At some point this last year (I didn’t date it when I wrote this down), I took time to try and write down, in precise language, some of the things I believe about myself. Things I didn’t want to admit, but that I could tell were impacting my choices and thinking.
Tears streamed as I scribbled out things I had never fully formed into words. Here was one of the more disturbing pieces:
No one really cares for me.
I am not worth the trouble it takes to have time and a real relationship with me.
I am awkward and fumbly, and fine for occasional time together, but not worthy of or safe for real, deep, abiding friendship.
I’m not worth the trouble.
Maybe you have thought this way. Or maybe you think it’s pathetic.
HOW DO WE NATURALLY RESPOND TO SELF-LOATHING?
Whatever your internal thoughts, I want to dig in to how modern culture trains us to respond to this kind of thinking. What is your natural response?
My natural gut instinct response, if I heard this from another person, would be something like this:
That’s not true! You’re being TOO HARD on yourself. Doug loves you! LOTS of people love you. Plenty of people want to be your friend. You are not worthless- you are valuable and need to think better of yourself.
That’s even how many leading thinkers, speakers, bloggers, and teachers would encourage us to respond to negative self-talk.
- To pick ourselves up out of the gutter and pump ourselves up.
- To ask my friends to give me kinder words to think on.
- To read books and materials that tell me, “I’m worth it.”
- To look to my husband and children to “fill up my love tank.”
- To make a list of all the good things I like about myself.
I could even choose to justify it by pointing to my personality, my love language, my “felt needs.” There are lots of ways I could convince myself that the right response to self-loathing is self-adoration (aka self-esteem).
… this is not really, ultimately, what my heart needs to hear.
I don’t need a girl-power pep talk. I don’t need better self-esteem. I don’t need to compile a list of people who DO love me, and all the ways they’ve shown it over the years. I don’t need to feel adorable and quirky and cute and worthy.
Any of those things can change.
Doug, or my children, could die. People can change their opinions & approach– (gasp!) they might choose to STOP loving me. I could be a real shrew for a while (I was, just last night!), and they’d be right to pull back. Or maybe it could even BE true– that they don’t care. Even if I compiled a true list of things people have done for me, I could be attributing wrong motives. Maybe they did something nice out of pity, obligation, or for selfish reasons. I could be misjudging people.
Even if people wrote out a list in their own words and handed it to me, I can not let my heart find satisfaction, joy, and WORTH in what other people think or say they think.
What my heart really needs is to consider– and believe– what GOD thinks of me.
What does HE say? What is HIS perspective on my worth, and who I am?
WHAT DOES GOD SAY?
Part of what we’ve learned, as we’ve dived into biblical counseling, is that we really need to PAUSE and EXAMINE what is playing on the soundtrack of our inner counsel.
You are constantly talking to yourself.
I am constantly talking to myself.
And if we’re not careful, we are continually poisoning every day, interaction, and moment, with things that are not only unhelpful, but that are actually flat out lies, contrary to the “better word” spoken by God about us.
“…you have come… to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” ~Hebrews 12:24
God speaks a better, and truer, word about me, than any words I (or others) can muster up.
DROP SELF-COUNSEL THAT DOES NOT LINE UP WITH SCRIPTURE
I need to do the work to “put off” self-counsel that does not line up with the things God says in His Word.
Here are some biblical truths about myself, and my place in regard to God and others, that can help me frame life rightly:
Ephesians 1- In Christ, I am:
- purposed for holiness and blamelessness
- in line for an inheritance
- sealed for eternity
Ephesians 2:13-22- In Christ Jesus, I:
- have been brought near, even though I was far off from Him.
- have peace with all who know Him.
- am reconciled to God with all other believers.
- am not a stranger, but a fellow citizen
- am not a foreigner to God’s people, but am a member of His household
Colossians 3:12- In Christ, I:
- am one of God’s “elect”
- am holy and dearly loved
- am able to “put on” the characteristics that please Him
1 Peter 2:9-16- In Christ, I am part of:
- a chosen race
- a royal priesthood
- a holy nation (holy = set apart)
- a people for His own possession, purposed to proclaim HIS excellencies
- a people called out of darkness into His marvelous light
- GOD’s people who have received mercy
- a free people
- God’s chosen servants.
And there are many more places in Scripture that I could go.
But once I’ve started here, with these, my heart starts to change. Does yours? Instead of feeling stirred-up and emotional, I start to breathe more regularly and things come in to proper perspective. Instead of wavering and wobbling and feeling sorry for myself, I feel steadied.
I’m back on solid ground.
WHAT OUR HEARTS REALLY NEED
The right answer for my self-pity is not self-adulation, or a pile-on of adoration from fellow humans. What I need is a RIGHT reckoning of who I really am– both the bad, and the amazingly good.
- I am a sinner– I’ve been miraculously saved.
- I was a slave to sin, which made it impossible for me to please God– now I am free to live in a way that pleases Him.
- I was far off from God– He has chosen and adopted me and brought me near.
- I was wayward and wandering– He has made me part of an eternal family.
- I was doomed to continually be at odds with other people– now I am reconciled to and unified with all who call Him Father.
- On my own, I was worthy only of death– now, because of HIS worth, I am precious and dearly loved by a perfect God.
- I could only stumble around in darkness– now I can walk in marvelous light.
The answer to my self-pity is the Gospel:
“The Gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” ~Tim Keller
The Gospel frees us all to set aside the lies, and believe the hardest truths, about ourselves.
In light of the Gospel, we are free to acknowledge and see the truth all through the right perspective of His ultimate goodness and love for us.
In the Gospel, my self-pitying soul finds freedom.