25/02/2014

Who is Really in the Mirror?

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , at 11:05 am by The Water Bearer

One thing I have found to be a true blessing, along with spiritual faith, is self-awareness. It is one of the most important things we need to achieve growth and inner peace in this life, and something I write about often.

I have lately been thinking about those who may not have as much self-awareness as others, about those people who haven’t changed much over the years, and are still stuck in the same old patterns they have always been.

I read a little something recently, it said:

“If you are the same person, with the same perspective you had a decade ago; then you have just wasted ten years of your life!”

Before I gained some Godly self-awareness, I thought I was self-aware. I thought I was a ‘good person’. I prided myself on having good intentions and wisdom. My heart was in the right place (or so I thought), I knew the difference between right and wrong (or so I thought), and I was a good friend and family member (or so I thought).

Back then I had no regrets, I had no lingering, self-conscious guilt, because I always had a very good explanation for my actions. It was usually something like, “I meant well”, “I felt ….”, “I’m only human”, or “I had no choice” (because of what someone else did first).

I had little or no remorse for my own actions, (unless of course I got hurt in the fallout). I never set out to hurt anyone,  and if I did hurt someone else, I found a way to believe I was right, and that made it ok with me. I saw no reason to change, I was onto it (or so I thought). I used my excuses, and understanding to stay in my own spiraling cycle.

When I became aware of how God saw things, it smacked me in the face and it hurt!

I was SELFISH! I saw things from my way and didn’t consider that perhaps there was a better way. Sure I was always rushing to help people, I was thoughtful and did kind deeds all the time. I tried to find ways to show my affection for others so that they would know how much I thought of them. But I didn’t realise that I was really only doing it to be seen as a good person, not because I was actually a good person. I couldn’t admit the truth to myself so I figured all the trials of life were not lessons I had to learn, just tests to see if I was strong enough and if I could keep my faith through them.

Life will do it’s best to help us become aware of ourselves, and if we stop avoiding it we will be amazed by the realisation. And while it is a challenge to work hard and break the cycles you have been stuck in your whole life, it is definately worth it.

In a recent therapy session we were discussing the downfalls of having no self-awareness. My therapist put it this way “If you don’t regret your actions that affected yourself or others in a negative way, then you avoid the reasoning to need to repair the situation, and refuse to take a realistic look at yourself and make necessary changes.” In other words, these people can’t apologise without explaining why they aren’t really to blame, and they don’t see the need to alter the way they handle things.

He also said that “People who excuse their own actions and don’t own up to the pain they caused another, will continue to hurt others and will usually end up very lonely, they will also wonder why”.

How sad is that! Out of a lack of self-awareness we can damage our relationships so badly, and some will never find the inner peace of growth, or a new perspective and the truth about themselves. It may leave them without a clue as to why they feel isolated from others. We can easily blame everyone else yet we refuse to accept blame ourselves, it would simply be more productive if we swallowed our pride and took a good look in the mirror. That is the only area of our lives that we can bring about a true transformation.

The serenity prayer is one commonly found in households all over the world. It aims to tackle this self-awareness problem. We need the courage to face ourselves head on, to see the truth about ourselves and make the adjustments necessary to bring about a change in our lives, one we will never regret.

“God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

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27/06/2012

When will we feel ‘Good Enough’?

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:06 am by The Water Bearer

So often many of us want to crawl into a hole when faced with the reality that we aren’t perfect. There are so many more complex points I could write on this topic, but in this post I will just try to touch on a few basics. There is a cloudy grey area between being perfect and being good enough, and many of us feel if we fall short of perfection we must not be good enough.  Sure we tell ourselves over and over again the cliche that “Nobody’s Perfect”, we try to convince ourselves that we are ok with that, but it only seems to distract us for a moment and before long we are back wondering how we can feel good enough for longer?

Self-indulgence seems the most common way to distract ourselves for longer, things like overeating, retail therapy, casual sex, drinking, drugs, gambling, any form of a good time that helps us enjoy ourselves and takes our minds away from the disappointment of feeling like a failure. Only problem is all these can leave us with feelings of regret when we either drink too much, spend too much, eat too much, or sleep with someone we wish we hadn’t, making worse the feeling inside that we were trying to deal with in the first place. Other non-destructive ways are also attempted, like being overly ‘good’, perhaps we go on health kicks, take up a new hobby or volunteer for the school P&C, church craft stalls, food vans, fundraising etc. Obviously these are fabulous gestures when coming from the heart for the right reasons, but when they are to distract us from that feeling of still not being good enough we often find the feeling is still there not long after we hang up the Good Samaritan shoes.

I can relate to this in so many ways, in my own private thoughts I always knew what was expected of me, and that it was out of my reach. I had all these desires which I knew I wasn’t meant to have, I too dealt with my emotional thoughts in ways I knew were bad for me. I craved a brief moment of relief, where I could feel good enough already. I believed I knew what was ‘right’, but no matter how hard I tried, I still managed to find myself doing the wrong thing.

Strangely enough, I felt the exact opposite when I compared myself to those around me. If my ‘goodness’ was challenged by anyone, I could quickly dispute their claims by defending and justifying my actions, and pointing out how much worse they were than me. If I ever saw someone do anything ‘wrong’ I stored it in my memory bank, ready to remind them if ever my virtue was challenged.

I teetered between these two states for a number of years, unaware of what I was actually doing. I believe this battle is going on inside many people, and I feel the urge to tell you all that it is a sneaky, deceptive trap.

I was discussing this topic with my dear Sister recently; we were deep in the thick of analysing the elements of right and wrong, guilt and innocence, sin and forgiveness, among other things. I was recalling what our Dad had said to me in my early twenties; those words of his which had helped me see the truth about myself.

He helped me identify the lies I had believed all my life. Do these sound familiar to anyone?

*Good intentions are good excuses for undesirable behaviour;  –

Dad showed me that doing the wrong thing for the right reasons is still the wrong thing (doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is just as bad) Focusing on all the good things we do often, (good deeds, favours, gift giving, praying, loving gestures, hard work, fortitude through suffering etc) must make up for our impatience, our self-importance, bad temper, self-indulgence and emotional tantrums. Dad helped me accept that focusing on the good I saw in me distracted me from owning up to my true flaws, while focusing on the bad in others reinforced the belief that I was good and didn’t need to change.

*If we can convince those around us that we are good enough, and convince ourselves that we are good enough, then that must mean God thinks we are good enough too, right?

Dad showed me that God would in fact rather us be low in reputation, humble and even persecuted by man for His names sake. (He can certainly make us thought of highly by others, but only when it means nothing to us anymore.) In my understanding He does not encourage self-importance. Ordinary Man – Extraordinary God!

*We also fall for that age old trick of building our knowledge, and relying on our own understanding of right and wrong, to help us be more on to it.

Dad reminded me of the tree which Eve ate the fruit from, the ‘Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’. Isn’t that the same thing we are doing in this instance? Trying to know what God knows, rather than simply depending on Him?

If we look closely we can see that all these lies aim to convince us to lift ourselves up, in our own eyes and in the eyes of others, as apposed to lifting up God with honour. If we lift ourselves up, trying to meet God in His righteousness, we only get self-righteousness and we make God smaller in our minds.

Obadiah 1:3 says The pride of our hearts deceives us.”

I was so deceived! I thought I deserved forgiveness for my sins because they weren’t ‘that bad’, and I was making up for it in other ways (Saved by works!), yet I came to see that I could only receive forgiveness when my heart became ashamed and was met with Grace. My repentance came by admitting that my heart is prideful, selfish and conceited. I acknowledged my sinful nature and begged for God to understand that I could now see how wrong I was. I came to see that we are all capable of good deeds and bad, and it struck me that if I still found myself doing things I swore I never would, even though I thought I knew what was right, so others must do also. God allowed me to stumble over my own sin so that I would learn to depend on Him for His strength and His righteousness.

By showing Him my willingness to suffer the pain of being unworthy of forgiveness, I began to earn that very forgiveness.

Let me ask you this….

If someone does wrong by us and comes to us demanding we forgive them because they have a good explanation and because they can list a number of ways we were at fault as well. Don’t we feel that they aren’t truly sorry, and will probably just go ahead and do the same thing again in the future? We would be unwilling to forgive and trust them completely, wouldn’t we?

Yet if someone comes to us admitting how wrong they were, bowing their head in shame and saying they understand if we don’t forgive them, stating that they don’t even deserve forgiveness, they just want us to know how very sorry they are for hurting us. Then wouldn’t we feel more inclined to forgive them and allow them to earn back our trust?

Perhaps we could keep these obvious differences in mind when considering how we approach God when looking to receive forgiveness?

“Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” (Matthew 6:12)

If someone hurts us or does us wrong and is truly remorseful we need to show forgiveness, because no matter what they have done, we need to remember that it is possible for us to do that very same thing if similar circumstances and weakness occurs in us. By no means am I suggesting we should put ourselves into situations where we allow them to continue to hurt us!  (True change must be evident and trust rebuilt when sharing our vulnerabilities. Another post for another day!) I am suggesting accepting their apology and letting go of the bitterness we feel toward them for their action. If they don’t apologise or acknowledge their faults, then we can assume that they can’t see it or admit it to themselves, just like we couldn’t in our own lack of self-awareness. Even though it is difficult, we can then offer an element of forgiveness and let go of any grudges, because as Jesus said on the cross “Forgive them, for they know not what they do”.

We are able to be forgiven because of God’s mercy and grace, and because of what Jesus did at Calvary. By acknowledging this we make ourselves tiny in our own eyes and God becomes HUGE! As a fellow blogger The Peaceful Wife put it, ‘My picture of God before was so wimpy and small. I had to see He was big and I was tiny’.  So very true, and I like having a BIG GOD!

Here I was trying to prove how good I was, yet as soon as I admitted how truly wrong I was, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It invited God into my situation and I found Him keeping me from doing things, one by one, that I had been trying not to for so long on my own. I found that many of the things I thought mattered actually didn’t matter at all, I could be released from self-condemnation because of feeling God’s love, and I came to experience genuine moments of inner peace. I still have to keep my heart guarded to discern the pride which tries to creep back in each day, trying to deceive me into covering my sin. Yet I now find it much easier to see myself clearly, by keeping my heart softened to His voice and truth, and try to confess in the instant of awareness.

When we truly repent and run away from pride, we can rejoice in feeling the freedom it brings. Feeling God’s forgiveness, His help, His love, and finally feeling FREE to be GOOD ENOUGH. AMEN!

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