In my teens, as a new Christian, I made a chart and mapped out the Fruits of the Spirit intending to “put them on” one by one a month at a time. I was a star student of the try harder/“check list to be a good Christian” mentality. I figured I had the “big sins” of murder, stealing and idolatry covered, so it was time to get serious about growing.
Can you relate? Do you ever get caught up in a try harder, get it right, checklist type of righteousness?
Needless to say, this project of self improvement didn’t go well. Funny thing… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and self control are fruit– a result of walking with God and the Spirit growing these things in my mind and heart – not by heroic and prideful efforts on my part.
I was in my mid twenties when I realized that pride and self-sufficiency were my idols, my jealousy was murderous and trying to be like everyone else, due to my insecurities, was stealing.
I had crafted a rule based Christianity, with little idea how these less obvious sins were the very reason Jesus came. Sins of the heart, mind, soul.
Frustrated with failing, my arrogance exposed, I eventually hit a brick wall and broke down. I was exhausted, angry and suddenly aware of a deep seated rage that came out in sharp, demanding words and attitudes toward my husband, daughter and friends.
Feeling helpless and hopeless, I went to counseling.
It took awhile to see my shield of shame and self contempt that deflected any feedback of the way my scrabbling, demanding self affected those I loved.
And, I was blind the impact on me. A queen of self contempt, I was an expert at shredding myself with words of judgment, condemnation and shame. The image of a battle with sword fighter Inigo Montoya comes to mind.
Have you done that? Torn yourself up with unkind, might I even say vile or murderous words?
Have you called yourself: stupid, ugly, dumb, too much, not enough?
Have these phrases crossed your mind or even taken up residence there: Why aren’t’ you ___? Why don’t you ____? Why can’t you ____? Filling the blanks in with shaming and critical words.
This is self contempt; my best friend for years. My constant companion, the voice in my head and heart.
It often accompanies pride fueled by a foolish belief that we can earn love and forgiveness; and somehow we can do enough to become worthy.
Determined to do it on our own, self sufficient and scrambling to hide our need, flaws, and insecurities. Then beating ourselves up when we don’t get it right.
A bit like the arcade game of Whack-a-Mole, we pickup a verbal bat and bludgeon ourselves.
Self contempt is not a good friend. She is ugly, nasty, unrelenting. She whispers lies; she demands perfection. She shames.
Self contempt and shame are leeches -difficult to shed. They serve a purpose as they fuel the belief, “If I just try harder, I will arrive, achieve, be acceptable.”
I remember the day it hit me that my self contempt is a sin. Curled up with a book, called The Cross of Christ, I began to weep, suddenly aware these violent, condemning, shaming words about me, a daughter of God, were sinful.
Not only did they wound a precious child of God, my self contempt thrived on a belief that effort, trying harder, getting it right, and being good enough could make me more acceptable to God… more worthy, more forgiven.
I realized my self contempt – cutting my soul -was an attempt to add to the blood of Christ. I wanted to offer my payment for my sins…
Undone by my arrogance, brokenhearted at the image of my spitting on the cross as if Jesus’ death wasn’t enough, I saw my self contempt, the shredding that followed shame, as a sin.
And in the time consumed with beating myself up for not getting it right, I didn’t see the real areas that needed the light of Christ… the conditions of my heart- jealousy, fear, worry, pride.
I don’t know if you struggle with this. But most women I talk with, have played a game or two of Whack-a-Mole.
We don’t view this beating ourselves up as wrong. We justify it as: “telling it like it is… “I blew it, Why can’t I ever get that right…What is wrong with me!?”
A blanket of shame.
Have you been here? How have you gotten out from under the blanket of shame, or stopped the shredding of self contempt?
God doesn’t ask us to try harder, to add anything to the blood of Christ. The work of forgiveness is finished. God invites us to come…
God asks us to bring our hearts, minds, and souls to be washed by the blood of Christ… forgiven, clean, redeemed, clothed in Christ’s Righteousness.
Shame lifts and sorrow descends as we see the truth of our sin.
We come repentant, surrendered, and in great need…
We find forgiveness.
We add nothing. We receive and allow the Spirit to grow us, change us and shape our hearts, minds and lives.
Then the Spirit can produce fruit, because we are deeply rooted in Christ and growing into His likeness… by the power of God, alone.
What does this stir up in your mind and heart?
Post your thoughts and we can journey through this maze of learning to be kind to ourselves and putting down the bat together!
She Reads Truth talk about Lamenting our sins today. These thoughts stirred in my mind and heart, I hope they help encourage you.