Take Responsibility for Shortcomings: Ps. 51

We are in Week 39 of our examination of Benedict of Nursia’s rules for Christian formation. This week we’ll look at Rule 4.43: Take Responsibility for Shortcomings. If you’re not familiar with this week’s passage, Psalm 51 is one of the most poignant in all of Scripture.  It was written by David after he was confronted by Nathan the prophet about his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of his friend Uriah in an effort to cover up the sin. For a background on this psalm and David’s confession, I would encourage you to read the full story in 2 Sam. 11-12.

Though this rule is closely related to Rules 4.57-58: Confess Your Sins to God, there is an important distinction. While confession is good and something we should do daily to cleanse our consciences, I think we can all identify with struggling with a particular sin, confessing that sin to God, and praying for God’s help to amend that behavior only to fall back into the same sin pattern. This is where taking responsibility for shortcomings comes into play. It allows us to get behind our patterns of sin to the root of our sin.  To really have victory in our lives, we must stop looking to moralistic behavior modification where we manage our sinful habits, and we must address and admit who we really are on a heart level, and that’s not a lot of fun.  We have to admit that as much as we want others to think we have it all together, we don’t.  We have to admit that to be human is to be a sinner.  It is at the core of who we are.  But here’s the good news: we are not just sinners—we are sinners deeply loved by God.  It is not until we truly admit and take responsibility for the depths of our sinful depravity that we can fully appreciate the marvelous depth of God’s love for us.


We see this in David’s confession in Psalm 51.  Prior to being confronted by Nathan, David had led a deluded life.  He had created an image as Israel’s righteous king, anointed by God and above reproach.  He had worked so hard to create this image that he even deluded himself into believing that he could sleep with a good friend’s wife and then murder that friend to cover it up with no consequences. He was so self-righteous and duped by his own lies that he didn’t even recognize Nathan’s fictional offender as himself. It was not until Nathan shattered this image with the truth of David’s sin that David could once again see himself for what he was—a sinner in desperate need of restoration—and God for who he was—a Father who deeply loved David just as he was.

When we fail to take responsibility for our shortcomings, we deny ourselves the opportunity to know ourselves as we truly are, which in turn denies us the opportunity to understand the depth of God’s love for us and the magnificence of his redemptive plan for our lives.  We exhaust ourselves trying to protect this false image and fail to achieve any real intimacy with God or others.  Though our sinful pride convinces us it is scary, it is only when we take responsibility for who we are—ALL of who we are—that we step into that free and abundant life that Jesus promised.



  1. Are there certain sins with which you struggle that appear to be habitual sins?  Has that sin ever caused you to question your commitment to Christ or maybe even your salvation?  Does it cause you to struggle with feelings of guilt or shame?
  2. Consider your life.  Are there areas of your life where you struggle to be honest with others?  Are there areas where you may have even deluded yourself?
  3. What would it look like for you to take responsibility for your shortcomings?  
  4. Imagine looking into the eyes of Jesus and admitting that you are a sinner.  Imagine reciting Psalm 51 to Jesus as your own personal confession.  How does Jesus respond?  How does his response make you feel about yourself and God’s plan for your life?