I want something for you, and for me.
I want MORE GRACE. Much more. Especially the kind we have for ourselves.
I want the kind of grace that gives our everyday, lesser moments an instagram-like filter. Yes! Even for our much lesser moments.
You know the ones.
But this isn’t a get out of jail free card. I don’t want this so we can avoid the consequences of our behaviour but so we can face up to them.
When we lack grace for ourselves, we can’t face our mistakes. And, without owning them, we can’t accept forgiveness for them.
Grace = Forgiveness
If we’re truly going to own up to our missteps, though, they can’t look like deadly weapons of me-destruction. It would be foolish to face up to something seemed guaranteed to destroy us.
But that’s the lie we believe, isn’t it? The one that says my mistake is too big to ever be forgiven; it’s so big, it’s deadly.
But that’s exactly where grace comes in.
The grace that we, so often, don’t have for ourselves allows us to look at them because we know they can’t condemn us. They’ve already been forgiven because of what Jesus did.
We have to be able to look at our mistakes if we’re ever going to accept the forgiveness that’s waiting for us.
I’m not the only one, am I? Who knows the kind of self-condemnation that makes you want to deny mistakes, at all cost? Who would only look at what I’d done wrong to make absolutely certain I never did it again? Until I did.
But the cost of denying our mistakes is too high. It cuts off relationships; our relationships with others and our relationship with God. And the only safety from our wrongdoings is in his forgiveness.
Good reason to have more grace for ourselves. Personally, I still have a long way to go, but I’ve also come a long way.
An example that still stuns me is my growing ability to move with relative ease from seriously botching up the parenting thing…
What are you doing?
This will not help them become Godly, healthy adults.
… to being a blessing of grace and acceptance to my kids, all during the course of one spilled milk.
It’s a minor miracle.
Normal for me, when I realize I’m not reacting properly, would be defensiveness, wall building and a hasty retreat into authoritarianism; followed by excessive shame and self-condemnation.
But now, on my good days, I’m able to drop a mistake, self-condemnation and all, like an unwanted cloak in the road.
Sometimes, as I move forward, I like to look back. In my mind, I can see whatever behaviour I’ve ‘dropped in the road’ lying there, lifeless, and I marvel.
It’s not following me! It’s not hounding me, snapping at my heels, making sure I never get past my own failures.
They’re back there, dead in the road; powerless to stop me.
Now, this is life.
And, there’s no way I’m the only one needing a new grace habit to replace my self-condemnation habit. I can’t be the only one prone to letting every mistake lead me on to more mistakes.
If you’re a parent and you know what I’m talking about, then you’ve probably felt even more self-condemnation for modeling this behaviour to your kids. No one wants to teach their kids to be unkind to themselves.
But we can also model self-improvement.
That’s why I share my own unflattering truths. Cause I know some of you are crying out for a habit overhaul from self-condemnation to grace. And, as the saying goes, if I can, anyone can. Improve, that is.
Part of the issue is that we’re prioritizing the wrong things. Many of us spend a lot of energy caring for our kids, spouse or career and forget that our own personal growth is a direct gift to everything in our lives.
My wonderful church lady says that we can’t even begin to have grace for others until we are gentle and gracious with ourselves.
So, if grace for ourselves is what works, why do we insist on doing the opposite? And, how can we shift to having more grace?
THE DEFINITION OF CONDEMN, ACCORDING TO OXFORD DICTIONARY:
To ‘express complete disapproval of, censure’.
To ‘sentence (someone) to a particular punishment, especially death’.
To ‘force (someone) to endure or accept something unpleasant’.
A WAY OF LIFE THAT LEADS TO DEATH
That is exactly what I often still do to myself. In a previous time, it was a way of life. Soul crushing.
I would put all my power towards ‘fixing’ (code for ‘getting rid of ‘) the failure-prone parts of my personality.
Had I thought of those weak parts as a separate person, I would have happily abandoned them in a mall parking lot without remorse.
At my worst, well, the same wonderful church lady has said the words ‘Colleen, put down the knife’ more than once. (It matters not that the knife was made of silent words.)
So, as I was out for a walk recently, I pondered how many times I’ve wielded a knife against my own inner-self, and the scripture about chopping off one of your own body parts came to mind.
Sick, I know.
But it didn’t make sense. If I’m supposed to have grace for something that wreaks such havoc in my life, then why am I allowed to physically chop off a hand or gouge out an eye that only makes me stumble? (Mark 9:43 NIV)
The personality/thinking trouble I’ve experienced feels a lot worse than stumbling. It feels like death. I would honestly prefer to stumble.
Do not block the intersection
Another translation of that verse doesn’t use the word stumble, though.
The Message says, ‘If your hand or your foot gets in God’s way, chop it off and throw it away’. (Emphasis mine.)
‘Gets in God’s way’ makes a lot more sense, to me, than ‘causes you to stumble’.
Those lessor personality traits were, for sure, making me stumble, but were they ‘getting in God’s way’? More like they were getting in my way.
The perfect person I was trying to create kept getting tripped up by the person God made me.
As I failed and tried to fix it myself, by hacking off the offending trait, God was standing next to me saying:
Here. Give it to me. Let me take care of that for you.
And, for heaven’s sake, would you stop trying to alter my masterpiece?
He wants me – and you – to ‘put down the knife’ and give him our struggles and our shortcomings. No chopping anything off.
Your assignment, should you choose to accept it
So, how do we have more grace for ourselves?
How many times have I wished for a road map so I could ‘get myself there’. But there’s a reason I don’t have one.
Trying to fix it ourselves is what got us into this mess.
What I have learned about how to have grace for ourselves is not to try to take over God’s work. Stick to your responsibilities. Here are only two to get you started.
#1 – Admit it
We’re responsible for finding a trusted friend or mentor who we can tell about the knife we’re wielding against our selves. (James 5:16)
#2 – interrogate your inner-critic
We are also responsible for asking ourselves if what we’re believing and saying about ourselves is true. Or are we repeating lies? (2 Cor 10:5) Often, our inner voices aren’t even our own voice in the first place!
Important Detail: Number two can be done alone, but it’s way more effective with a mentor. Don’t have one? Try a church healing ministry.
…Your lack of grace for yourself is not getting in God’s way. It’s getting in yours.
It is possible to to learn to drop your failures in the road like a ratty old cloak. You can stop your inner-critic from disabling you.
But it means giving yourself grace, just like he does.