“When we accept ourselves for what we are, we decrease our hunger for power or the acceptance of others because our self-intimacy reinforces our inner sense of security. We are no longer preoccupied with being powerful or popular. We no longer fear criticism because we accept the reality of our human limitations. Once integrated, we are less often plagued with the desire to please others because simply being true to ourselves brings lasting peace. We are grateful for life and we deeply appreciate and love ourselves.” (Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel)
I have always struggled with being both a people pleaser and a perfectionist. I beat myself up continually, and as previously discussed in one of my earlier blogs, I am a person highly motivated by guilt. This past week when I read this passage, I decided to write two lists. One list would be the good things about myself, the other would be the bad things about myself. Inspired by Brennan’s words about acceptance, I wanted to finally begin to accept the TRUTH about who I am; both the good things and the bad. I entitled the first list “I AM”, and the second “i am”.
I wrote my lists in my prayer journal, comparing as I went along, trying to make sure I was being honest with myself on all accounts. When the end came, the list of negative qualities that I had come up with was longer than the list of positive qualities. Then my husband asked me to write a third list. He asked me to write what God thought of me.
I was surprised. I had been deceived again. Even when I thought I had been writing lists to finally come to accept myself, and to accept that GOD accepts me, I was not! I was still comparing myself to my own standards and seeing myself through failed human eyes. Before I had even written a word on that third page the tears began to fall. I began, “I AM thinks i am…” And as I continued to write and to weep, I felt the true acceptance of who I am wash over me. When I had finished, Willy said something beautiful to me. “You know what I think God sees when He looks at you? I think God sees each of those ten tears that fell on that page.”
And it’s true! How often do we doubt that no matter what we do or say, God sees our HEARTS. There is no fooling Him. There is no slinking by saying; “If I just write these lists then I can count the good and the bad, and when I identify the bad that is in my life, then I can begin to eliminate those qualities one by one.” I thought that if I could just identify the evil in my life, that I could systematically eliminate it while working under a false, but somewhat comforting, acceptance of myself. I use the word “false” because this acceptance of myself is wholly conditional and based entirely on the upward scale of improvement that I would have undoubtedly held myself to.
The fact is that whether we improve or not, regardless of the number of times we fall along the Way, no matter how many times Jesus must search for us in the wilderness of our own desire to do it ourselves, unconditionally; we are accepted just as we are, NOW. Jesus died for us just as we are now. He loves us, just as we are now. But this unconditional mercy and acceptance is often uncomfortable. We feel so unworthy and so unable that we squirm and choke on the tears brought by such a powerful love. But more than anything, I think He wants His lambs to stop running off to be the bravest and the strongest and the best all the time. He just wants us to be with Him and to dwell in His beautiful, merciful, powerful, and uncomfortable acceptance—and to follow Him where ever He goes.