Back in 2008, I followed the advice of a dear friend and interviewed a few people about the impact my life had on them. The interview questions were designed to illicit mostly negative responses, and boy, did they ever.
I’ll be eternally grateful that I put myself through it, because the experience helped me see areas that needed more change than I ever imagined. Nonetheless, I went through about three weeks of mild depression afterward, and it wasn’t just because I heard negative stuff about myself. It was because: (1) I interviewed four different people, and 80% of what everyone said was the same; and (2) the things that rubbed people the wrong way about me were things I already disliked about myself.
After those interviews, I was much more self-aware, and I certainly made changes; but I also found that old habits die hard. Just when I thought I’d finally turned a corner, I would have a humiliating trip-up, a reminder that I was still dealing with the same garbage that I had been for years.
Maybe you can relate, and if you can, let me say this: I don’t know what your Achilles heel is – maybe it’s a tendency to binge eat for comfort, or uncontrollable anxiety, or a big mouth, or irrational insecurity, or an unhealthy sexual appetite. But let me tell you something, if you want to take that thing and give it power, hate yourself for it.
Here’s how that works: when you give into the weakness that vexes you, take a long, painful ride on the guilt trip train – kick yourself while you’re down, curse the circumstances that brought your weakness to the surface; and then, when you feel you’ve self-flaggelated long enough, promise yourself it will never, ever happen again. And maybe it won’t – for a while.
The problem is, if you’re human, you’re likely to hydroplane again at some point. And when that happens, shame will predictably take over, and the vicious cycle will start all over again. So yeah, you can go that route, or you could try something else that has been really effective for me when I have the clarity of mind to actually do it.
The next time you find yourself tangled in your own worst weaknesses, stop. Don’t promise yourself it’s never going to happen again, don’t resent the people who pointed it out, don’t hate that part of yourself. Invite Jesus into the broken places inside and then be completely transparent with Him about your struggles – surely, the one who cares enough to count the number of hairs on your head is concerned with what’s going on in your heart (Luke 12:7, Matthew 10:30). Then do something really bold: invite Him to love those parts of you. And as you sense Jesus extending grace to you, extend that grace to yourself. That kind of unconditional love from God is what enables us to change, to get back up and keep going (Romans 2:4).
Be encouraged – you will very soon get another opportunity to fall back into an old pattern. I hope you’ll feel the freedom to be the real you and walk away, but if you don’t, I hope you’ll at least run into the arms of Jesus, who’s ready and willing to love that broken part of you until it heals.