My Aunt Betty told me a couple weeks ago that for Lent, I should fast from self-condemnation. I was thinking, “Right on. That’ll be easy, and it sure beats giving up my favorite drink which is now a cup of hot chocolate in the morning, since I gave up my daily Starbucks habit.” However, in the back of my mind, I knew I’d be presented with opportunities to avoid the temptation of self-condemnation, because as we all know, whatever we give up for Lent seems to be the thing we struggle with at times. I know I’ve spoken on the topic of self-condemnation frequently, but this next excerpt from my spiritual direction session goes to a deeper level. That is how God works with us. He keeps revealing more as we grow and can hear it . I discovered that my self-condemnation is actually a rebellion against who God has called me to be. It goes against the teachings in the Scriptures. It’s an offense to God and actually opens me up to Satan’s influence. It is a serious offense and one that I can no longer play around with. My Perfectionist gets impatient and dissatisfied with my flaws, and then I go into self-condemnation demanding that I be better. For anyone who is a Perfectionist, I can tell you from years of struggle, that it is a dangerous place to be. It’s a monster that keeps growing, and it turns not only on ourselves, but also on others. The scariest part is that it’s an open door for Satan to attack us, and he does it under the guise of something he claims to be good saying our goal is perfection. The truth is that to be perfect is to be “perfectly merciful,” which includes not only mercy towards others, but towards ourselves. I posted an excerpt on my blog called “Perfectly Merciful” that goes into more detail.
I’ve had a series of people who’ve come into my life that have not been good for me. I’ve had people who I’ve put trust in where it turned out to be not well founded. This led me to go into anger at myself. Sometimes our dissatisfactions with parts of ourselves, are in the end, just another rebellion against God. Below in red are my Aunt Betty’s words to me in one of our spiritual direction sessions:
Ask the Lord to get the doors closed through which you can be attacked. Invite the Lord into that part of you that holds that door open. “Lord, help me to really close whatever doors are open inside of me that gives these types of people permission to con me.” We can make ourselves vulnerable or to stay in a safe place. So, for some reason, that door to those unhealthy people was open in you. “Lord, in your great mercy, please give me the wisdom I need to recognize this in people. Do not let me make myself so vulnerable, so they can hurt me again.”
When you go into a grumbling place, it’s a useless, waste of your energy. It only opens you to more pain. If I were you, I would turn to the Lord and say, “Lord, why do I do this instead of being open to learn how to get out of this place. It’s not doing anything to help me change. Lord, help me stop. That’s not what the saints did. Teach me how the saints would handle a place like this.”
You really need to strengthen this barrier and get these negative doors closed, so unhealthy people don’t have that open door of your rebellion that they can lock into. They’re rebellious and you’re rebellious, so that’s the door through which you get locked. Think about it. But you got to get out of yourself, and get grown up enough to realize that you told Jesus that you want to give Him your will. Then, here you are rebelling, so you’re not being honest.” You have to do some repenting, and the repenting is to give up the self-pity that leads into self-condemnation. Is that the door that opens you to rebel? You give yourself permission to rebel when you get into that. That’s part what Lent is about, finding these areas where we give ourselves permission to sin. It’s about getting serious in the avoidance of sin. We give up desserts, etc, but meanwhile we’re feeling sorry for ourselves, so we’re in rebellion to the real stuff. That is what the church gave us Lent for. Look at the places where you really rebel against God, and stop it. It’ll make it easier for your kids not to rebel.
When you say, “I don’t like the person I am,” look at that statement in the light of what Jesus said in the Scriptures. Can you smell the sulfur in that statement? It’s a total rebellion against what Jesus came and taught us, isn’t it? So, you want to know where the open door is for some of these crazy people who come into your life? You’re announcing, “I don’t like the person God made me to be.” That type of unhealthy person gets a welcome mat, since they’re in rebellion to who they are and to who God called them to be. So, birds of a feather attract to each other. It’s a very serious place to be in to dislike who God created you to be. To me, that’s not something light. Anybody who lives smelling like sulphur will be attracted to that kind of personality if both of them are in rebellion to who God is calling them to be.
Love is seeking the good of God, self, and others. Hate is seeking evil for God, self, and others. So, if you hate the person God created, it’s a very dangerous position, because who is the Father of Hate? Satan. So, do you need to look further for an open door? You can’t sustain that position and remain a follower of Christ. Sooner or later, you’ll have to get out of follower of Christ if you keep hatred of self.
Virtue is “when you make the Word your home, you will learn the truth, and the truth will set you free.” If that Word is true, then in my mind, it follows logically, if you refuse the Word of God, namely that you are loved and created special and have a unique mission, then to hate self is to hate all of that. Then you no longer have to search for why all this crud is coming into your life. It’s because you have the door wide open to Satan in those particular areas to the truth. Virtue is to build one’s life on the truth and to be faithful to the truth. That’s what it means to be a person of integrity and character. So, you can see with that particular lie, if you continue to allow hatred to exist in your life, you have the door open for Satan to wallop you. You have the door open saying, “Come on in.”
It’s all about choices. If we truly believe in the Word of God, if we truly have made it our home, if we refuse to get off that Rock, we will experience security, Divine guidance, and help. It’s time to make healthier choices. But that also means you say to yourself, “Never again are you going to be given permission to go back into accepting that lie. At this point, it’s now forbidden to you. That’s where character comes in once you realize it, and you keep refusing to go there. That’s when we begin to change.
If you totally want to become the person who God created you to be, stand on the Rock. That begins to give you guidance as to who you’re drawn to and who comes into your life. You’ll be drawn to healthy people. It’s more important to stand on principle than to follow feelings. Feelings come and go. They’re too easy for Satan to get at, because they are on the surface. A person who stands on principle is much harder to destroy. You have studied the Scriptures, and you know the message of Jesus, that is the core on which your discernment is based. That’s your home. When anything happens that in any way is contrary to that core, you have no problem discerning that you don’t want to go there, because it’s in direct opposition to the very core, to the Rock on which you stand, which is the teachings of Jesus Christ. We make our decision to stand there. If we fall, we go to Reconciliation and we repent, but we have a core out of which we discern. During this Lent, take what we discussed, and sit before the Blessed Sacrament, and ask the Lord to do these things within you.