January 18, 2018
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Purity: from disgust to trust

Then Rebekah said to Isaac, "I loathe my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women like these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?" - Genesis 27:46

Disgust is an unpleasant emotional response of revulsion to something considered offensive, distasteful, or unpleasant. It helps protect and maintain purity, morality, boundaries, principles, and values. However, chronic disgust can lead to anxiety disorders or cause someone to be dissatisfied and impossible to please.

The disgust response is signaled through facial expressions and body language. The eyebrows arch up in the middle, the nose wrinkles and the mouth forms a pout; so our language includes the idiom ďturn up our noseĒ to indicate disgust. The body language generally follows actions of avoidance or withdrawal. For instance, plugging the nose or covering the eyes are forms of removing oneself from the offensive thing. In general, greater disgust is accompanied with more dramatic signals. These signals express the emotion of disgust and communicate it to others.

Physical elicitors of disgust tend to be associated with perceived health risks, such as disease, infection, poor hygiene, or other dangers. For example, arachnophobia is an extreme disgust of spiders due to fear of personal harm. Similarly, a disgust response toward rats or other vermin is rooted in the fear of transmitted diseases. These physical elicitors can serve to protect health for the individual and community.

Emotional elicitors of disgust tend to be associated with moral risks, such as antisocial behavior or demonstrations of immorality. For example, people feel revulsion toward murder or abuse. These emotional elicitors can serve to protect the morality of an individual and community.

The opposite of disgust is trust. The one who properly operates in disgust becomes confident in physical and moral purity which leads to trust.

Desensitized Disgust

They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. - Ephesians 4:19

The biggest problem with desensitized disgust is the lack of guidance for moral purity. The Apostle Paul describes this condition as becoming callous, in the scripture above, or having a seared conscience. The lack of guidance leaves them vulnerable to impurity and all its consequences.

One of the primary tools for desensitization is repeated exposure. For example, the one who works in a rendering plant becomes insensitive to death, decay, and other indications of health danger. They must ignore or turn off their olfactory senses and association between death and disease. It begins as an intentional process but once they become callous it is automatic. We see similar incidents of desensitization by people that become callous to horror films, pornography, and debauchery of any kind.

A cultural risk of desensitization comes from the promotion of an attitude of tolerance. When a person first experiences the wages of sin they are disgusted, but when society demands that they accept all behavior as valid it serves to sear the conscience. Not only does this lack of disgust allow others to sin, but it also erodes the personal guide for moral purity. The opposite of disgust is not acceptance but recognition and application of truth.

Desensitized disgust is dehumanizing both to self and others. It removes the guide that keeps us from harm and allows others to fall into the trap of immorality as well. The solution for a desensitized standard for disgust is to repent to Godís standards for holy living. Allow yourself to be disgusted with sin and evil, as is God. Release responsibility for judging sin and evil to God and preserve your pure conscience and tender heart.

Moral Hypervigilance

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." - Romans 12:19

The opposite of desensitized disgust is moral hypervigilance. This is a chronic condition of disgust that becomes judgmental and condemning. In this case the disgust response no longer acts as a moral guide but becomes defense of a self-imposed standard. The hypervigilant person is disgusted with any conviction, opinion, or demonstration that deviates from his own. The result is that this person takes responsibility for the morality of others in a way that far exceeds his or her authority.

Hypervigilance leads to chronic dissatisfaction. The person with this over-developed sense of morality becomes a defender of an impossible standard. Nothing and no one can measure up to them, and the person becomes impossible to please.

The source of moral hypervigilance may be cultural or the result of a generational curse. Some people groups and families have developed this disgust response to an extreme level. It can also come from moral high ground when a personís convictions are elevated above everything else. Moral hypervigilance leads to hypocrisy because of the unachievable standards. It is also dehumanizing.


Self-disgust is the belief that ďI am disgusting.Ē It leads to self-loathing often related to shame. When this belief takes root it creates a vicious cycle because the trigger of impurity leads to disgust which in itself is disgusting. This condition can arise from a shame-based community, self-discovered guilt, or an awareness of impurity without an accompanying solution.

Self-disgust often manifests as a critical spirit. The person with this trait will assuage himself by saying he is his own harshest critic, and that his criticism of you is for your own good or protection. You can replace the word criticism with disgust. There are forms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) that are rooted in this kind of self-disgust. It is dehumanizing and by its nature is not an accurate guide for purity.

The solution for self-disgust is to confess the impurity, which is super-obvious to the person, and receive true forgiveness from God. Once forgiveness has been established and accepted, the person can repent to Godís standard of righteousness rather than the condemnation of the law.

Prayer Strategy

It is right and normal to experience disgust. It is a God-given emotion that helps us protect purity in the physical and moral realms. However, a lack of disgust from a seared conscience must be healed. Similarly, a broken sense of disgust expressed outwardly or inwardly must be healed. Chronic disgust can lead to impurity, judgment, and an inability to return to joy.

  1. Identify the disgust trigger (elicitor).
  2. Ask: What rules are being broken?
  3. Ask: Is the standard based on Godís opinion or anotherís?
  4. Repent to Godís ways (standards).
  5. Spiritual transaction: Forgive and / or be forgiven.
  6. Release responsibility and vengeance.
  7. Return to joy through trust.

We identify the trigger to know the real reason for the disgust. Remember that it may be physical, emotional or spiritual. Then ask what rules are being broken, or what about this trigger indicates impurity. The belief may be real because it is based on Godís standards, or it may be a phantom standard. Repent to Godís ways by accepting His standards and/or disqualifying your own when they diverge. The spiritual transaction is powerful when done with a witness. The work of forgiveness opens the way to identify and release the disgust as the trigger passes. It also allows you to release responsibility for vengeance if that is an issue.

Keep your attention on the purpose of disgust and allow your response to be driven by purity. Beware of desensitized disgust through cultural influence or repeated exposure. Watch for false guides that would increase or decrease your disgust response based on your frame of reference rather than Godís definition of purity. You will find your ability to trust Him increases as your sensitivity to His ways becomes more certain by use.

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