In my whole entire life, I’ve never had anyone be as hard on me as I am on myself. Not my parents, not my coaches or music teachers, not my gym or math teachers (even though I struggled mightily with both), not my bosses, not my husband or my kids. Even in their most “tough love” moments, nobody in my life has even held a candle to me when it comes to being critical of myself.
It’s usually a surprise to people when I share that because, in general, I’m ooozing sweetness and light — especially when it comes to people’s challenges and struggles.
I’m quick to offer grace to others in their hard moments, to tell them they’re doing better than they think they are, to point out how hard their situation is and tell them that they’re doing an amazing job anyway, to highlight and elevate what they’re doing RIGHT.
For myself, there is exactly none of that. I’m constantly examining myself under a microscope, keeping an up-to-the-minute account of my mistakes and shortcomings (real, perceived, and potentially perceived by others) and doing a fun little matching exercise which involves drawing lines connecting the things that are wrong in my life (or even less-than-ideal) to the flaws in myself that could be causing them.
I’ve been convinced over the years that it’s the responsible and humble thing to do. It’s my job to keep myself in check, I don’t want the people in my life having to deal with the results of my shortcomings. Also, I would hate to be one of those people who clearly thinks too much of herself even though everyone else can see she’s a hot mess, how embarrassing. The Bible even cautions against thinking too much of ourselves (Romans 12:3). Yes, I’m certainly just being realistic and walking in humility.
But that’s the thing about our sins: they frequently show up as things we think we need, but are actually taking up space in our lives that should belong to God, excluding and eclipsing His love and grace where we need it the very most.
My heavenly Father has been busy lately getting my attention on this subject and naming it as a SIN. It’s not healthy, it’s not good for it’s keeping me mired in the things of this world, keeping me from Him. It’s not honoring to Him, it is not OF Him, and therefore it has Got. To. Go.
It’s not responsibility, it’s vanity. Even though my intentions were good, spending too much time looking in the mirror weakens me. It causes me to fix my eyes on myself when they should be fixed on Him.
It’s not humility, it’s pride. Who am I to think so little of what He has made, to see only the weaknesses and ignore the beauty? All people are created in the image of God, and I am no exception. It’s as much a sin to judge and malign myself as it is to do it to others.
It’s letting the devil get a foothold. My propensity for self-condemnation is one of the enemy of my soul’s very most favorite things about me. He’s gotten hours — even YEARS — of mileage out of it in his efforts to keep me from the good things God has for me and to weaken me enough to keep me from furthering God’s kingdom.
The thing that has stood out the most to me, however, is that although God has been very firm and direct about the fact that I’m sinning like crazy in this area of my life, His conviction on my heart has felt absolutely NOTHING like the self-condemnation I’ve had myself convinced was responsible, humble, and therefore assumed was pleasing to Him.
When God calls me out, He doesn’t say I’m not good enough, He tells me I’m made for more. He doesn’t say I’m bad, He tells me I’m better than this. He doesn’t point out the ugliness of my sin, He shows me the beauty of the things in me (and in HIM) that it’s been obscuring. I don’t feel guilt and defeat, I feel relief and determination.
As such, I’ve got repentance and redemption on the agenda. It’s a long road to uproot and rewire entrenched patterns of sin, ways of thinking and feeling that have colored my life for years. But there is FREEDOM on this journey.
How about you? Have you been reading this and recognizing any of it? Are you ever too hard on yourself? Do you think it might be a stronghold in your life, a foothold for the enemy? Will you join me in taking the brave step of opening our hearts to God in this area? Letting Him heal us, allowing us to see ourselves through His eyes? Learning to distinguish the of the Shepherd who would lift us up to better things from that of the prowling enemy who would cut us down?
It can feel so vulnerable at times, so risky. It is definitely giving up a modicum in control in so many ways, and that can be the hardest part.
But I am believing God for this journey. I believe His ways for me are higher and better than mine. I believe He’s got me far more securely than I could ever have myself, that He will cover and protect me on this journey to redemption just as He has been covering and protecting me in my sin.
So I will fix my eyes on Him and not on myself.
I will trust in how He’s made me…and that He doesn’t make mistakes.
I will remember that ALL have fallen short of the glory of God, not just me, and that He can and will redeem and restore it all.
And I’m believing that He can do a much better job with me than I can ever do with myself, if I will only let go and rest in His hands.