A pivotal moment in my faith journey occurred when I was rudely interrupted in the middle of playing the blame game. I was wildly speaking out of many years of pain, desperately trying to identify the criminal who caused me to live with a low self-esteem, a plethora of insecurities, and the feeling of being unwanted. And, though I thought my list of who to blame was pretty justifiable, an extremely disruptive truth kept me from pointing any more of my fingers—a truth so heart-jerking it caused me to write the blog I am posting here today.
The enemy—whom I was doing a great job at blaming, but a poor job at loving—was not my bully in middle school. It wasn't an old frenemy. It wasn't an arch-nemesis. It wasn't even the guy who really did break my heart.
You want to know which enemy of mine was the hardest to love?
To give you a hint:
She's blinked back at me in the mirror every single day of my life.
That's right, readers. Brace yourselves for a not-so-pretty confession:
The enemy I had a hard time loving was me.
And, not only that, but I've hurt myself far more than any other name I've jotted down on that silly little list of people to blame.
And, even worse, the revelation I had was coupled with the fact that it was easier to blame others for making me feel insecure than it was to realize that I've bullied myself just as much. This truth hit me so hard I didn't even have a recourse. I had no defense, couldn't even let out another word.
I'm my own worst enemy, I realized. And, it couldn't be farther from the truth.
Now, obviously, it is ridiculously hard to hear that you've been the problem all along. After years of identifying potential culprits, it's humiliating to recognize that you were the guilty one the whole time. Because to play victim is quite possibly the easiest thing in the world. You can throw yourself pity parties and take your gray cloud around with you everywhere you go until you've made yourself and everyone around you miserable as well. But, to be both the victim and the culprit? Now, you've got work to do. Now you've got to own up to some of the ways you've hurt yourself, take responsibility for your own pain, be held accountable, apologize to yourself. And, that part isn't fun. In fact, it's really hard. But, it is usually the end result for playing the blame game. As the saying goes, you have to be careful when you start pointing fingers because all the fingers end up pointing right back at you. And, so it was the case for me. I pointed fingers at everyone who made me feel less than, everyone who made me feel insecure, everyone who said something hurtful towards me until I was humbled and realized that finger actually belonged in my face. Because, sure I was the victim. But, above all else, I was the culprit. And, I have a long history of inflicting more pain on myself than anyone other "enemy" I've ever accused—which points to a deeper issue, the root issue, in fact. It's an issue I'm featuring on today's post.
After having a long history of thinking negatively about myself, speaking poorly about who I am, withholding myself from grace and compassion, self-sabotaging by making poor and unhealthy decisions and refusing to forgive myself for making them, I noticed a sure thread of something venomous:
And, in today's post, I'd like to deal with that.
Many of you may not be able to relate to the words I'm writing today, but for those of you who do, I'm writing this post just for you. Because, for years, I have bullied myself more than anyone else in my life. I've harbored unforgiveness towards myself, forced myself to relive moments I'm not proud of. I've used harsh and unkind words in my self-talk, making myself feel filthy in my own skin. I've convinced myself that I'm unlovable, disqualified myself from God's grace, and treated myself in such a way I wouldn't dare to treat anyone else.
But, here's the thing about self-hatred:
You eventually end up treating those around you in the same way you treat yourself.
Or, in other words, the way you love yourself is going to show up in how you love others.
This is the part of the blog where it starts to get good.
Because, if you dare to open up your bible with me, you'll find that the King of my heart, Jesus Christ, talked about this in His ministry here on earth. In Matthew 22:39, He commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves, deeming this command as the most important commandment second to loving God with all that we have. And, as Steven Furtick once pointed out, Matthew 22:39 isn't just a command. It's also an observation. The way we love our neighbor is a reflection of how we love ourselves.
So, if you are unkind to yourself, chances are you'll grow to be unkind with others.
If you find it hard to forgive yourself, chances are you'll find it hard to forgive others.
If you don't show yourself grace, there's a good chance you won't show others grace either.
And, when I say 'others,' I don't just mean the nice, easy-to-get-along-with neighbors. No. Jesus calls even our enemies our neighbors. And, how you love yourself is revealed through the way you love those enemies, especially if you've been your own worst enemy for years.
It's no wonder at all why loving your enemy—your middle school bully, your short-tempered boss, your unreliable family member, your biggest pain in the tail—is hard when you can't even love yourself. Your enemy out there is not that much different than your enemy on the inside—yourself. And, the pain they've caused you might be harder to forgive because you can't even forgive the pain that you've caused you.
And, while this next statement might be bold and could cause some discomfort, I'm going to go ahead and insert it anyway:
Some of the things you would like to blame others for might not have anything to do with them. Perhaps the root of what you're really wrestling with is pointing to the deeper issue:
You hate yourself.
And, before I even begin to spend the next couple of moments in this post explaining why you shouldn't, you might already be ready to explain all of the reasons why you should—starting with the lie I believed for many years:
Self-love is ungodly.
Self-love is arrogant and self-seeking. Self-love is self-worship. Self-love is idolatry. Loving yourself is worldly, not godly.
And, part of the reason why I believed this is because I knew all too well what the Bible said about 'self'. I would pull up verses like 1 Corinthians 13:5 and Philippians 2:3 and interpret these verses in such a way that made it seem like self-love wasn't of God.
But, I grew more and more bothered by what Jesus said in Matthew 22, to love your neighbor as yourself, counting it as the second most important commandment in all of Scripture. Why did He include 'as yourself'? Why didn't He just say, "Love your neighbor!"? What is so important about His follow up with 'as yourself'?
And, it occurred to me that there were some cracks in my belief system concerning self-love. If I believed self-love wasn't godly, then I was saying that self-hatred was. And, while I don't know much, I do know that hatred doesn't belong in the kingdom of God, and that includes hatred towards self.
What you should know is that self-love isn't what the world made it out to be—where we put ourselves on pedestals, are rude to people who don't drool over us, and make others feel bad that they're not us. No. Self-love is simply loving the person God made you to be. With all of your flaws, imperfections, and weaknesses, it is extremely godly to love who you are.
How do I know?
Because God loves us. And, His love is permission to love ourselves as well—including the difficult parts of who we are. God proves that loving the real us is possible, which is great news because I don't know about you, but I know how hard I am to love at times. I know myself more than anyone else in my world does, and I know, I can be quite the character. Some days, I tend to worry too much. Some times, I wake up with a bad attitude. Some moments, I lack patience. Loving me is difficult at times! And, if you're honest, you may be able to say the same about yourself. But, God? God doesn't agree. In fact, He makes loving you look easy. His love covers a multitude of your sins. His love keeps no record of your wrongs. His love is so furious it drove Him to death just so that you can have life. With all of your flaws, imperfections, weaknesses, struggles, and all, He loves you as if it's the easiest task in the world.
And, if He can love the real you so well, you have permission to love the real you well too.
Despite what you may have heard, you're not doing God a favor hating yourself into shame as if to show humility. Read this carefully, my friend: Self-hatred isn't humble. In fact, it's anything but. Agreeing to hate the person that God loves? There's nothing humble about that. You are partnering with the lie that God created something ugly, and He needs to be corrected in His decision to pour out unconditional love on you. Which, correcting God? If anything, my friend, that sounds like pride! Loving yourself is agreeing that God made no mistake creating you (Song of Songs 4:7). Loving yourself is being happy that God chose you to be you! Loving yourself is humbling yourself in such a way that you agree with what the Bible says about you:
You are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalms 139:14)
You are His masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10)
Through Him, you are more than a conquerer. (Romans 8:37)
He dances and sings over you. (Zephaniah 3:17)
He really does love you. (Romans 5:8)
And, that's just the thing, friend. As bold as this statement is, you can't love yourself if you don't believe He loved you first. And, you certainly can't love your enemy if you don't believe He loves them either. The Bible makes it clear that He loves your enemy and that includes the enemy you've made within yourself. And, it's only by receiving His love where you can love God, love yourself, and love others too.
So, open up. Let His love in. And, allow His love to flow through you to your enemies, including yourself.