In my previous page, I spoke about the need for self-reflection, and while this practice is absolutely necessary for all sojourners of the Way, I suspect that for many of us, this idea is actually quite unnerving.
You see, some of of us have deep wounds from the past that we are afraid will resurface if we look too deeply into ourselves, and quite frankly, we much rather not see these again. (If this is your personal fear, look for future posts on seeking inner healing.)
Others of us have been beaten up for our frailties and missteps in the past (or we have seen others beaten up for theirs), therefore as a result, we fear that engaging in a process of self-reflection and honesty with ourselves and others will simply open up the doors to be beaten up again. The last thing we want to do is enter into a place where we conjure of feelings of shame, condemnation, and “I am not enough” and where we invite abuse by others. Surely this is not a good place to be. (If this is your personal fear, I want you to know that I hear you and I understand. I have no desire that you would go to that place either.)
Thus, it is important for us as we start this journey of knowing ourselves better that we understand that self-reflection and recognition of our faults and frailites is not about entering into a place of self-condemnation. Self-reflection, however, may open us up to a place of conviction, but there is a wide chasm between the two postures of condemnation and conviction. If we are going to embrace a healthy practice of self-reflection, we need to understand the difference.
Self-condemnation is a posture which involves beating ourselves up. It involves declaring ourselves reprehensible and evokes a deep sense of shame and a sense that “I am not enough. I am deficient. I am something wrong.” It is a response that is provoked by the Evil One who would like nothing better than to see us feeling defeated and dejected. Sadly, too often over the years, followers of the Way have engaged in such self-condemnation and in condemnation of each other.
Unfortunately, I am afraid that the result of this has often been to either wallow in our shame or quite oppositely give ourselves free reign to satisfy all sorts of misguided desires and passions. In regards to the latter, it can feel like great freedom to simply break loose of all constraints and all expectations after living under the bondage of condemnation for too long.
If this is where any of us are at, I totally get it. I want to say, however, that this is not the way of Jesus. Jesus desires neither path for us – that is either the path of self-condemnation or the path of licentiousness. Jesus did not come to this world to condemn or shame us, but to save us and give us abundant life. (John 3:17)
In contrast to condemnation, conviction helps us embrace that abundant life. It is a gift that we receive from the Holy Spirit. When Jesus ascended to the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to comfort, guide us, convict us, restore us, and empower us. When we experience the Holy Spirit’s conviction, we experience a gentle movement in our hearts in which we are gradually convinced that something we are doing or believing is not in step with God’s desires for us or for the world. We have an increasing desire to turn from this behavior or attitude and to turn to a better way of acting and believing.
Its not to say that conviction never feels uncomfortable. It can indeed cause great tears and angst and even confusion at times, but there is a vast difference between the discomfort of self-condemnation and that of Holy Spirit-led conviction.
When the Holy Spirit convicts us, we are assured of our identity as beloved sons and daughters of God while at the same time, we are prompted to make changes in our lives, with the help of the Holy Spirit. We see our reflections, our true selves in light of the pains and the glory of Jesus’ cross, and we move forward to embrace the abundant life that God offers to us, with Him walking along side of us at every step of the way.
So in the end, while the process of self-reflection may raise our anxiety levels a bit, there is ultimately nothing to fear, but only good to anticipate as we come to know ourselves more truly and as we increasingly embrace an abundant life in deep communion with God and others.
(Note: If you are a person who struggles with shame, you may want to read some very helpful books about shame and vulnerability by Dr. Brene Brown. Also, if you suspect you are in a community that engages in regular spiritual abuse and harsh condemnation, I encourage you consider finding a healthier Christian community. I will at some point address this topic, but in the meantime, you can find support from Soulation‘s Freedom Builders Community. Having walked through spiritual abuse himself, Dale Fincher and his wife Jonalyn Fincher can walk along side you, helping you to find freedom and to “become fully human”.)
Page Written by Kristen Yates