In my experience, most people don’t struggle with believing that God loves them - they struggle with loving themselves. I’m not talking about the toxic underbelly of narcissism - wanting everybody to make you the center of the universe. I’m talking about love - the gracious and celebratory relationship of you enjoying you, of being kind to you even in the face of honest inventories concerning imperfection and flaws.
People often struggle after engaging another’s displeasure, dismissiveness, or critical feedback. They default to hating on themselves, both passively and actively. In many such occasions the survival brain will irrationally turn the impulses to survive or “fight” by attacking Self. Narratives of “idiot”, “stupid”, “fat”, “incompetent”, “fool”, and “don’t be ‘that guy’” roar like a runaway freight train. The brain moves from regulated emotional states into panic, rage and/or depression.
Over time this self-talk erodes a person’s desire to care for themselves, as they view themselves as the ultimate enemy. “God might love this poor, pathetic ‘me,’ but I am disgusted with ‘me.’ If I were only a different me, I would be happy.” The issue isn’t God’s love. He appears to be regulated about “me.” I’m the one struggling with “me.” And the enemy of your soul will remind you what a “sinner” you are.
Yet most people fail to intentionally pursue personal exercise and growth in this fundamental area of Self-love. So, we suffer. We live abused, accosted, belittled, criticized, demeaned, hated on, rejected and betrayed. What is the very worst part of it all is that the perpetrator is our most sacred human relationship – the Self.
"ONE OF THE GREATEST WEAPONS USED AGAINST OUR SOULS IS TO INTERPRET OTHER’S DISPLEASURE AS MOTIVATION TO ATTACK OUR SELF!"
This disintegrated Self is where rage and panic drive people to binge eat, turn to pornography, find pleasure in excessive alcohol or dabble with recreational drugs, steal from employers, and even avoid significant professional opportunities. They find themselves in unmanageable temptations, feeling powerless to overcome. Depression sets in and they become a deeply diminished version of themselves. The shame cycle returns to the beginning of self-hate process, but this time the cycle is more intense than the previous time, requiring more self-medicating behaviors that brings even more pain.
When we are living disintegrated, not loving ourselves well - even in the reality of our imperfections - we then have to compensate for our shortcomings with false-projections of a better version of ourselves. It can look like humor, work ethic, expertise, intelligence, creativity, artistry, opinions, etc. – but all fused with emotional toxins. Unfortunately, the “better” version you wanted to project is actually an inauthentic version, and people subconsciously know it. Even if they don’t, you do. And you despise yourself for not being able to relax, securely knowing you are worthy of being celebrated right now – with bedhead, worn pajamas, and a lifetime of disappointments.
When people show hyper-criticisms of others - judgment that comes in layers and across multiple topics - they are so disintegrated that they only feel power when opinions are intensified. Judgmental-ism is the brain’s attempt to mitigate internal perceptions of powerlessness. If I can give blame to something that is right or wrong, my brain can assess for certain risks and give me the illusion of future security. Most social media ranting is not really about the topic itself, it is about the brain scanning to make sense of things, trying to mitigate the risks of future threats. Unfortunately, the rant only provides temporary illusions of security, while deepening the cycles of self-hate.
I remember a pastor who fit this profile of ultra-critical spewing. He said, “Patrick, here is my phone number if you ever want to chat. It doesn’t appear that you really like me but…” I didn’t have the footing then that I do now. The thought that came to my mind was, “I don’t know who you really are to know whether I like you or not. The real you is so buried under this power image nobody can see who you really are.” I bet you have had the same subconscious thoughts in such occasions too.
We cannot inflame our judgemental-ism and intensified blame to others without building circuits for attacking ourselves. The Apostle Peter said, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies (1 Peter 3:10).
The survival brain has primal instincts to fight, escape or shut down when faced by an overwhelming threat. The lower brain will kick into a hyper-aroused state, and at the same time the rationale brain will slow down. This is why a house cat suddenly jumping in front of you will cause you to jump with the same fervor as if it were an African lion. Your thoughtful, structured, rational brain doesn’t have the ability to quickly process the logic of a house cat and mitigate the fears, so you jump back, gasp or scream.
In the same way, when our brains scan someone - or a social environment - assessing that similar mappings of past pains and losses seem to be present, the logical brain will give way to the surging survival instincts that cause us to be irrational.
Neurobiologically, when we activate overall empathy, compassion and gratitude, the anterior cingulate will release love chemicals, calming the amygdala’s stressors and “fight, escape, shut down” circuits. This circuitry then fires up the nucleus accumbens, releasing more pleasure chemicals that make us feel alive, optimistic and happy.
What is interesting is that the brain can’t hate on others and present the neurochemistry to make us happy. Also, it can’t live in self-deprivation and self-hate and at the same time provide the chemical power to manage temptation or provide necessary strength to execute great visionary dreams.
Our relationship to Self is only second in importance to our relationship with God.
"WE DON’T HAVE TO QUALIFY OR MEET A CRITERION FOR LOVING OURSELVES WELL."
We don’t have to qualify or meet a criterion for loving ourselves well. Setting growth milestones can never become a prerequisite to deep Self-love and celebration right now.
Have you ever assessed your underlying fears around people not finding interest, losing interest, abandoning or betraying you? For many, their brains have already built survival instincts from past wounds and relationship injuries around things that might cause people to do these things to them. They have developed deep roots of emotional self-reflection that assesses social threats, focusing on their own repulsive personality traits. They are continually on guard concerning things like “I talk too much,” “I’m too controlling,” “I’m too hyper anxious,” “I’m too arrogant,” “I’m too needy,” “I’m too undisciplined,” “I’m too uninteresting,” “I’m too vulnerable,” or “I’m too direct.” While Self-compassion can assess these and positively adapt for free growth, Self-hate will berate a person and drain all energy for change. Then they live stuck.
The righteous loving of Self is about being kind, compassionate and thankful - really seeing yourself with care and celebration, being emotionally present and connected. The honesty of these moments requires you see your flaws and imperfections clearly, then be fully accepting of you - honoring the humanity God sees of you. Compassion will inspire acknowledgement that we can adapt, grow and be transformed.
The gift of God’s love, goodness and His righteousness empowers us to turn in bid to ourselves for reconciliation, gratitude, celebration and release. We will never be integrated, fully aligned or wholehearted until we have an honest, yet honoring relationship to Self.
I’d love to help you grow in this area of your life. Be watching for Events and Trainings at our redinkrevival.com website, and in the meantime, attend one of our upcoming events around Driven Finances to learn more about how money holds psychological weight.