Monday, April 26, 2010

Loving Ourselves as God Loves Us

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Here's something a bit different from my usual writing. It came about on the CHNI forum. One woman was expressing her fears about "measuring up" as a Catholic and of being lukewarm and not fully surrendering to God; not being "perfect," etc. I had a few thoughts on that:

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It's all about God's mercy and love. We are all part of the fall, and we struggle with concupiscence, temptation, and various manifest shortcomings in our lives every day. But God loves us now: not some ideal of what we will be one day by His grace. Therefore, it is foolish for us to have higher standards for ourselves, in order to love and accept ourselves (faults and sins notwithstanding), than God Himself does.

It is the case with most of us that our heads can understand these things, but not our heart. All we can do is truly fall on our faces and rely on God's mercy. If we keep doing that, as a deliberate act of the will, eventually it does indeed filter down to our hearts, and we begin to feel it, too.

Human beings are that way. Many times in life we have to decide to do something because it is right (or true). And so we make an act of the will. If we keep doing that, it becomes a habit. If we keep up the habit it becomes a virtue, and eventually it becomes part of us and is as natural as breathing.

I think that is the case here. We have to keep "conditioning" ourselves that God loves us as we are. We have to get out of the mold or rut we have gotten into, and start looking at things from God's perspective.

You (and anyone else) can do this! And you can because if you know it is right you can decide to start thinking in a different way so it becomes part of your heart in due course. And you can do all this primarily because God gives you the grace and strength to do anything He wants you to do.

Even on a human level we can observe such a dynamic. My wife, for example, had some problems in terms of self-image and what she had often been told in her life before I met her. I rejected these. I told her that they were not true: that she was not what folks thought, in certain aspects. Well, lo and behold, after some years of having her husband positively reinforce her, now she no longer believes those things. It was a matter of reinforcement and thinking about something in a different way.

I see the same thing in my children. Sometimes they don't feel loved (due to discipline) or feel that one is being favored or whatever (typical sibling, children stuff). But we just keep telling them how much we love and admire them for who they are, and eventually it sinks in and they feel better about themselves.

One of my sons in particular had some self-image issues because he was strong-willed and hence, was disciplined a bit more than the others. But he has come out fine. Yesterday, in fact, he just got an award for outstanding service of young people in their churches. Out of 12 parishes, only six young people were given this award (and just one other young man), and there was my son (16yo): one of them. I was so proud I think I busted three buttons on my shirt. And of course my wife felt just as I did. It was wonderful.

That's like God, "rooting" for us and loving us unconditionally. All we have to do is learn to trust in His mercy and love. If we keep doing that, our own opinions will change, too.

3 comments:

Ronnie said...

False negative thinking and false positive thinking are both wrong. We have to think of ourselves truly as we are and only the light of God's word can show us that.

Dave Armstrong said...

Amen!

Suburbanbanshee said...

That was beautiful. Thank you.