My Worst Enemy - Me
If there's one thing I know about myself, its that I am hyper self-critical. Whether its the way I don't think I'm doing good enough as a spouse, a Daddy, a son, a brother, a Minister, a friend....whatever it is; I am incredibly hard on myself.
And more often than not, when I've done something I know hurt someone else, I have an incredibly hard time letting it go. Even after someone else has forgiven me, I find it increasingly more difficult to forgive myself.
Do you find that to be true for yourself, as well?
Each week during our worship service, we have a Prayer of Confession (which I've called "Owning Our Imperfections"). I consistently ask that in whatever ways I am less than I can be as all the various things I am in life...may I be forgiven. I say this silently, and in my heart of faith I know that forgiveness is mine for the receiving.
I am abundantly thankful for the gift of such grace, because the Truth of the matter is that I have a far more difficult time forgiving myself than I do forgiving other people. Forgiving other people is easy - relatively speaking - but forgiving myself is far more challenging if I'm honest and authentic about it.
I know the times in my life when I've truly hurt someone deeply, and I'm not at all proud of them. In those moments, and thankfully they are few, I have sought out people of compassion whom I trust for counsel, guidance, and support. I have palpably felt forgiveness come to me from "the outside," as it were. One of my most profound spiritual experiences was being in prayer with a professor at seminary and feeling forgiven by the Spirit of God. I felt it as surely as I feel the keys under my fingers as I type this, and I will never forget what that felt like.
And yet, what I knew even as that prayer was happening was that the real challenge was going to be authentically forgiving myself without feeling like I was letting myself off the hook.
We can be incredibly good at punishing ourselves - and we can do it for a very long time.
Forgiveness is a tricky business in the first place; it is doubly tricky when it comes to forgiving the face we look at in the mirror every day. I have punished myself for years over pain I've caused, and in the end that self-punishment got me nowhere on the journey towards healing, restoration and deeper understanding. What got me to those spaces was time, patience, honesty, and support.
Thankfully those times are many years behind me now, but I carry their imprint with me always. I work very hard at managing my spirit so it isn't burdened by my own self-criticism and insecurities - and it isn't always easy. But if I'm to move beyond times of painful lessons and live better (and happier) because of them, I must come to a time when I genuinely can look at myself and say, "Enough. Forgive yourself - everyone else has. Let it go and get back to living life again."
What do I do to myself way too often? I don't allow myself the room to be human; which is to be imperfect, flawed, and not always the best I am capable of being.
I once heard an alternative translation to a piece of scripture where Jesus says, "Be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect." The alternative was "Be true, as your Father in Heaven is true."
I resonate with that translation far more, because to be true is to acknowledge the truth that we will all make mistakes, we all will do and say things we wish we hadn't, and we will all hurt someone along our way at some point or another.
But if God and I are true with one another, we know that from the start. What matters is what I make of those moments of being true, what I learn from them, what I carry forward with me from those lessons, and how I am changed for the better as I journey on from them. I continue to learn those lessons, and I have a hunch I always will.
What do you do to yourself way too often?