“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Romans 8:33-34
Who will bring a charge against me? Well, me, that’s who.
When the wave comes, it comes hard: Insecurity. Self-deprication. Self-doubt. Mistrust. Powerlessness. Not worth taking seriously, listening to, defending, clearing space for. All thoughts that run through my head when I get tripped up. And it all gets exacerbated when I dare to call myself a writer, the very act of which is vulnerable.
In the quiet corners of our lives, I think I am very similar to you, when I say that it’s a steadfast message that plays on loop in the back of my mind: Not Enough. Not really. That’s what self-condemnation says really: “I’m not enough.” It’s a practiced belief. If I believe I’m no good at this life, inherently, then I’ll agree with any similar feedback I get from the outside world, and be suspicious if I hear any differently. It’s a closed-system, and spiritually speaking, it’s lethal.
Condemnation kills. It’s punishment for sin.
“When you were dead in your sins… God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14
The way I see it, through Jesus, the door now stands wide open to life and freedom, creativity and connection. But as my pastor says, “Our sin nature seems to have survived the conversion experience.”
So – along with the power of the Holy Spirit working within us – we need tools. Something to get my belief from: “I secretly suck at this; if anyone finds out, I’m booted from the club of humanity,” to: “I’m lovable and worthwhile. I belong to God, and I belong in my own life. I see my good points and bad points, and I have a solid foundation from which to stretch and grow creatively, spiritually, and in my important relationships.” Here are a few:
- Look At The Results. When you have an exceptionally bad day of self-condemnation, of feeling like a failure, how are you treating your loved-ones? Are you especially annoyed at your husband? Are your kids acting completely intolerable to you? Chances are, self-condemnation is spilling over into condemnation of others around you. When it happens, it becomes a blanket worldview. Do you like the results of this worldview?
- Practice Positive Self-Talk. If I could find some term less “cheese ball” to describe this practice, I’d tell you. But this is what I mean: in order to combat the condemning thoughts, you must bring some encouragement onto the field of your mind. I actually find that it works best to actually say this stuff out loud, to myself. If I’m feeling agitated and stressed out because I haven’t a clue what’s for dinner and the baby is demanding food and the kids are whining about snacks, and my husband will be home and hungry any minute, I reach for prayer, and positive self-talk. Something like, “Lord, help me figure out what to make. You are good, and in you I have everything I need for life and godliness. Give me an idea for dinner for tonight, and help me not to lose it on my family while cooking. Thank you. You are awesome. Amen.” The condemnation may still be playing in my head, “I’m no good at this motherhood thing. I’m not enough of a planner. I don’t like the whole mess of dinner every single day. Everyone just leave me alone.” So I recognize it, think for a moment, and answer back, “I can do this. I’m a college graduate. I’m a smart woman, and I can make dinner. My job is to feed these kids nutritious food. My job is to be patient with them. They are hungry. I am hungry. That’s okay. I’m okay. They’re okay. Food will come. Now lets do this…” And like I mentioned earlier, it’s something to practice. If self-condemnation is a habit. Then self-encouragement must become a habit too. We are not failures if our brains still call us failures, but it’s helpful to practice having a response to the accusations.
- Practice Thankfulness. I love what Dr. Kelley Gray, a psychotherapist to mommies, wrote about this in her article ‘The Habit of Positivity’:
“I know you’re tired of hearing about practicing gratitude, but we really stink at keeping it up long term. Keep a journal, write on Post-It notes, practice it every time you unload the dishwasher…Let us wake up every day with new, soft and open hearts, with minds intentionally directed toward the good and redirected away from the bad. Can you imagine months and years of living this way? Pain will still come to us, but a heart and a mind that have cultivated the habits of positivity and gratitude are so much more resilient and creative – and they are far more comforting for children and spouses in these precious but challenging years.”
Thankfulness is the mechanism for steering our attitudes where we want them to go, in order for us to live the lives we want to live, and be the women our families need. I’m not talking about vague thankfulness for things that we don’t really care about. I’m talking about specific, relevant points of gratitude, even when times are tough. In our life, my husband and I have a saying. When we have plans that fail, or have a disappointing experience, or stumble into being badly treated by people, we have a habit of saying, “Well, what did we learn from this experience?” And you know what? No matter how awful it may have been, there is always we can point to that we learned from it. Something we truly did not know before. And that lesson, that specific piece of knowledge now learned, is something to be thankful for.
Christ has set us free from condemnation and sin. But it’s our choice to agree with him, or keep pressing charges against ourselves in our own brains. What we think and believe about ourselves really does have an effect on the lives we lead and the relationships we keep. He has justified us and intercedes for us, all because of his great love. He has given us everything we need, both the power over darkness in this world through his Holy Spirit, as well as an inquisitive brain to seek out tools to live healthy lives that follow Him, full of creativity and free to love others, and ourselves, as He first loved us.
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3