The Subtle Sin Of Sulking

By Fin Sheridan

Paul famously tells us, in 1 Corinthians 13, that “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put away childish things.” There’s a lot of things that are easy to “put away” from childhood – nappies, mashed banana as a main meal, sleeping with your favourite cuddly toy and requiring some form of colouring whenever you go to a restaurant (although I sometimes miss the last one..).

One of the harder things to put away is sulking. Sulking is a childish activity; it’s the behaviour of those who don’t grasp the wider picture. Children have to learn why adults say “no” to things. They don’t understand the constraints of finance, time, planning and schedule. So, they sulk.

The grown up word for sulking is “self pity” which doesn’t really cast it in a more favourable or justifiable light. Sulking is self focus; it’s inherently selfish and ‘me-minded’.

“Sulking is a subtle sin but, if unchecked, it becomes a poisonous habit.”

There’s only one mention of sulking in the Bible and it’s not pretty. Ahab, a notoriously evil ruler of Israel (he was married to Jezebel.. Ever heard of any children called “Ahab” or Jezebel? Exactly.) coveted the vineyard of his neighbour, Naboth. Naboth said “no” and so Ahab “lay on his bed, sulking and refused to eat.

Notice that the Bible doesn’t just say that he sulked, but he “lay on his bed”. Is there a more childish image? The spoilt king, throwing a royal tantrum in his room. Even Jezebel was disgusted by his actions. There’s nothing as unattractive as a grown man behaving like a toddler.

Sulking is a subtle sin but, if unchecked, it becomes a poisonous habit. Unless we recognise it, it can quickly grow into a default behaviour that we regularly indulge in when things don’t go our way. There are many opportunities for self pity – the fields of offence are white for harvest. We aren’t living from the gospel if we sulk when life doesn’t work the way we want. So, put away the mashed banana, the crayons at dinner time and most of all, put away the childish sin of sulking.

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