I made it through my first year of post-college life. Man, it was a doozy. This year has been marked by the “hurt-so-good” kind of growth that you love but you hate (ok, mostly hate).
The biggest growing pain I’ve felt has been in my relationship with myself. I sure didn’t expect that one. I’ve s l o w l y begun to realize this year how much power I have in my interactions with myself. I’ve been taught all the right ways to interact with others: be kind, encouraging, patient, loving, but I was never taught to treat myself the same way. Some may say we don’t need to be taught this, that in our sinful nature thinking of ourselves comes naturally, which is true. But not all self-talk is healthy and it certainly isn’t in my case. I’ve started wondering what would happen if I was kind to myself. Maybe my life would look different if I was on my own team.
I’m a recovering perfectionist, as they say. My parents never had to set standards for me because my standards for myself were already sky-high. While having standards is a good, necessary part of life, I need to learn to give myself a BREAK.
[“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” – 2 corinthians 12:9]
When I started wrestling with the idea that I should be kind to myself, I quickly realized that it was wrapped up in a lot of lies about what selfishness is. Godly confidence and self-value have been drowned by a misuse of the biblical mandate to “deny ourselves.” Denying self is denying SIN, our human desires of the flesh, but I have turned it into complete self-hatred. Our beautiful souls were created to reflect God’s image in freedom and rejoicing. They are not to be stifled, but CELEBRATED. It feels weird to celebrate myself.
I realized how screwed up my relationship with myself was when I saw how differently I treat my friends than I treat myself. I first saw this clearly one night last Fall in the tiny apartment where I was living with 3 lovely girls. Each week my roommates and I gathered to pray for each other. It was during one of these times I was struck that I do not pray for myself the way I pray for my friends. I pray extravagant, bold, prayers of BLESSING and HOPE over my friends but when it comes praying for myself I don’t feel worthy of such.
[“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing. – Zephaniah 3:17]
“What if I prayed for myself the way I prayed for my friends?” The question made me uncomfortable. I speak with such confidence when I am declaring God’s promises over a sweet discouraged sister but when *I* am the one facing discouragement, I put myself in the dog house. I shame myself into a self-righteous corner of self-loathing until I can pull up my bootstraps and get it together. If I was told that a friend of mine was speaking to herself the way I speak to MYself I would not be happy. I would tell her how sad it must make God to know that His precious daughter did not see the infinite value of her intricately crafted soul.
I began to consider how much hope and grace and patience I have for my friends. I am not a perfect friend, surely, but I am always so confident of God’s goodness toward my sweet friends, His glorious plans for their future, and His ability to sustain them in whatever they are experiencing. I definitely do not do that for myself.
We’re all familiar with the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Golden Rule assumes that we know how we want to be treated. It also assumes that we include ourselves in the “others” who we’ve been commanded to treat with dignity and kindness. Refusing to be kind to myself is actually a twisted self-love that demands that I meet my own expectations before deserving love. However, God commands kindness not based on any goodness of our own, but because we were created as His image-bearers. The Golden Rule doesn’t let me get away with being kind to everyone but myself. Treating others the way you want to be treated includes treating yourself that way.
Obviously, it has taken me MONTHS to write this, and even as I do, I am doubting my ability to communicate it well. I also feel ashamed at what a terrible job I do at this on a daily basis. Ironic.
One of the biggest weapons I have taken up in my battle toward a healthy relationship with myself is to preach the Gospel to myself. It’s weird at first, but you gotta do it. Our battle is against the devil and his angels of lies, surely, but our battle is also against flesh and blood. Our battle is against ourselves.
In preaching the Gospel to myself, I have to take verses that counter the lies I have drowned in for so long and declare them over myself until the truth becomes my default instead of the lies. I have to start small and declare them over individual thoughts and attitudes. I’ll get to the life circumstances, fears, and future plans later.
I also listened to this song. A lot. Be Kind to Yourself – Andrew Peterson
Be kind to yourself. Listen to this song, and let it speak to your heart about how our Father in heaven wants us to talk to ourselves. The voice in our own head is often our biggest enemy, but our sweet Father can help you to turn it into your biggest asset if you ask Him to and actually let Him. Let the heart of our Father towards us influence our hearts towards ourselves.
“As a father shows compassion to his children, so I show compassion to those who fear me. For I know your frame; I remember that you are dust.” – psalm 103:13-14