“You’re a loser. You let everyone down. Why can’t you get this right?”
We all agree those statements are mean. Just imagining these words said to my child makes the mama lion in me wake up and roar. Words matter.
Even the words we say to ourselves.
Time and time again as I have the privilege to care for special needs parents in the midst of deep grief I hear words like these shared from their internal dialogue. Already feeling down for the count, the self-condemnation piles on.
When it comes to ourselves, we can be just plain mean.
What would it be like to change that voice to one of assurance and support, especially in times of crisis? Is it worth trying?
Of course it’s worth trying! It’s even biblical! “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Rom 8:1-2 NRS)
If Christ does not condemn us, why do we condemn ourselves? The good news is, we don’t have to. It is possible to retrain self-dialogue from being mean to being means of grace.
- When the negative words kick in tell them to stop. “No, that’s not true,” or “That’s hurtful and I don’t deserve that,” or “Stop. This is not what I need right now.”
- Treat ourselves as we would a loved one going through the same circumstance. What would we say to them? Don’t we deserve that same compassion?
- Validate our feelings. If we are grieving, or angry, or feeling justifiably guilty (emphasis on justifiably), acknowledge those feelings are real and raw without berating ourselves in the process.
- Talk to someone, whether a family member, friend, pastor or counselor. Processing what we feel with others helps create perspective.
- Refute negativity with something positive. Offer ourselves an affirmation that is true. No, not the cheesy and hollow kind. Saying we are the best parent, wife, athlete, etc. ever is just as false as negativity and not particularly helpful. Rather, offer real statements of affirmation, “I am strong and I can get through this,” or “God is with me, I am not alone,” or “I made a mistake, but now I’ve learned something.”
Turn off the “mean.” Accept the grace that flows freely from God. Fill yourself to the top with it, washing away self-condemnation and let your words to yourself become, instead, a means of grace.
Gracious God, Hold us when we are hurting. We trust that you surround us with people who bring comfort. Help us to be part of your chosen team of support that builds up and restores. Amen
Rev Doc Lorna
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