In recent days, I have had some interesting conversations around the topic of identity and how we view ourselves and treat ourselves. If we are to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves then we better examine where that love is coming from in ourselves. Do we see ourselves the way the Father not only sees us but also the way He created us to be? When we hear a word of encouragement or praise directed at us, do we deflect it? Are we unable to receive it? Do we recognize ourselves in others? Are we expected to love God and others without loving ourselves?
I am not speaking of a selfish, narcissistic love. Naturally, we all gravitate toward that type of “self-love” there is no one in the world more important than me. Did anyone ever teach their 2 and 3 year olds to say MINE,MINE,MINE? I didn’t think so. There are parents who give in to their children and create little monsters that the rest of us have to love and tolerate but this does not negate the fact that we must develop some kind of self-love.
We need to practice self-care which is self-love. Whether people like it or not we are all preaching, talking, and believing ourselves. One guy in Christendom that I have appreciated over the years is Paul Tripp. He says that we are the most influential people in our lives. Here is a quote from his blog:
“I always say it this way: “No one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do.” Whether you realize it or not, you’re engaged in an unending conversation with yourself. What you say to yourself is formative for the way you live. You’re constantly talking to yourself about your identity, spirituality, functionality, emotionality, mentality, personality, and so on.
You’re constantly preaching to yourself some kind of gospel. You preach to yourself an anti-gospel of your own righteousness, power, and wisdom, or you preach to yourself the true gospel of deep spiritual need and sufficient grace. You preach to yourself an anti-gospel of aloneness and inability, or you preach to yourself the true gospel of the presence, provisions, and power of an ever-present Christ.”
Paul Tripp Your Ministry is not Your Identity
Most of us heard our first words from our parents. What did they say to us about us? Did they offer words of praise and encouragement? If not then we can look at what our Creator has to say. He says that we are created in His Image, the Image of God, beautiful, holy and majestic. The first word from parents of a newborn is often times: “Isn’t she beautiful?” Nobody denies it. Or “Isn’t he perfect?” With 10 fingers and 10 toes and 10 on the Apgar Test no one will refute that. We have got a beautiful little girl or a powerful legs and lungs on a boy at birth. Children need to hear throughout their childhood words of affirmation. And not just my words but the Words of their Creator.
There are the messages we hear from others about ourselves and the ones we internalize are the ones we tell ourselves over and over again. This is a type of meditation can do the opposite of the peace and tranquillity that we often associate with meditation if the messages are negative. Often the parents who saw the beautiful little girl at birth or the perfect baby boy forget the fact that this little one would not survive without them but resort to “I brought you into the world and I can certainly take you out” and are unable to speak a word of praise or encouragement once the child is talking back. This is close to the age of conscious memory. So those early interaction with a growing toddler are helping to populate the messages that we will tell ourselves for the rest of our lives.
The childhood saying is a lie: “Sticks and stones will break my bones but names (words) will never hurt me.” Yeah, if you have a hardened heart, I suppose. Sure we need to develop a thicker skin as adults and we also need to discern where is this verbal attack coming from but we can not deny the fact that as we develop as children that harsh and cruel words affect us greatly, especially those closest to us.
Like my friend Paul Tripp says we can preach hope to ourselves. Some might call what I described as low-self esteem, how about no esteem. Low puts a person on the scale, at least you have something going for you. But let’s just say for the sake of argument that you started with none but NOW the Grace of God has been poured into your heart and life. It may feel overwhelming but if we can accept and embrace the truth of God’s LOVE for us and that He dances over us and is speaking blessing over us then we are being esteemed by another and eventually we will believe it fully. In the mean time, if we will stop agreeing with the lies we might believe about ourselves and start agreeing with the truth that GOD is GOOD, we are made in His image, that we are loved with an everlasting love, that we are a treasure, we are forgiven, and the we are free to be perfectly imperfect then we have received the gift of Hope, the give of our own lives and see ourselves as one of God’s beautiful children made to shine forth as the light then we have a shot at living a quiet and dignified life.
We are going to mess up, that is where the forgiveness part comes in but today we can say with all the children of God, that I am made in the Image of the Living God, Beautiful, Holy, Majestic, and Loving. Love like no other love in the world.