Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Toughest Critic

[what's brewing: leave room for grace]

First of all, thank you for your gracious responses to my confession this past week. While failing to get things done is nowhere on my list of enjoyable experiences, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the relief I found in simply acknowledging my oversight and apologizing. No scrambling to recover. No rush to get something in as I would have if I’d remembered in the middle of the night. Simply taking responsibility and then letting it go.

I didn’t realize how un-like me it was to experience that type of relief until I read Kimom’s comment about being brave enough to not just take responsibility for our failures but then to forgive ourselves, without holding onto guilt.

It’s true – forgiving myself is one of my greatest challenges.

It is far easier for me to forgive others for their failures than to forgive myself. I extend much more grace to others than I am able to give myself (which is probably why I end up running myself ragged and forgetting things like writing my weekly blog post!).

I am indeed my own toughest critic.

In thinking about Kimom’s comment, I realize that I tend to think of Christ’s sacrifice as covering the serious offenses, the deep wounds and the grievous sins that we carry around. I don’t think of the little things or the general inability to perform at levels of perfection that I somehow think I need to.

And this reveals the real source I am going to for my strength to accomplish all that is on my plate, whether by choice or by circumstance: myself.

I rely on my ability to multi-task, maximize efficiency, and manage my time far more than I rely upon the grace and goodness of God. Ultimately, I know that each breath is a gift from God and therefore my ability to do anything is dependent on His sustaining grace; but practically, I rely upon my own abilities to get so many things done. Self-reliance makes it especially hard to do anything but blame myself when things don’t go as I’d planned.

As novel as these thoughts seem to be, they are all too familiar. I’ve had similar realizations in the past; I’ve wrestled with the idea of extending grace to myself in recent years. And yet this all feels so new. It’s similar to the surprise I feel when I am so encouraged by a verse I hear or read somewhere that I go to find it in my own Bible, only to see I have underlined it myself previously.

Last week I was glad to find I’m not the only one who drops the ball and then wants to give excuses for why it happened. This week I’m wondering if anyone other than Kimom and myself struggle to extend forgiveness to yourself, whether for great things or small. And I’m wondering how you deal with it.

Any thoughts? Pour yourself a cup of coffee and let’s talk.


Libby said...

Well, this is definitely me. I usually have no problem forgiving others but am merciless on myself. I feel many times like I "should have known" beforehand and then I wouldn't be in this mess. Then I begin to believe the lies being whispered by the Enemy giving me more reasons to be hard on myself and then I take on a lot of false guilt and have that to carry around too.
Then I find this all puts me "on alert" for things to be worrying about and feeling guilty for.
I am so thankful that the Lord has begun to show me where all this is coming from...the father of lies!

How to combat it? This is a daily struggle for me.

I have realized that if I focus on Truth from the Word then I begin to recognize the lies when the come along and can reject them. Sometimes this is a moment by moment battle since satan is relentless.
One thing I have done is to write verses out in a notebook that I keep handy that remind me of:
- who I am in Christ (note: forgiven is a big one!)
- what rights are mine as God's child (examples: I can give him my cares and he will carry them for me. I can come boldly to the throne of grace...and so on.)
- the faithfulness of God and his constant love, care and watch over me
- any promises or other truths that I discover that God shows me I need to remind myself of.

Just last week I talked with a friend about this very thing and she shared a similar idea of writing out truths on slips of paper and putting them in a jar, a bowl, basket or something like that and then taking time regularly to read one or more. These would be to remind me to look again at what's really true about how God views me. And then setting that bowl somewhere where I can see it often.
These can be ways of re training the mind to focus on what is true and good and right and letting go of harmful condemning thoughts.
For me this is a slow process. It's ingrained in me after all this time to be really hard on myself. It's not going to change overnight.
I am glad you brought this up and I hope others will share thoughts too. Whether it's because things are really intense here spiritually right now, or because this term has been hard and I am needing a break, or both; I have really been struggling with this issue the most lately and some days are "bad" and others are "great". Either way, I know that the need is still there...to hang on tightly to the Father and ask the Son to live in and through me and change me.

kimom said...

Go Libby!! (Your kiddos are adorable on your blog btw)
In my experience the weaknesses I have seem magnified under the pressure of living overseas. It's like the cracks in the surface of my 'armor' grow and become more of a problem under strain. So maybe i 'kick myself' more and at the same time expect perfection of myself. Bad combination!

I love how you boiled down something that has taken me a really long time to see. That wielding our Sword of Truth really can wage war against the father of lies. I love your bowl/basket of verses idea! I need a notebook like yours, and you cite some great verses. For now I have a pile of notecards in my Bible to flip through, but putting them somewhere visible sounds like a much better idea.

Fight the good fight sister! I hope to be fighting right next to you! (from the other side of the world... =))

Grace for today and bright hope for tomorrow...
Kim in Congo

Cindy said...

Dear Libby and Kimom,

Thanks for your wise words...and great ideas!

Tim and Susan said...

I agree with you all...Like you all said it's just first acknowledging the issue and making it a point to give yourself grace as well as realizing that is where Satan attacks with his lies. And then, again like you all said, it's just bathing yourself in those promises from God's Word. I usually have a little note card (if not several) up by the kitchen sink (where I always am) to read while washing dishes. I change it often so it is always a fresh, new word from God.


prairierose said...

I'm tough on myself, too, but my husband has helped me lighten up. He says "Just do the best you can." It doesn't have to be perfect.

Ana D. said...

I'm pretty hard on myself too, having a baby has help though, since my daughter was born I had to accept that I was not Super Woman and that trying to be so, could be more than exhausting. I still have my moments were I try to bite more than I can chew and I end up feeling like I've failed, it's been a struggle for me too, to learn to see myself like God sees me, writing verses down helps but personally since I love drawing and art, that has been a big help. Thank you for sharing, it's good to know there are other sisters out there fighting the same fight...


P.S. Can I be listed on your blogroll?


Phil and Pattie said...

Thanks again for sharing so freely from your own experiences that so many of us can relate to. I also struggle with this. Pretty much most of your posts resonate with me and often feels like you took the words right out of my own journals!

We recently went through some great discipleship materials to use here in our ministry that for some reason really helped me with this as nothing like it before. I don't know off hand all the verses they used but they talk about the fact that when we judge (others or ourselves) that it is a godship issue...we are saying that we have the right to judge and take His rightful place. In contrast, Jesus is our perfect example of what we are to be like in that he states that he did not come to judge but to seek and to save the lost and to restore us. So, when I think I am justified in judging myself and berrating myself, thinking deep in my heart that I am being humble in pointing out all my flaws to myself and sometimes others, I am really being prideful and trying to take God's rightful position as judge. I am also forgetting that Jesus died so I could have His grace poured out on me and NOT His judgement. It's getting late and so I hope this makes some sense. These ideas just really hit home to me in this area...not neccessarily new but put it in a different perspective for me.

Thanks again for bringing the rest of us along for your journey and thank you to the rest of the ladies for sharing your insights as well. I always look forward to the opportunity to check out the blog and see what you all write when I can.


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