“I’m sick of myself and I’m sick of feeling, so there’s not really anything positive there.”
I have this friend that just can’t see himself the way that I and others in his life see him. Believing himself to be worthless, unfit for proper relationship, and even a burden for others around him as he struggles with various issues. Thing is, I bet I could be speaking of a lot of friends in my life. For that matter, we all can fall into these existential traps of loss of self, purpose, and perspective. Be it not having the strength to overcome an addiction, tired of fighting and changing the flaws we see within ourselves, or simply resigning ourselves to the lie that this is all we’ll ever be. It’s hard to escape the shadow of this negative light we often see ourselves and much easier to believe the lies about ourselves.
We become immobilized, locked behind insecurities we have about ourselves. Stuck.
Being stuck is a good way to not take risks, a good way to not trust God, and a good way to not live life.
Living out of fear, afraid of that chance of rejection, we default to “I’m a failure” or “I’m a screw up” and give up (or worse, live into that). We can spiral down a slippery slope of believing that we’re just going to keep being a disappointment to believing that we’re a sort of contagious cancer that people should avoid.
The simple truth is that we want to be accepted, we want to be loved, and we want to feel as if we are needed and valued. Somewhere along the line, we were shamed (and re-shamed) accepting lies about ourselves and choosing failure through inaction by not attempting rather than risk trying. It’s part of our need for self-protection. Put simply, we don’t want to hurt or feel pain, a perfectly natural and human response. Yet sometimes in our need for self-protection, we develop thick emotional armor, walls, or find other ways to numb ourselves from the realities of life in a fallen world.
I’m reminded of a take on Matthew 7:4 (“How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?”). What if the point IS to be able to remove the speck from our brother’s eye, but we can’t see it because of the huge plank in our own? What if self-protection is one type of plank making it so that we don’t have to feel pain of being rejected but also making it so that we don’t have to get serious about taking speck out of brother’s eye? Our life revolves around it always being about “what’s wrong with me?” rather than extending ourselves to live for others.
We must be willing to speak truth, starting with the truth about ourselves.
“Just keep swimming.” –Dorrie (Finding Nemo)
Internal journeying is rarely easy or fun, especially if the circumstance isn’t a situation you can just “think” your way out of. But you’re not as stuck as you think you are. There is another way. Moving forward is the key. Some people become stuck and need help to not suffer needlessly for the wrong reasons. A counterfeit spirit and the Holy Spirit operate in similar ways. The counterfeit spirit, our enemy, feeds us lies about ourselves, focuses on what’s wrong us, and heaps shame and condemnation on our heads. We feel we must hide our dark core from everyone either from fear of being rejected or not wanting to drag anyone else down. And we become mired in our own self-loathing. Stuck.
The Holy Spirit wants us to dine on truth. That we’re an image bearer of God, a beautiful creation. Yes, we’re sinners, but there’s conviction, repentance, and redemption from that. And freedom. Freedom from the chains of our addictions, our self-loathing, our self-protection, our “ugliness”. We’re loved as we are for who we are. We need to set aside the lies we’ve come to believe about ourselves (or that have been programmed into us by others): that we’re a villain, a cancer, toxic to those around us; that we’re unworthy of loving or being loved, that others are better off without us.
It’s a matter of getting our identity straight. We are known by God. We are loved by God. Yet we don’t always believe that and don’t always see how it plays out in our lives. When our faith can’t get traction in our lives, we become stuck. We misplace our identity, things get shifted, then our priorities change. We want comfort, personal happiness, and the right relationship with that special someone rather than being a living billboard for God’s glory and love. We end up not living up to our potential like we should, thus we need to keep being reminded of our true identity: we’re children of God, known for exactly who we are, and loved anyway!
I know my friend can’t see the blessing that he is to me and those who are privileged to encounter him. I’m betting the same can be said for many of us. Times that are the most difficult can be the times that are the most forming for us. Our identity is not in our situations, but our identity is revealed by how we respond to them. It’s difficult to keep that sense of desperation, that place of need, of only being able to clutch onto Christ as your hope. And to be thankful that in our desperation, He is there. Practically speaking, we must continue to ask ourselves where is our hope and what is it in? What are we being formed into? What can we be doing better? What relationships can we be pursuing? Are we loving those around us to the best of our ability? Live into something positive rather than concentrating on “not doing” something negative. We need to take stock of all the things were thankful for and carry on. Thankfulness fans the flames of hope.
And I know it’s easier blogged than done.