I am a bully. I beat myself up. I mean, I scourge myself. I am ruthless with myself (and others too). Nasty, mean, critical, persistently dogged. Over and over. Day after day. God help me. Lord, have mercy on me. I am not sure why I believed I was NOT...not smart, not pretty, not charming, not capable, not talented. Not. Good. Enough.
I have three beautiful children who love me. They think I am funny and smart. I still have both my mother and my father. They adore me. I have an older sister who dotes on my children and me. I have great friends, a job I love, good health, and a church family of loving sisters and brothers. So, despite my wealth of love, I chose to be miserable in my head and in my heart. If I complained (and I did plenty), I knew it was “1st world problems,” but I couldn’t shake the persistent tape recorder in my head---the relentless whoopings I gave myself.
What do you say to yourself about yourself? No. What do you really say to yourself? Are you getting in your own way?
When I was a first-year teacher in 1998, I got to work really early every day (6:30-7:00 am), so that I could make my copies for the lesson I had just finished planning at midnight the night before, settle my mind and get ready for the draining day of teaching 11th graders English. I had a student in my 1st-period class named David who was always at school early too (which I resented because I wanted this time to myself). But, for the most part, David was quiet and always smiling. Every day he said, “good morning,” and asked, “how are you?” It never occurred to me that David cared about my answer or that he was even listening to my response. Apparently, every day, for the whole time, David knew me, I said, “I’m tired.” One day, David responded (unassumingly with no ill tone), “you’re always tired.” I felt embarrassed that a 16-year old boy was more aware of my choice to be unhappy than I was. His response awakened me (a little) to pay attention to the unhappiness or dissatisfaction that I was displaying to others. I never forgot that awareness of how my responses might impact my students.
I could find any (every) reason to be depressed (not just going through depression but identifying myself as “depressed”). I WAS tired---of myself, but the ways that I addressed my weariness caused more of the same. I was not able to eat enough sugar or consume enough mind-altering substances to release the infection of self-loathing and narrow-minded, self-centered thinking that consumed my freedom and my creativity. I could not see beyond me. What an awful, exhausting cycle!
Shame, doubt, guilt (repeat) stacked up like a brick wall. And as other circumstances and injuries occurred (promiscuity, addictive behaviors, stressful work, weight gain, ectopic pregnancies, separation, divorce, raising children all the while), I applied the mortar of self-pity. Mercilessly. Poor body image+bad relationships x self-inflicted wounds = destructive behaviors. I sat in bondage with myself. Bound up, suffocating, paralyzed. I was ashamed because I let certain people run over me, and I was guilty that I ran over certain people. Just one messy, ill-directed situation after another. I made myself promises that I didn’t keep (I still do that). I made God promises that I couldn’t keep (God already knew): “I will eat better; I will love myself; I will exercise; I will read my Bible; I will pray daily; I will stop abusing myself.” I would make it until noon. Somedays, 3 pm. Then some other hurt, self-centered person would criticize me or find fault in how I look, how I did my job at work or at home. I took it personally. All of it. Big or small. Everything triggered my downward spirals of self-deprecation.
In January 2006, I was pregnant, but I didn’t know it. As the mother of a 3-year-old, I thought I might be. I consulted a doctor who said I was not. Days later, while sitting in a graduate class, I felt sick. I ended up in the ER in emergency surgery to remove a ruptured and destroyed, right fallopian tube. I was pregnant ectopically. So the fetus had no room to grow and no chance to survive. According to the doctors, I lost more than a liter of blood. I was alive, but I was devastated---one fallopian tube? I couldn’t take too much time to be thankful because I was busy having a bad attitude.
Yet, God was ever-present, gentle. Holding my head and my hand, gently nudging me to lift my face to HIM. Church family, friends, even a neighbor from my childhood spoke words of wisdom and comfort to my heart. Oh, GOD, I thank you!! GOD shows me myself all the time. Ask HIM. He will show you you and who you are to HIM. I can never tell it all, but God showed me to remember HIS words to me. HIS WORD is for you too.
When I read and re-read Colossians 3, I hear that question: What would my life look like if I really “set my heart and mind on things above and not earthly things”? Can I do that and live in this world? Could I keep any of my current friends? Would THEY keep me? Could I even return to work Monday and socialize with my colleagues? If I put to death whatever belongs to my earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed which is idolatry, anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language, what part of my life would I have left? Watching all those traits play out in the saturation of social media and television. Paul said, I died and my life, [my real life] is hidden with Christ in God. If I’m honest, my current attitude is that I don’t have any of these traits in MY earthy nature and if I do, “I’m only human, right? My worldly attitude, my fleshly propensity to defend is not even necessary according to Paul in Colossians 3. My real life is already hidden with Christ in God. I am Holy and dearly Beloved. But is my attitude that I am Holy and Dearly Beloved? Is yours?
I need an attitude of “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience [with myself, as well as, others] covered in love that binds them all together in perfect unity.” What a beautiful, wonderful, perfect gift Jesus gave us! Oh, to know that I have this wonderful life if I take it. If I will adjust my attitude, my behaviors, and my life to match what is already mine.