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Bad Talk

In the past, I thought that vocalizing insecurities around other people was just annoying. Now I see that it isn’t just annoying; it is handing them weapons to tear you down. I have always been a rather insecure, self-conscious person. I wish there were a shimmering confidence powder I could dust over myself each day, but it’s just a lot of hard work and intentional re-wiring of thoughts and beliefs.

Over the years, people have said a lot of unkind things to me, and I used to wonder why. Now I see that they said unkind things to me because they (unconsciously) thought I had given them permission to do so based upon the way I spoke about myself. If you give others power to wield against you, they will. If given the opportunity to knock you down, they will, especially if you make it easy for them.

Insecure people speak ill of themselves to most everyone, because it is such a constant conversation in their head. Sometimes I am completely unaware of how mean I am being towards myself until someone points it out. Someone once said that insecurity is loud, and it is. Insecure thinking sounds like a kick drum pressed to the ear, rhythmically pumping out self-doubt and shame.

My best friend often reminds me that the words we speak have power. While I do my best to be careful with what I say to others, I am careless when it comes to what I say to and about myself. I think I do this because it doesn’t seem like it matters.

Some claim that you have no power over what people think of you, but I disagree. I think we all have the power to tell the world how we wish to be treated. For years, I have told the people around me that it is acceptable for them to tease me about my appearance, my fumbling attempts at dating, and my quirks and habits. Yet the moment someone asserts or draws attention to any of these insecurities, I feel personally attacked; I wonder how they ever thought it was acceptable to say something like that.

Then I remember: I essentially told them that, and they are parroting it back to me. It is quite startling to discover how  ugly and wounding the words we say to ourselves sound from the mouths of others. True, some people are just jealous ass-hats who like to elevate themselves by degrading others. But in general, I believe we offer people a permission slip when we speak ill of ourselves.

The result is a vicious cycle: we vocalize our insecurities, others say them back to us, and then we take those parroted words as confirmation that we truly are unlovable, ugly, stupid, etc.

I have often vocalized what I hate about myself as a way of receiving encouragement from others. It makes me sick to admit it, but it’s true. It’s not that I am just making up awful things to say in order to have someone refute them; I truly believe those ugly words and I am hoping someone will give me a reason to no longer believe them.

This never works. No matter what someone says, they cannot do the replacement work for you. They cannot re-wire your thinking and beliefs about yourself, only you can. At most, you are giving people permission to treat you badly, or at least you’re giving them a reason to spend less time with you. There is room for grace of course, but you cannot expect people to stick around when you never make an effort to believe you’re someone worth sticking to.

One of my favourite writers, Brennan Manning, once said, “We cannot accept love from another human being when we do not love ourselves, much less accept that God could possibly love us.” Those with deep insecurity need to fight for our birthright as children of God, and it takes a lot of convincing from Him to accept ourselves as He accepts us. It takes even more convincing to actually say those words out loud, and even more to live them out loud.

If you also struggle with insecurity, self-hatred, or negative self-talk, I would love to chat with you over a cup of coffee. You and I are not alone, and with God’s grace, we can help each other love ourselves out loud.

Bad Believer

I’ve struggled in my Christian faith. I’ve doubted, backslid, crawled forward, and failed. Growing up, I would recite the sinner’s prayer every day, just to “make sure” I was really saved. While away at college (a Bible college, mind you) I nearly walked away from the faith completely. But by God’s grace, I shakily remain His.

When I am alone with God, I feel secure in my relationship with Him. Being around His other kids is what trips me up. I compare myself to other Christians, deciding that God must like them better because they seem happier, more faithful, or better than me. I am in therapy and swear like a sailor when I am angry. I laugh at double-entendres, vote Democrat, and am a proud feminist. I am not an ideal Proverbs 31 Woman.

But Jesus loves me, this I know.

He knows my heart. He sees my efforts to change, and He knows I try to follow Him each day, in every area of my life. He didn’t make me His to be like other Christians. I follow Jesus, not religiosity! Though I may feel like I am on shaky ground in my faith, the truth is, I can’t lose Him. And He can’t lose me. His word confirms and promises this:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Romans 8: 35-39

What can separate me from the love of Christ? N O T H I N G.

Shame may tell me that I am not good enough, and that’s true. But that was never the point. I am being saved as much as I am saved, and it’s a life-long process. God is far more patient than I am with myself, and the only thing that keeps Him distant is me. When I choose shame over grace, I push Him away.

I’ve always related to the disciple Thomas–infamously known as Doubting Thomas. Growing up in church, Thomas was often made an example of how we shouldn’t be as believers. But he always gave me hope, because even though he was one of Jesus’ most intimate friends, he still struggled with doubt. He could have allowed shame and doubt to destroy his faith, but he didn’t. Instead he cried, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” And as Flannery O’Connor once wrote, that is “…the most natural and most human and most agonizing prayer in the gospels, and I think it is the foundation prayer of faith.”

I used to be afraid of my doubts, but I’m not anymore. Doubting has caused me to explore the faith, to make it truly my own. A fear of doubt shows a lack of faith that God can withstand questions and apparent contradictions. Some people are so afraid to acknowledge their doubts because they are afraid of what they may discover. I think we’re all afraid of being bad believers, but the truth is, He doesn’t see it that way.

If prostitutes, murders, thieves, doubters, and the ordinary can be celebrated in the family of God, that gives us all hope! Doubt doesn’t exile us from God, nor do our sins. We can boldly and confidently approach Him as we are, because forgiveness and acceptance is assured.

So whether you’re rough around the edges, or plagued with doubt, you are still His. There’s such a comfort for us in the consistency and faithfulness of God. We don’t need to waste time comparing ourselves to each other, or being afraid of what our doubts reveal about us.

Let’s all give each other freedom to pursue Him as we are, and leave all the judgment to Him.