Why Am I Being Punished? What Did I Do Wrong?

by ToriDeaux on May 14, 2007

When bad things happen in life, do your thoughts turn to self blame, or questions of divine punishment?

One of my favorite commenters (Hi Jackie!) asks these questions in a touching post entitled simply “Punishment”. In it, she talks about her late mother’s concerns about having gotten lung cancer.

“What did I do wrong?” Mom asked.

“You did nothing wrong mom. I believe everyone is born to do something in life. You have accomplished that and now it’s time to move on.” I said as I struggled with tears trying to be strong for her.

It was my way of helping her feel better about how she lived her life. This might have made it easier for me too. At the time. Now I feel there could have been more.

Jackie went on to look for that “more”; she asked her readers if they believed or felt that the bad things in their life were their own fault, or if they were somehow being punished. I asked if I could answer her here, so… here we are.

When I was involved with the spiritual community, the concept of divine punishment came up for many of the people I talked  to. Faced with unexpected tragedy in their lives, people seem to naturally wonder if God or the universe is punishing them, searching for ways blame themselves for events that are clearly out of their control. Even a US Senator blamed sin for Hurricane Katrina.

But the Deity-as-Angry-Disciplinarian concept never took root in my spiritual beliefs. But in my personal relationships? Oy.

If someone seems unexpectedly upset, angry, or short tempered with me, even seems a bit disinterested.. if they stop calling for a while, don’t drop by one weekend, or cut a conversation short, I’m prone to doing a rather negative self inventory: “What did I do wrong? Why are they upset at me? Am I being punished ?” Sometimes I’ve even voiced these questions to others.

And when large-scale tragedy strikes, I may not assume it’s God’s Vengeance on a sinful nation, but I do catch myself looking for some fault of our culture to blame: global warming, violent video games, interference with the natural order.

Intellectually I know it’s not that simple. I know that there is a tricky combination of largely unpredictable factors involved, and that it’s unlikely that changing any single factor would have changed any particular event outcome. But still.. I look for that one factor, that one blame, failing and fault to lay at our feet, at *MY* feet.

Why? What makes this such a pervasive thought pattern? Why are we so obsessed with what we are doing wrong?

Stay tuned for part two, later this week… and while you wait, toss your own thoughts into the comments section below; I’m interested in hearing them!

MindTWEAK: Taking responsibility for our actions requires neither self-flagellation or wallowing in blame.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jackie 05.15.07 at 2:05 am

Awesome entry. I cannot wait to read part two! Reading such things as this from someone else’s POV helps sort my thoughts. Your “negative self inventory” is exactly like mine!

“Why are we so obsessed with what we are doing wrong?”
I believe we are obsessed because of “our” negative thought patterns. Also, because it is what we are taught as children.

Thinking deeper into this obsession, children mirror or mimic the characteristics of adults. So, we do as they do.

Could this be a learned behavior?

hmm…that is what I have come up with in my travels.

2 Adrian 08.23.09 at 4:40 pm

I have always quetioned myself that one silly question,”Am I being punished for what I have done wrong?”Lately,I have been so sick,and simultaneously,my luck has run out,whatever I do seems to end up so badly for no reason,things turn out to be way worse than I expected.I feel like I am cursed,I know I have done something terribly wrong,and I realize I am being punished.My belief has led me the this web site and I started to undertstand I am not the one who thinks that way.I am looking forward to part two,which seems to give in more explanantion.
if there is one.

3 Tori Deaux 08.24.09 at 4:26 pm

Hi Adrian,
I’m glad this is helping you to take a new look at things, and at the least, help keep you from feeling quite so all alone! You aren’t.

This is an older series, and the plugin that linked them all is no longer active – but yes, there was a part 2… and a 3 and even a 4! Here are the links:

Part 2 Am I Being Punished? It’s My Fault, Isn’t It?
Part 3 Am I BeingPunished? The Roots of the Thought Process
Part 4 You mean, it’s *NOT* my fault?” 10 Tips for Stopping The Self Blame Process

Hope that helps you out a bit!