I stood in the grocery line and wondered why the cashier was ignoring the customer…
“The root of man’s joy lies in the harmony he feels with himself. Only one who is at peace with himself can be at peace in the world.” – Pope Benedict XVI
Over the past decade or so in healing ministry, the Lord has revealed to me a pathway that we journey along in our relationship with ourselves as we are progressing in the spiritual life. How do I feel about me? How do I behave towards myself? What shifts might be necessary in order for me to grow into deeper and deeper union with the Lord? As we’ll look at, our two interior relationships – the one I have with the Lord and the one I have with myself – parallel and support one another.
There are 3 labels along this pathway: Self-Rejection on the left, Self-Acceptance in the middle, and Self-Transcendence on the right, as pictured below.
Where we find ourselves along this pathway has implications with regards to how readily we believe and receive the truths that our Lord speaks about us, His precious ones. How readily do we believe scripture verses like these (and many, many others that speak of how beloved we are to God):
“How beautiful you are my love, how beautiful you are.” – The Song of Songs 4:7
“He will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name and you are mine.” – Isaiah 43:1
As you read the verses listed above, notice your interior posture. Is your posture open and receptive, or resistant and closed-off? How readily do you reject verses like this, assuming they don’t apply to you?
Think of a rain shower falling on the ground. When the ground is dry, parched and cracked most of the shower rolls right off. But when that ground softens and gets loosened up and tended to, that tended ground is better disposed to receive more of the nourishment that is available to it. And this is exactly the way it is with our spiritual growth. We need the Lord’s love and mercy to nourish us and help us progress. And we have untold ways of preventing or avoiding that very action when we are stuck on the left side of the continuum, in Self-Rejection.
Perhaps the most detrimental aspect of self-rejection is the way it adversely impacts our relationship with the Lord. Henri Nouwen wrote that self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the Beloved. Self-rejection sounds like: I can’t believe I did that / said that. I am so stupid. What was I thinking? They’re going to think I don’t know what I’m talking about, what is wrong with me, how many times am I going to make the same mistake! I shouldn’t have, I should have, I can’t, I’ll never…
I see this every day in sessions with clients; someone stuck in self-rejecting patterns and keeping the Lord at a distance. Wrap your mind around this… We can actually put limits on our limitless God, through our self-rejection, self-loathing, beliefs that we are unlovable or unworthy. In effect, we make the choice to disbelieve God and His voice of Truth, and instead, we believe the voice of our pain, our woundedness, our emotions.
But I don’t feel worthy. Not after what I did. Not after what happened to me.
Thankfully, our fluctuating feelings and tenuous emotions do not change God’s unchangeable Truths! We have to remember that our feelings are not facts. Our feelings are real, but they are not always telling us the truth. Jesus Himself said to St. Faustina, “Do not rely on your feelings, they are not always within your control.” (thank you Jesus for naming that for us!). “All merit lies in the will.”
In the will…this is a matter of willingness. We have a choice. If what God says about me and what I say about me aren’t aligning, who will I choose to believe? Even when I feel ashamed, unlovable, rejected, I can make the free will choice to express belief in God’s timeless Truths:
Lord Jesus, I believe that You are here with me right now. I believe that You are always with me.
Lord Jesus, I believe that You love me, personally and unconditionally.
Lord Jesus, I believe that You hold me in the palm of Your hands and that You are sovereign over every detail of my life.
Lord Jesus, I believe…
The ground softens, and we are able to absorb a little more of the love and mercy He is perpetually showering upon us.
We lift our eyes from ourselves and our circumstances and make the choice to fix them on Jesus and His truth. This facilitates our movement along the continuum towards self-acceptance. Here, our inner dialogue shifts from the language of self-rejection to the language of self-support. Simply put, we are kind to ourselves. Self-Acceptance sounds like: You’re ok; you are handling a lot right now. It’s going to be ok. This is a difficult moment. Take a breath – in and out. Jesus is with you…
Think about the words you would want to hear from a good friend when you’re having a difficult moment. Words of reassurance; kind words. You may not have that good friend with you in the next difficult moment, but you will assuredly have you! A gift you can give to yourself – a gift that I can give to myself – is the willingness to simply speak kindly to ourselves.
The ground softens once again, and we absorb more of the steady shower of His love and mercy. We gain the strength to pull up a lie or two that has taken root within. Our interior posture opens to the Lord and we are more ready to receive from Him; to take in those powerful words of love revealed in the scripture verses quoted earlier. And we journey from self-acceptance towards self-transcendence.
I get to a point where I’ve grown in my identity in Christ. I am affirmed, comfortable, confident in who I am as Beloved Daughter of God and beautiful Bride of Christ. I know He loves me! I not only know in my head that I am loved by God, but I’m learning to experience His love more deeply. I believe I AM His beloved.
And then a beautiful thing happens. I am no longer worrying about what others think of me, no longer second-guessing myself or fixating on whether or not I said something stupid. I mean, I’m still going to say stupid things from time to time! But when I do, my inner narrative sounds very different. Self-Transcendence sounds like: Well that wasn’t the smartest thing to say / do. Let’s not do that again. Jesus, thank you for covering all my mistakes. Thank you for your love which never fails me. Thank You for filling me with Your peace and guiding me through…
We cling to HIM! We focus on Him! Life becomes more about Him then it is about you or me, our successes and failures or what others might think.
Jesus knows this work can be difficult. Wherever you are right now, He’s standing beside you with His hand outstretched waiting for you to place your hand in His. He doesn’t expect you to do this work on your own. He doesn’t want you to be too introspective or self-reliant. Simply place your hand in His outstretched hand and give Him your willingness to let Him lead you forward.
Copyright 2022, De Yarrison