My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. 3: 18-20
I was blown away when I read the verses shown above in my quiet time today. It was as if God had one hand on my left shoulder and was peering over my right shoulder in a backward embrace as I read. A fatherly hug!
It felt like His Spirit was running his holy finger across the page of the Bible, emphasizing each word as he underscored them for my psyche on the page. Man, oh man, does Papa God know what I need.
“It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it (1 John 3:19).”
THE NASTY, SMELLING, ROTTEN HABIT
I’m not sure whether I’ve shared this with my readers here before, but I’m someone who’s indulged in self-loathing a time or two…or a lot! In the past, when I made a mistake, it became in my mind the worst mistake that anyone of my station had ever made, ever. It totally defined me and made me miserable.
I practiced this overwhelming degree of self-criticism to such an extent that it became an addiction for me. A nasty, dark, dank, and debilitating addiction, dripping with self-hatred and loathing, and destroying any joy I might have otherwise experienced in this world.
In those days when I was practicing my addicition, I held myself to an unattainable standard, while I made succeeding in life all about me: How much energy I had on a particular day, how much power to negate what I’d done wrong, and how much of a force field I had humming around me to protect me from myself. It was awful.
Sometimes there was “something to it,” this need to criticize that I felt I deserved. But there was never a legitimate reason for me treating myself the way I did.
I had no grace for Lori, and today I find that sad.
If you have not been someone prone to self-recrimination, you have no idea what I dealt with on a daily basis with this habit of mine. The fear. The anticipation associated with “screw ups” of the past, and the dread that they might happen again…the deeply held belief that I would do it again, and that while I might be able to muster forgiveness for others who did likewise, there would be none for me.
I don’t struggle with an addiction to self-criticism anymore. Today, I have a normal amount of distaste for the mistakes and missteps I make in life. Today, I forgive myself much sooner, love myself through Christ to a deeper degree, and expect only a usual amount of accountability and skilled performance when going about my duties for my Lord. I’m only human.
Being human, I can’t expect to be perfect. The belief that I can be is a lie, and not only a lie, but worse than a lie.
I have learned that striving to be perfect is akin to commissioning the carving of a false idol and positioning it in the middle of my backyard. This beautiful statue would tower over the rest of the garden there, fill the center of it completely and draw the attention of everyone who saw it to its gracefully poised impeccability.
The problem with that plan would be two-fold. 1. The statue would distract everyone, including me especially, from the marvel of nature that abounds because of God’s touch in our world, and 2. It would stink to high heaven! Worse than any manure pile you’re ever smelled on a hot July day. It would have to stink, because it would be a monument to evil. The nastiest, rottenest, most sensual and beautiful piece of wickedness ever carved by human hands. That is what perfection is to me now, and what I think of when I remember what I did with God’s beautiful and imperfect being: me.
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE ENEMY’S LIES
In writing this post, I want to share with my readers my new understanding that self-loathing is just another way for satan to trip us up, keep us from God, and ruin all the beauty He intended for us to enjoy in this life. The enemy’s lies never lead to joy, but steadily send us in the other direction, until at last we are sitting on a dung pile and hating ourselves with every fiber of our being.
If you have struggled for some time with the idea of perfection and wanting to be its poster child, you know what I mean. As I’m writing this post, God is reminding me of what Joshua said to the tribes a short time before he left them for that better land God promises all those who truly trust in him.
“…if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15
I’m not longer bowing to perfectionism in my life. I know the perfect One, and he isn’t me. Come, Lord Jesus, and help me see you more clearly. Come, Lord Jesus, and help me surrender more fully to You!
Are you someone who has expected perfection from yourself, and been unsatisfied with anything less? Has this kind of practice made your life harder than it needed to be?