I was working behind-the-scenes on my blog a few nights ago. Routinely checking my stats, I saw among the “site references” that someone stumbled upon TCW by searching “am i being too hard on myself?”
My heart broke at the familiar chord struck by such an odd Internet search. I hope I’m wrong, but it seems that a person scouring online sources has no one else to talk to – no one else to offer a supportive ear. When in the midst of being my own harsh judge, the burden that weighs so heavily on my mind consumes me. It’s hard to give due attention to other things, especially if my own thoughts are trapped without the constructive outlet of a solid friendship.
In short, dear reader, if you’re asking whether you’re too hard on yourself, then the answer is probably yes.
I’m a believer in holding yourself to a certain standard and I think it’s good to feel a healthy dose of humility when you slip and fall; it’s the humiliation that lingers that you have to beware. As a sensitive sanguine who takes things personally, I’ve heard from my mom my whole life to “feel the feeling and let it go” and I have the hardest time putting the idea into practice. I know all too well keeping a tight grip on that shame – regardless of its source – can make you feel just rotten.
And there’s the rub. That rotten feeling is not from God. The voice that won’t let you stop kicking yourself for what you said or did or failing to meet some expectation is not. from. God. The voice that won’t let you see yourself how God sees you – not God’s.
But it’s so hard to grasp in the moment, isn’t it Friend? There in the fog of self-criticism, there’s little hope of being pulled up except by your own boot straps – and the fact that you have boot straps at all is by the grace of God. Down there on the ground is the perfect place for the devil to get a foothold, hiss doubt and accusations in your ear so persistently it’s hard to believe anything else.
I heard someone say recently, “We give the devil too much credit, don’t we?” Honestly, I don’t think so. I think he’s so subtle that it’s easy to miss him and instead blame confusion, evil, and disaster on others; which is why it’s important – so so important – to learn whose voice you’re hearing, whose voice to believe.
So you slip – the voice of God would compel you to get up, ask for forgiveness, resolve to avoid the same mistake, and move on; or maybe you’re like me and your scrutiny is aimed at your physique, too. Even then the voice of God would say, “beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).
It’s fine and oh so good to acknowledge your shortcomings because that’s the place where Jesus grows your soul; humility is knowledge of self in relation to God and there’s no better place to start improving. So if you’re being too hard on yourself – if the the nagging buzz in your mind causes you anxiety, accuses you, and beats you down – lift your head as well as you can muster. Ask Jesus to clear the fog; to still you, encourage, and calm you. In the devil’s cacophony, focus on the Still Small Voice and walk toward it.
Have confidence and rely in the mercy of God. “Let the sinner not be afraid to approach me,” Christ told St. Faustina, “…I want to pour [mercy] out upon these souls.”
Take heart, dear soul. Be at peace.