Learning To Accept Yourself
I've been doing a lot of thinking and journalling lately around the idea of self-acceptance, which I have to admit has been a challenging exercise. I also get the feeling that this is an issue that touches all of us, and some of us more than others.
For my part, I feel like I'm constantly doing battle with the hard-to-shake theology that I grew up with, and the message that was ingrained in us that we were sinful wretches, undeserving of grace, and under the watchful eye of a vengeful and angry God.
That kind of belief doesn't lend itself well to thoughts of self-acceptance, in case you were wondering. And sadly, I feel like that is the very kind of message that is still being perpetuated in churches all over America.
And even in churches where you might hear messages about how God loves you "as you are," you will get all kinds of other messages that seem to negate that. Or you figure out pretty quickly that "as you are" is a pretty narrow category for some of these folks.
Psychologist and author Melody Beattie has quickly become one of my favorite "mentors," and I recently read this bit of wisdom from her, and I thought it was worth a share:
Acceptance is the ultimate paradox: we cannot change who we are until we accept ourselves the way we are.
In other words, we won't really be able to move forward toward becoming our best and truest selves, until we learn to accept ourselves--warts and all. When we can learn to accept the truth about who we are (both the good and the bad), we are one step toward becoming the people we long to be.
I need to be clear on this, though... Acceptance ought to lead us to substantive and life-giving transformation, not excuses. We can't keep on behaving poorly and then simply say, "That's just the way I am, I accept myself."
Acceptance means that you see yourself in all of your glory and also your frailty... You acknowledge both your shortcomings and your strengths... You are able to pat yourself on the back from time to time, and also give yourself a break, and forgive yourself as well.
And through it all, you can always rely on one very important thing---the love that God has for you, which never runs out. Anne Lamott wrote about this recently, and I loved what she said:
Trust me on this: We are loved out of all sense or proportion. Yikes and hallelujah. Love reveals the beauty of sketchy people like us to ourselves. Love holds up the sacred mirror.
May you find the strength to accept yourself, and to know that you are loved. May you forgive yourself where forgiveness is needed, and may you celebrate your wins with gusto. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.