Forgive Thyself

In a previous write up I have written about trust and forgiveness and also failures and mistakes. I have done several write ups to get to this point. The reason that I have done so much back ground is because the question that I want to ask is at the root of so many things that we struggle with. If you have read the write ups mentioned in this one then please prayerfully read this and consider what it says. If you haven’t read the write ups mentioned in the first sentence please go back and do it before you read this one. This has taken quite a few rough drafts to get to this point. So without further delay I hope to lay down what I believe the Lord wanted me to write. I hope to honor Him and bless you.

I have a question to ask. Do you love yourself? It is heartbreaking the amount of people that I have dealt with who believe that they don’t love themselves. I wanted to make it a point to address it when I write that it breaks my heart.  Many times people say that and don’t really mean it, so the meaning is lost. It is easy for someone to read that when I write it down and not get it, this means you. If you don’t love yourself it breaks my heart. I know some of you who read this I know personally, but if I don’t know you it will still break my heart. I have seen many who have so much to offer and if they loved themselves could really impact so much around them. Please understand if this is you, how much you truly matter after all we are created in the image of God Genesis 1:27. Now if you don’t feel like you love yourself let’s look at what scripture says. In Ephesians 5:29 in the King James Bible it says: For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church. If you believe that you don’t love yourself scripture doesn’t agree. I would like to imagine for a moment that scripture is correct. If we really do love ourselves then where is the breakdown? What reason is there that makes us feel like we don’t love ourselves?

If we practice the destructive tendencies to deny ourselves love as a punishment what are the advantages of this behavior? It is a known fact that we desperately need love. In fact when children are developing and they do not receive the characteristics of love during the correct window of time. Certain aspects of the individual do not develop properly. In fact if we aren’t shown love at the right time we will almost certainly struggle with attachment and abandonment issues for the rest of our lives just as one example.  If we deny ourselves love as punishment we are likely going to be starved for it. If we don’t get love even from ourselves we will probably go looking for it elsewhere and possibly not even realize that is what we are doing.

When we look for love we usually won’t be happy with what we find. In order to find what we perceive to be love we are usually required to work for it. If we have to work for love then that isn’t love. Love by its very nature is one sided, meaning one person loves another and it doesn’t have to be returned. The work that we do will often involve us compromising ourselves. When we compromise ourselves to get what we want (that isn’t love) we are feeling unhappy and empty the farther that we go the deeper the darkness will be. While we are unhappy our destructive punishing behavior will often kick into overdrive and we will punish ourselves even more. I try to remember this to prevent me from gratifying my desires instead of God’s. He put Himself to a risk by loving us. He knows that His love can be rejected also, so if you have ever had a heart break from one person, imagine God and how He feels when millions reject Him at one time.

If we happen to find someone who actually loves us we often begin to punish that person because in our mind we have to prove that we are unlovable. If we accept that we are loveable then we also have to accept that we are just being mean to ourselves and the cycle will end. Let’s face it we just don’t want to be wrong! When we push someone away we are victorious and depressed at the same time. Some people can get to a point where they need this feeling and don’t feel right without it. This bitter victorious feeling is won by being able to push someone away after sometimes years of abuse to the ones who love us. If someone was to recognize this as a description of them, perhaps an apology to someone is in order?

If we choose to use punishment rather than discipline to bring changes out in ourselves what does it look like? Does the punishment bring about the changes that we feel that we need to make?  Usually if we punish ourselves to go along with the model in the previous write up (please see Punishment vs. discipline) it begins with words. How do you speak to yourself? Is your speech encouraging and pleasant? Is your speech destructive and harsh? What type of vocabulary do you use to yourself? Do you use unusually harsh words for yourself? Maybe they are things that you would never say to anyone else? Now what of the steps taken? Do you strike the things that you value? When we are punishing ourselves we of course know just what actions to take. The punishment can take on denying things or forcing things. Imagine someone we will call Failed Self does the same thing that always starts a fight. Failed Self makes a mistake. Well we treat it like Failed Self did it on purpose. So we begin to insult the intelligence of Failed Self. We begin to tell Failed Self that nobody will ever love it because of how stupid it is. We use many words to tear down Failed Self to make it to where Failed Self will think twice about ever starting to try something new again. Part one is done in the punishment model and now we need to make it a point to take steps to really inflict punishment. We now move to step two. We know that Failed Self likes food. We get this idea that if we deny Failed Self food that would be a good way to communicate our displeasure and help Failed Self to look better also. We think this is a good idea because we aren’t happy with how Failed Self looks either.

What would the outcome of Failed Self turn out to be? Would a lesson be learned or is it abuse? Is this the beginnings of an eating disorder? Think about it food is denied well then later on someone may over eat due to hunger. Once the overeating is done then perhaps guilt and the cycle of binge and purge continues? Is there any positive outcome for this way of punishing ourselves?

What if instead of punishment we came up with a plan for a disciplined life? What if we changed the name of Failed Self to Woops? Woops still made a mistake and felt really bad afterward. What if we spoke to woops and said, “Hey I know this was a mistake so how about we study up on this and ask as many questions as we need to? What do you think Woops; would we do better next time?” I think Woops would be more eager to get it right, more eager to please, and very excited about the chance to improve.

I have worked with people who say that they don’t love themselves. I have also seen the way people treat themselves when they make mistakes. The Bible tells us in Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. Our mind is hostile or opposed to God. If we focus on us we aren’t focusing on God. I am not encouraging anyone to focus on themselves. Instead I am trying to get people to focus on forgiveness, redemption, encouragement. If we can’t forgive ourselves for our mistakes how can we truly forgive anyone else? We are practicing the fundamentals of Christianity, just on ourselves first. The Bible is also clear about the way that we speak. The Bible compares our tongue to the rudder of a ship and the bit in a horse’s mouth. So again we shouldn’t use that kind of language on us or anyone else. I bring these points up not to make anyone feel worse about themselves.

I present the idea here to love you first, and then love others. If you have ever been on an air plane the flight attendant is going to give you a safety briefing. During the briefing they will talk about the oxygen mask coming down and what to do. They expressly tell you that in the event of the oxygen mask coming down to put it on your face first and then place it on small children. As a father this goes against what I believe to be true. I am supposed to take care of myself first? My children depend on me! How selfish would I be to take care of myself before anyone else. I reflected on this and then it made sense. Imagine a small child cute and scared. You are experiencing turbulence and everyone is scared all around you. This child is scared and looking to you for comfort and safety. Who would not want to be there for this child? Well, during the turbulence the oxygen masks come down while the lights flicker. People are beginning to scramble to try to remember how to put them on and these people are beginning to whisper about death. There is also a buildup of panic all around you. The child hears them and becomes very frightened. Do you put the oxygen mask on you first or the child?

If you chose to put it on the child first then I believe that you picked like most people would have. If this is what you chose then you and the child both died. Here is the reason why. When the masks came down everyone started breathing heavier and consuming the oxygen that was in the air plane. When the masks came down you struggled to get it on the child because the child was frightened. In the time it took to put the mask on the child you and the child blacked out. Due to the lethal combination in the cabin of chaos, lack of lighting, and turbulence you and the child were missed. You went too long without oxygen and died. If you would have chosen to put your mask on first two things would have happened. First, you would have modeled to the child what the mask was and that it was alright to wear. Second, you would be able to breathe you would be coherent to help the child. You could even help the child with loss of consciousness. You have to be in a position to help others before you help them. If you love and forgive yourself then you can love and forgive others. I wish you the best. Remember if you have any questions or comments leave it in the comment section. You can like us on Face book. We need your prayers as we try to go where the Lord wants us. I will see you just beyond the bend!