Photo courtesy of ©photodune.net
How much time and energy have I spent punishing myself for the things I’ve said and done?
More than I’d care to admit.
What good did it do? Did it alleviate the pain of my failure? Did it solve the issue and restore relationships? Did it help me grow and learn?
So why do I do this?
Why We Punish Ourselves
Let’s face it. We don’t always like ourselves. There’s some self-hatred in all of us.
So when we blow it, this seed of self-dislike suddenly bursts into full bloom. Self-punishment is the result.
We dwell on our failures. We feel terrible. We overeat, or starve ourselves. We work ourselves to death, or become ambitionless couch potatoes. We medicate ourselves with our chosen vices.
The results? Our guilt and shame grow. Our deep-rooted dislike of ourselves expands.
It’s My Fault
Guilt and shame have been close companions of mine since early childhood. Sexual abuse played a huge role in this. Though an innocent victim, I blamed myself. Surely it was my fault.
This led to assuming I was to blame when anything went wrong. If I was bad, then everything bad around me was my fault. I became painfully shy. I even pretended I was invisible so that perhaps nothing else bad would happen.
Maybe my case is extreme. But after three decades of listening to people’s stories, I’ve discovered the thread of self-hatred is thicker than we realize. It destroys more lives than we can count.
Our Self-Hatred is Obvious
Our self-hatred parades itself everywhere. Check today’s news. Glance at the headlines. Contemplate our history. Self-hatred has threaded its way to our core. It influences and even determines our lives in ways we’re not aware.
This runs deep. I believe it’s spiritual. And if the problem is spiritual, so must the solution be. It’s ultimately an issue of faith – what we believe about ourselves, the world, and God.
My theology says Jesus Christ died on the cross for me. He shouldered my evil. He willingly received my punishment. My belief system says he did this to set me free from shame and guilt, because he loved me. And as his life was expiring, he said, “It is finished.”
I find myself staring at the cross. It’s as if Jesus is looking right at me.
“It is finished.”
Yet I continue to toy with self-hatred.
If whom I believe to be the Creator and Savior of the universe forgives and accepts me, why do I mercilessly continue this war on myself? When I indulge in guilt, shame, and self-punishment, am I not saying, “Jesus what you did was great and all, but it’s just not enough for me?”
We’re Screaming for Help
No matter what our faith orientation, most of us believe we’re more than mere accidents. We inherently know people are special and have profound value.
Advertising knows our self-hatred well. Most products and services offered are saturated with the message, “You’re worth it!” We’re screaming, “Someone, somewhere, please convince me I matter!” And we’re willing to pay out the nose for anything that promises to help.
We’re desperately trying to prop ourselves up, and it’s not working. In almost every conversation I have, people somehow say, “We’re meant for more than this!”
Yes. More than guilt and shame. More than self-hatred and self-punishment.
How do we get there?
Tune in next time. Maybe we’ll find some answers.
QUESTION: How big of an issue do you think self-hatred is, and why?
Photo courtesy of ©photodune.net
Several years ago I had a dream. I was in a jail cell surrounded by video monitors. Faces from my past appeared on the screens. They spoke in unison the same messages, over and over:
“You’ll never be good enough.”
“You’re damaged goods.”
“No one will ever love you.”
When I woke, it felt like my heart had been pierced.
The Voices of the Past
The voices of our past are powerful. The messages we received go deep. And underneath those wounding words is a constant wondering: “Do you love me?”
This is our basic hunger. Our striving for meaning, significance, security, and happiness stem from this. We emerge from the womb looking for love. Not just any love either.
We long for the ultimate. We thirst for love that is real, dependable, and permanent. We hunt for it with every fiber of our soul.
We yearn for perfect love.
It’s Him we came out of the womb screaming for. We dreamed of Him all through childhood. We’ve hungered for Him ever since. Real, enduring love.
He created us. We’re hotwired to seek Him, know Him, and do life with Him. We long for the Creator’s love and all it means: acceptance, peace, safety, joy, meaning, significance, adventure.
But the racket of those old, familiar messages distracts us. We believed these lies, and now we hear them in our own voices. We launch into our days on a relentless pursuit to find something, anything that promises to quiet the gnawing hunger within.
Back to Basics
Our basic need and fundamental longing is to know the One who created us. It’s his love we’re wired for and only his love will satisfy.
I know this, but I forget so quickly. I can start my day consciously aware of Him, then be lost in my routine in a matter of seconds. The Creator of the universe invites me to do life with Him, yet I seem continually immersed in the trivial and the urgent.
Something has to change.
Learning to Experience Love
One verse keeps coming to mind: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
Be still. Silence. Deliberate times of quiet focus and surrender. I begin my day with a block of time like this, but it’s not enough.
I’m on a mission to sprinkle such moments throughout my day. I’m making the decision to slow down, and as I do, I begin to see little windows of opportunity.
I stop for a moment. I close my eyes. In my mind, I go to Jesus in a place where no burdens are allowed. This isn’t a time for me to run on about my distress and trouble (though I need opportunities to do that). The goal is to just be. To be quiet. To be in His presence. That’s all.
I’m in the presence of perfect love. Yes, He is always with me, but that doesn’t mean I’m experiencing Him. I need deliberate, focused moments to do that.
As I practice this, my heart becomes more settled. When I think about grabbing a few minutes to practice being in his presence, I find myself smiling. These moments are becoming shining highlights in my days.
What can you do?
If you’re wanting to experience more of the love you were made for, try this:
Practice silence. Why not now? Take a moment. Close your eyes. Listen. If you’re new to this, you may just want to start there.
Grab time at the beginning and end of the day. Start slow. Just a few minutes will do. Get quiet. Listen.
Mix in a verse of scripture. How about starting with, “Be still and know that I am God”? Listen. Hear it from Him.
Snag random moments throughout the day. Use those few minutes in-between this or that. You have more opportunities than you realize.
Persevere. Keep at it. As you practice silent, receiving-from-Him moments, you’ll find more peace invading your life.
If you want more hints, contact me.
Remember – when you’re consciously in His presence, you’re interacting with perfect love. You were made for this.
QUESTION: How do you best experience Love in the midst of the noise of life?