Complete Yet Inadequate: The Role of Learned Helplessness and Self-Attribution from the Writings of Paul

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The model of learned helplessness is reviewed and related to New Testament Pauline writings. It is suggested that Paul did experience the perception of helplessness, yet did not experience the deficits which often accompany helplessness. The lack of such deficits can be explained, in terms of a reformulated model of learned helplessness, by considering the self-attributional statements exhibited in Paul’s writings. Despite Paul’s realistic appraisal of his helplessness, his self-worth was not threatened — he was complete although inadequate. It is suggested that an overemphasis on the doctrine of inadequacy may lead to self-esteem deficits among evangelicals.


Originally published in Journal of Psychology and Theology, 11, 303-310.

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