This is one of those moments when everything comes together. When things happen at the right time and are telling me the same message that I am now ready to hear.
First, I had my second appointment with my psychologist yesterday. We explored my symptoms of depression and anxiety by looking at my thoughts, feelings, behaviour, and physical responses. I talked about how I tell myself I’m a bad person who always does the wrong thing. I talked about how it makes me a perfectionist and a people pleaser. I talked about my struggle with self-hatred even though I know I am loved.
I said, ‘I know God loves and accepts me just as I am, but I don’t.’
Then my psychologist said the most amazing sentence that gave me my latest epiphany. She said that I only give myself love based on my efforts to please people. Whoa! This told me what I should have seen all along: my love for myself is conditional. It’s based on my performance.
Then, today, I was listening to a bunch of podcasts by Charles Stanley about love. He said that the way we love ourselves is the way we think others love us. So I struggle to love myself. No wonder I think others should struggle to love me too. No wonder I tell myself I’m unlovable.
Then I was reading Allison Fallon’s book about writing and she said that books can give us words for what we’re experiencing and a way to retell our stories. That’s exactly what the words of my psychologist and the podcast did for me. This is one of the things I love most about books, songs, movies, and anything that shares stories and insights: they help me know myself.
And here I am, a constant presence in my life, staring at myself, glaring at myself, judging and criticising myself. No wonder I think this is how other people see me. But God never beats me up, judges me, or makes me feel bad. He only accepts me and tells me he loves me.
And then the biggest epiphany of all. I was thinking about my conditional love and how I hate myself when I do things I don’t like. When I’m selfish, when I’m mean, when I hurt people, when I hate others, when I’m horrible. It is so hard for me to love myself when I’m confronted by these realities about myself. It feels impossible.
But God loves me even when I’m selfish. He loves me even when I’m mean. He loves me even when I hurt people. He loves me even when I hate others. He loves me even when I’m horrible. This is incredible!
But I pushed his love away in my horrible moments because I thought I didn’t deserve love. I couldn’t even bear to look at myself in my horrible moments, so there was no way I could accept love. I could only accept punishment. And since God wasn’t punishing me, I punished myself.
But now I know, this is how I know God loves me: he loves me even when I’m horrible. He looks at me when I can’t look at myself and he accepts me when I can’t accept myself. He hates the horribleness more than I do, yet he still loves me.
I know the scripture about Jesus dying for us while we were sinners. I agree with it, but somehow I missed what this meant for me. I think I always read this to mean Jesus died for the good part of me even though there was a bad part. But now I read this to mean Jesus died for me, all of me. Ally says we are a mix of good and bad. I guess I always thought only the good part of me was lovable and so I hid the bad parts. Now I’m learning all of me is lovable.
It’s expanding my theology and I’m not sure what it fully means, but it’s changing my world and it’s changing me.
I don’t ever want to do horrible things and I hate it when I do horrible things. My response is to hate myself and punish myself; God’s response is to love me and forgive me.
So I need to stop making my horrible nature my world. Love is bigger than my horrible nature. Charles says that God’s love is sacrificial and wants the best for others. That is the love I want. I want to receive it and I want to give it. Unconditional love.