There is a certain sort of person that you can see sulking in any corner he finds. He is quiet and grim, unless he has something biting to say. His favorite books, movies, and music are all depressing pits of meaninglessness and despair. He is bitter to the core, and if you could hear his thoughts, there would be nothing but ceaseless lamentation for his every misfortune.
Nobody is that man all the time, but I see him in the mirror far too often. I’ve always wondered what makes people like this, why they keep returning to the same old wounds, the same painful places, never letting the blues just die. I’ll be the first to testify that it’s not fun. It’s a dark place to be in, and the longer you’re there, the harder it is to get out. And when you do, you’ve always got to live with the consequences of wasted life and neglected friendships. But, like a druggie to his fix or a dog to his vomit, I keep coming back.
I think this spirit is the same one that catches ahold of me whenever I display some shred of maturity and magnifies it into a heroic display of sterling character. I think they are the same because both involve telling a story where I am the protagonist, where my defeats are grand tragedies and all my victories tremendous conquests. Both make the story about me. Both make me feel important.
The sulker there in the corner is not a confident man. He is a man whose faith in God (the only true confidence) is weak, so he puts it in himself instead. He may not think he better than those around him, but he certainly thinks he is more important. And when he fails, he would rather stew in his own juices than repent.
Repentance. To those in the midst of the blues, trapped in their own self-sustained depression, the suggestion that they call their state a sin is risable. “No!” they protest, “Don’t you understand the pain I’m in? The stuff I’ve been through? I’ve a got a reason to be depressed! My life is hard!” Hogwash.
If this sort of boy (he is hardly a man) ever takes the time to actually talk to another human being, to find out how their life is, he will quickly find their problems are as hard as his. There is not one person on this earth who is not struggling with some physical affliction, some secret sin, or some private drama. Everyone has experienced heartbreak, or lost a loved one. And most of them get out, live life, and at least try to enjoy it.
Even if that were not the case, we simply do not have the right to remain cooped up in our own heads, letting the world pass us by as we dwell on our own troubles. We are not mere individuals. The Lord made us to live in community, to help our neighbors and brighten our brothers’ days. Our time is not our own. Our importance does not lie in the private narratives we tell ourselves, but in the love we have to contribute to God and his people. Sulking is dereliction of duty.
But is there no place for godly sorrow? Of course there is. But as G.K. Chesterton put it, “Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday, joy is the uproarious labor by which all things live.” Do you have a genuine hurt, a trauma that must be dealt with? Then mourn. But mourn fast and hard, and leave it behind. We are a new creation, and sorrow is the dead relic of a past life. We are called to move on and celebrate the world of blessings we have been given.
Are you stuck with the blues? Then repent, crank up the feel-good tunes, and dance them away. Are you depressed? Go find someone to bless. Are you bitter? Let go, move on, and enjoy what you’ve been given. It is a big world, but you would never find out by sulking in the corner.