Being a Friend to Yourself
I made it through my first year post-college. Man, it was a doozy. This year has been marked by the “hurt-so-good” kind of growth that you love but you also hate.
The biggest growing pain I’ve experienced is in my relationship with myself. I’ve s l o w l y begun to realize this year how much power I have in interactions with myself. I’ve been taught all the right ways to interact with others: be kind, encouraging, patient, loving, but I was never taught to treat myself the same way. Some may say we don’t need to be taught this; in our sinful nature thinking of ourselves comes naturally, which is true. But not all self-talk is healthy, at least it certainly isn’t in my case. I wondered what would happen if I was kind to myself. Maybe my life would look different if I was on my own team.
I’m a recovering perfectionist, as they say. My parents never had to set standards for me because my standards were already sky-high. While having standards is a good and necessary part of life, I needed to learn to give myself grace once in awhile.
My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. –2 Corinthians 12:9
When I started wrestling with the idea that I should be kind to myself, I quickly realized that I was believing lies about what selfishness is. Godly confidence and self-value have been drowned by a misuse of the biblical mandate to “deny ourselves.” Denying self is denying sin - our human desires of the flesh - yet I turned it into complete self-hatred. Our beautiful souls were created to reflect God’s image in freedom and rejoicing. Not to be stifled, but celebrated. Let me tell you, it feels weird to celebrate myself.
I realized how screwed up my relationship with myself was when I realized how differently I treat my friends than I treat myself. I first saw this clearly one night when I gathered with my roommates to pray. I was struck that I do not pray for myself the way I pray for my friends. I pray extravagant, bold, prayers of BLESSING and HOPE over my friends but when it comes praying for myself I don’t feel worthy of such.
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing. – Zephaniah 3:17
“What if I prayed for myself the way I prayed for my friends?”
The question made me uncomfortable. I speak with such confidence when I declare God’s promises over a sweet discouraged sister but when I am the one facing discouragement, I put myself in the dog house. I shame myself into a self-righteous corner of self-loathing until I get it together. If I was told that a friend of mine was speaking to herself the way I speak to myself I would not be happy. I would tell her how sad it must make God to know that His precious daughter did not see the infinite value of her intricately crafted soul. The soul that Christ died for.
I have so much hope, grace and patience for my friends. I am not a perfect friend, surely, but I am always confident of God’s goodness toward my sweet friends. I am quick to assure them of His glorious plans for their future and His ability to sustain them in whatever they are experiencing. I definitely was not doing that for myself.
We’re all familiar with the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Golden Rule assumes that we know how we want to be treated. It also assumes that we include ourselves in the “others” who we’ve been commanded to treat with dignity and kindness. Refusing to be kind to myself is actually a twisted sort of pride that demands I meet my own expectations before deserving love. However, God commands kindness not based on any goodness of our own, but because we were created as His image-bearers. The Golden Rule doesn’t let me get away with being kind to everyone but myself. Treating others the way you want to be treated includes treating yourself that way.
It has taken me months to write this article, and even as I do, I am doubting my ability to communicate it well. I also feel ashamed at what a terrible job I still do at being kind to myself on a daily basis. Ironic.
One of the biggest weapons I have taken up in the battle toward a healthy relationship with myself is to preach the Gospel to myself. It’s weird at first, but you have to do it. In preaching the Gospel to myself, I find verses that counter the lies I have been drowning in for so long. I declare them over myself until the truth becomes my default instead of the lies. I recommend starting small and declaring truth over thoughts and attitudes. That’s where renewal must start.
Identify your lies and start preaching:
- “You are not a failure, and your life CANNOT fail or be forgotten because it is hidden in Christ.” (see Colossians 3:3)
- “Jesus longs to give you the balance of grace and truth that you need. From His fullness of grace we receive.” (see John 1:16)
- “You don’t understand what Jesus is doing but one day you will.” (see John 13:7)
- “I know your heart is moaning within you, but you must truth in His steadfast love for He has been so kind to me and He will lead me on.” (see Psalm 13:5-6)
I also listened to this song. A lot. Be kind to yourself. Listen to this song, and let it speak to your heart about how our Father in heaven wants us to talk to ourselves. The voice in our own head is often our biggest enemy, but our sweet Father can help you to turn it into your biggest asset if you ask Him to and actually let Him. Let the heart of our Father towards us influence our hearts towards ourselves.
“As a father shows compassion to his children, so I show compassion to those who fear me. For I know your frame; I remember that you are dust.” -Psalm 103:13-14