,
but rather one with a sense of how close everyone is to being bad, which breeds a group commitment
to increasing the amount of self-observation, confession, productive guilt, tolerance, understanding,
and kindness in circulation. Good people know never to allow the rightness of a specific
cause they’re involved with to function as an excuse to abandon manners, tolerance
and modesty. People who think they are good are no so such thing: they just lack imagination
and self-knowledge. The evidence would be there if there eyes were open enough to see
it. Far from demeaning us, the idea that we are all sinners is the surest guarantee of
virtue. Did you know we also have an app to help you meet people with whome you can have deeper more meaningful conversations? Click the link on your screen now to download it.

100 thoughts on “Why It’s Useful to Think of Yourself As a Sinner”

  1. If you want to chat more to your fellow School of Life audience members, be sure to download our free app: https://bit.ly/2HL5SfU

  2. Someone told me the other day in the middle of an argument VERBATIM “But I am perfect though… Really, I just don’t have any issues…” 🤦🏾‍♀️

  3. i refuse to use the word "sinner". it is too much tied to the idea we are unworthy until we are redeemed according to the ideas of other people. We are flawed, but it doesn't mean we are unworthy!

  4. While I mostly agree with this whole video, it only works on the premise that everyone is in fact a sinner.
    The statement is more or less "It is useful to think of yourself as a sinner, because that's what you are.".
    I feel like this video leaves no room for someone who fights the good fight through healthy means, and is aware that they're doing good.
    "People who think they are good are no such thing. They just lack imagination and self-knowledge."

    It's as if the video's saying that you can be a good person, as long as you don't think of yourself as a good person. But if you think of yourself as a good person, you are a bad person by default. That's not logically sound.

  5. I think the video conflates humility with belief one is a sinner. And what is meant by sin, not obeying a religious claim or going against one's conscience ? If it's the latter, it's hard to see how someone couldn't feel like a "sinner" since they're only human.

  6. Faith based world views are demonstrably unreliable, and dangerous. "sin" comes with it baggage of divine superstition.
    Glamorizing ignorance.

  7. We are not sinners, nor are we saints we are just simply humans. We are molded by our environment and experience. I don't mind religion because I was a devoted Christian once but what I don't tolerate is using your religion to hurt, oppress and discriminate with permission. If you believe in a benevolent God then you would not do such thing. That the very notion of Hell should disgust you.

    As they say, a good person will always do good things. A bad person will always do bad things. For a good person to do bad and horrid things, they need religion.

  8. I think people are missing the point here. It's not about humility, humbleness, or how no one is "perfect". It's about how so many people are ignorant of their potential to do terrible things. In knowing you are an inherently destructive force, you can begin to take steps to mitigate your destructive tendencies.

  9. Sinner is a ridiculous classification as it implies original sin that is spread across the lives of multiple generations. Shame and responsibility for a crime few to non of us would ever dream of committing is ladled out upon the new born as inherently flawed. I am capable of taking inventory of my life without being labeled wicked or as some would label me a sinner. Take your labels and throw them in the trash where your other religious dogmas belong. Human beings are capable of humanist self appraisal without such degrading foundational self loathing. Grow up!

  10. I disagree with the structural equivalence the video puts to the terms "sinner" and "atonement" with "flawed" and "introspection". The cultural baggage your bringing to the front seems to be based on the premise there actually is a rational axiom or an absolute truth. Who decides who's good or who's evil only puts in evidence a power play we all take part of, and nobody gets to see a priori.

  11. Great video! A welcome antidote to the "I'm OK you're OK" pop psychology drivel. We are not OK – We are all deeply flawed and capable of great evil, and all morality must begin with that realization.

  12. Jordan Peterson lectures and writes about this topic extensively, saying all people are a complicated mix of victim and perpetrator and that understanding our shadow personality, our potential to be evil, is an important step to managing it.

  13. I was a subscriber and I used to watch and admire some of your videos but this religious nonsense made me think otherwise. So long and thanks for all the fish!

  14. The only thing that happens with it is …..good people not reaching their potential and bad people having more confident that everyone is just like them. This one idea reduces the potential for greatness and pushes people in a deep dark depth of self blame. Just go for a ..I don't know what it is called …that hallelujah hallelujah camp like thing…and watch the faces … instead of reaching a bliss they are all soulless, they all are blaming themselves for things that they can't even control. This one idea makes people, not bad but mediocre.

  15. I find this video to be very problematic because you can have this conversation with a self-righteous person and they will nod their heads in agreement. It's not that they fail to be introspective or consider that they could be wrong, they just have psychological safeguards in place that allow them to turn threats to their latent sense of superiority into the latest piece of evidence that supports their ego. It's exceedingly common to do this to some extent because we understand the world through the value judgments that divide the world into good and evil on many levels, and humans just can't live with themselves being the villain all the time. Frequently accepting guilt in the context of faith is a substitute for accepting it elsewhere- how many hypocrites proclaim they are sinners and then clutch their pearls at the sexual escapades of their neighbors? The line between modesty and righteousness drawn here is very blurry indeed. This mentality can also backfire and cause traumatic amounts of stress and depersonalization. It's a very potent psychological tool with its respective risks and rewards, but when religious groups hold this hammer, everyone is a nail, and therein lies the problem. Advocating the recognition of human fallibility… good. But encouraging negative value judgments on oneself… not so much.

  16. But what if we are so petrified of being righteous, of being inconsiderate oblivious to the needs of others and exploitative that we create a self concept that we are nothing but the catalyst of all corruption? And that the only moments we are able to realize that the only reason we feel this way is because our phobia of being percieved as the opposite are fleeting and insubstantial.

    Also, your narrators have the most beautiful voices, it always makes me feel at ease, even when they might make me contemplate my own horrific congnitively devised turmoil.

  17. Purest vicious damaging dogshit from religion that we are better of without. The whole concept of "sinner" is psychologically pathological. No one needs to fear being a sinner in order to do good. This is the sickest form of bullshit religious propaganda. UNSUBSCRIBED!!!!

  18. Don't know what happened to this channel – used to be knowledge-based through great animation with good intellectual content, now it is another one with self-help teaching, shame

  19. "Everyone's a sinner" is an invention of social conformity implemented by Romans in their invention of Abrahamic religions to control their population more easily through division.
    Sin was an Akkadian god of the moon that represented time, like cronos, Kronos, Saturn, Jupiter, etc…

  20. Sure method to suffer from inferiority complex. One more… so I am already a sinner, what can be more wrong if I do wrong things.

  21. 'Productive guilt' – a healthy and balanced sense of discomfort when confronted by injustice in the world and to others.

  22. I'm not the most "modest" person in the room in terms of how I see my self (I see myself kind of highly)
    But honestly I still like to see myself as being imperfect
    I have quite a lot to say on this, but imo I just wanna say that humility is how you see others more than how you see your self
    Opens up a lot of room for thought

  23. But this is more an argument for why one should be humble in the face of ones lack of awareness. To carry the stain of another, which is what “sin” is , it wholly unnecessary to the practice of self awareness. Being able to be open and honest when one is confused is the only thing needed. Not some story of ones own wickedness that only perpetuate feeling of inadequacy and misunderstanding of others.

  24. What horrible and self deprecating way to promote introspection, humility, and selfgrowth.

    "I'm need to believe that I am inherently a bad person to motivate myself to become someone better."

    As if introspection, humility, compassion, mindfulness and self-improvement don't have merit, without mentally implementing a debt against your self worth.

    The only people who are sinners are the people who tell you that you are.

    If the only way you can be a good person is by believing you are bad, you're missing the point of being a good person.

  25. There are ways of relating, and finding compassion, without participating in destructive, “sinful” behavior…

  26. I agree. Acknowledging your sin makes you less judgemental and fixating on your righteousness makes you more judgemental. The more I doubt my own character the more accepting I become of others.

  27. "What is good? Everything that heightens the feeling of power in men, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? Everything that is born of weakness, weakness breeds pity, that is Christianity. Christianity is religion of pity."

    The idea of sin leads to weakness.

  28. For anyone who has ever had a 'faith background' in a religion Abrahamic or otherwise and became arguably irreligious to a degree but still recognizes how the concept of 'sin' is handy for encapsulating a 'moral inconsistency' or something which is shaming to an individual's 'value system' and would like to share or explain such an idea to someone else like their child..I would vouch for this video.

  29. Interesting interpretation of sin. But what I actually have learned at university from my theology professors is an entirely different understanding of sin. Actually, they told me, sin doesn't have ANYTHING to do with good/bad. That good/bad-thing was just be an archaic understanding of sin that might lead to neurosis and it had led to that for centuries! What they told me was that sin is the state of our being which we can never change; it's the simple fact that nobody TRUELY knows us….the fact that EVERBODY hides something….the fact that we do not show our entire selves to others….that we are essentially little bluffers. Even towards our closest friends, our family and our partner….
    I actually first rejected that idea. I always thought of myself as a very open person. But then I did a little introspection and found that this was right. Only I alone know my deepest secrets, my deepest wishes, my worst thoughts….I carry them with me, hidden from the world.
    And this is sin…this creates separation and hinders us from being entirely close….somehow we cannot get rid of it. We can become less a "sinner", but we probably will never stop being one….(in this life)

  30. Manners, Tolerance and Modesty be damned. Tolerance is a useless virtue since being "tolerant" of an evil deed is not something to aspire to at all.

  31. That is why it is important to have and to integrate moral values ​​and religious guidelines in a society and government! And you have to fight and destroy the bad and evil things in the state and society! That makes a healthy state and society!

  32. nice twist to the idea of seeing oneself a sinner, but falls very short after giving it a bit more thought. cause it also goes down the same path of rightousness.
    so called "humbleness" and the pursuit of confession are also very much just masks of narcissm and moral superiority.
    often the school of life lacks some in-depth analysis and just presents stuff in fortune-cookie superficial ways.
    why should i acknowledge my sinfullness in this decadent and self-manipulative manner? i just won't.
    i will lie to myself a bit, why i want to be a better person, but i won't reassure myself with false labeled altruism, that it's for the greater good, instead of anything besides my ego.

  33. this reminds me of myself being judgemental to people around without realizing my own flaws. I tried to overcome that , yet sometimes find myself doing that again

  34. Very good, but can we have a more positive feeling, concerning confession, acknowledgment, & realization?

    “If we confess, he is faithful, & just,…”. I think it preferable to admit we are imperfect, than claim, I know I am a sinner. There is then hope we can improve.

  35. now , after watching this video, people will be like: I AM A SINNER !! … can I go to heaven now? , or something like that

  36. School Of Life's premise here is that of Effective Paradox, that the "sinner" is actually the Moral Person because he or she uses his or her knowledge of moral vulnerability to muster all of their defenses and to endeavor, against inclination, to be good. But that is NOT how it works. The Religions that demand the declaration and confession of 'Being Sinners' do not want Righteousness. Righteousness would make the Avowed Sinners feel guilty for being sinners. We need to understand that Christianity's Main Selling Point was that Jesus was Sacrificed so that people could Sin and still have Immortality. You see, Paul's 'Christianity' was a Greek Reaction against Persian Zoroastrian Dualist Morality — that there was Good and Evil in the Universe and Civilized People would chose Goodness. The Religions of Sin fought back and said we never had to be good before. We only had to offer Religious Sacrifices and then go back to Wars and Partying. Also, think about it. If somebody Can't Be Saved Unless the Confess themselves Sinners, well, what happens when they are confronted with Temptation? Why fight it? If you are a Sinner, you might as well enjoy it, right? Is all the Incest in the Bible Belt some kind of accident?

  37. Oh snap! Your definition of righteous is erroneous. You're not using the same dictionary definition as do people of faith in God. Righteousness in religious circles is the acceptance of and belief in the existance of God, combined with some degree of determination to conform to basic rules of conduct, not determined by the self, but by the highest power of all. Faith acknowledges that we ourselves are not that highest power. There's more to it than that, but you should get the gist.

  38. There's some good to be noted here about humility and self-reflection – excellent! – but it seems like the author is misinformed about Christian theology. They gave an explanation of "self-righteousness" and said it was the meaning of "righteousness," and they suggest that it's "patently untrue" that everybody is a sinner when we all know our own mistakes and imperfections. So the author was either misinformed or they were willfully misleading. Either way it shortchanges all of us because those who believe in God were confused by the misrepresentation and everyone else thinks religion teaches something it doesn't.

    We can take away the baby in this video but there is a whole lot of bath water, which surprised me since The School of Life is often so well informed.

  39. I think it's really important to be able to look at yourself honestly, and reflect on how you may be causing pain to others or yourself, but how do you cope with the constant self awareness? It feels like it's far harder to let things go, and not beat myself up when I'm constantly thinking about the effect my behaviour is having on others. For my own sanity I feel strongly drawn to, and occasionally fall into wishful thinking just to stay calm.

  40. This video seems to posit that

    1. feeling guilty is same as being humble

    2. having self-respect is same as being arrogant

    Very few people are in extremes … criminally guilty or bursting with self respect . In reality,
    each individual may need a different dose of sinner pill or self respect pill. Would it be appropriate to prescribe a remedy for the entire society based on few violent Hitlers? or few non-violent Gandhis for that matter too…

  41. As I have come to "think of myself as a sinner" where I used to experience shame, I tend to experience guilt instead, which is much more manageable.

  42. in game of thrones I feel like most main characters have this knowledge, they are surrounded by plenty of backstabbers, liars, and dishonor. Specially Jon Snow, the fact that he thought he was a bastard most of his life and that may have caused him to be an honorable man. Also the fact that theres always a consequence to their actions brings further self reflection to them. Idk what I'm saying I just thought of game of thrones as most characters are truly good and honorable. also in almost every scene where a character is silent and the camera is just on them I imagine their internal thoughts.lol sometimes I wish I was born in a fantasy world in the Middle Ages, it just seems like honor and honesty were virtues placed in a higher pedestal than in our society today and its probably because there was a lot of shitty people around.anyways I'm glad I watched this video because I always feel like I'm being an asshole and then I just end up thinking about my next human interaction and how I could be less asshole-like.

  43. Thank you for your time effort and energy. I just wish that the people, who need to hear this the most, would seek out information like this.

  44. I Found this SOL Video's General Message Interesting/Useful (like so many). My Lutheran (LCMS) view goes a little further. First of all, open your Bible/mind. "Sin is the transgression of the Law." 1 John 3:4. Basically, disobeying any of God's Ten Commandments even once is a Sin, and there goes our perfect record. Frequently I can't obey even my OWN rules! Ever since the Original Sin (Adam & Eve disobeying God) "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in Sin did my mother conceive me," Psalm 51:5…We are ALL Born and Share this Sinful human nature in common. "For ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23 When we realize we ALL have this personal problem we can skip the self righteous attitude and begin the long, difficult journey of self control trying to behave better in a difficult world. Good points raised in this video; but I suggest we ALL go further. We Need Help to perform better in this world and especially get to the next world. If we could obey God's Law (10 Commandments) absolutely Perfectly we could earn our own salvation; but we Can't. See Jesus (True God/Man, Perfect Life, Crucifixion, His Blood Redeemed our Sins, Our Faith) for Help! Be careful choosing a Bible believing church. Read John 3:16,14:6 and 20:31; Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 5:1.

  45. I learned this morning a co-worker was caught doing something shameful and the story is spreading. I remembered watching this when it came out and so am sharing with some friends this morning. This would be a great message for us all to keep in mind today.

  46. All are Fallen. Evil & sin must be apologized for. We must be sorrowful, contrite, & must try not to do evil.

    We are not gods.
    God is the Creator, & deserves our Love.

  47. Eh, the human idea of sin is an iffy one because it hijacks your own moral compass for that of whatever ideology that uses the sin concept. It breeds black and white thinking, kills nuance, and grows bigotry, scapegoating, and superiority complexes, (let's go burn some women and little girls to death because we think they're witches, we have no proof but whatever, SINNERS!)

    A sin is whatever the institution decides it to be. It gets locked into your mind that whatever they say is a sin is an objective moral wrong no matter what without understanding the underlying reasons why. The coupling of the concept of sin with dogma and punishing of doubt, results in a thoroughly indoctrinated individual that cannot defy their group's authority, and resists any change of a rise in greater moral understanding of the populations or themselves.

    Lying is usually considered sinful, but what of those who lie to save other people's lives? Or just for a laugh? It's just a thing that you can do for good, bad or neutral purposes.

    There are much better more effective psychological tools than "sin" that humans have developed to become better kinder nicer morally disciplined people. It just seems like labeling people sinners is only a way to get control you, to force you to conform in public by manipulating and suppressing your emotions for "the cause" instead of actually helping you think critically, be logical and truly moral in your decisions.

    *Side note, the concept of a divine prophet universally forgiving people for their sins has facilitated a cycle of deflected responsibility and misplaced guilt "Oh I'm sinful please forgive me" "ah great I've been forgiven for every one of my wrongs, thank God, that means I don't need to do work on myself or my actions" and the next day they go out and do sin, feel guilty about it and repeat the whole unproductive cycle over again until they die instead of taking responsibility, "casting out their demons" and working on the issue they need to work on in order to get on with their life. In order to obtain forgiveness for wrongs from anyone, Divine or not, there should be change within ones self first.

  48. I am not convinced about the use of the word sinner to describe human imperfection. Sin does only tell half a story what its about and is charged with Christian and monotheistic beliefs about atonement. Karma or cause and effect is more describing and doesn't permanent the situation. Past poor performance, bad decisions and suffering can be transformed in the sense that they doesn't cause more suffering and hopefully we have learned something in the process. While sin is something invented by the monoteistic religions and puts humanity at the mercy of spiritual forces, and that is disempowering and a false belief because it's meant to be exploited by people that seek to take power over our minds and life's.

  49. This is by far the best video your group has put forward. You guys are amazingly therapeutic. Keep up the GOOD work!!!

  50. Hebrew Bible and Christian Testament understanding of righteousness is vastly different than the contemporary English meaning.

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