"I am my own worst enemy." I shutter when I hear people say this. High expectations, criticism, and embarrassment are all a part of this "own worst enemy" relationship. One gets called a lot of names like 'loser' and 'stupid' when you are an enemy. Impatient questions erupt like, "Can you ever do it right? What is wrong with you?"
And I wonder, who wants that???
Enemies have a way of attacking, hurting, taunting, tearing down. Is that how you live and interact with yourself? Is that how you want to be?
In Matthew 22 a Pharisee asked Jesus which of the commandments was the greatest. He answered, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."
- We know we are supposed to love God. That is what Christians do.
Jesus went on to say that the second was like the first. " Love your neighbor as yourself."
- We know we are supposed to love our neighbor. That is also what Christians do.
But most of us have not been told or taught the embedded, assumed command - to love ourselves.
I don't know how we can love our neighbor as ourselves if we are our own worst enemy. I think we will not be very good to our neighbor if we do.
Romans 8:1 tells us that those who are in Christ Jesus are free from the condemnation for sin. We are also free from the daily disapproval and harassment from satan. But many of us are in agreement with him concerning us. He is really good at what he does: whispering accusations. His whispers seem so true.
So I'm here to invite you to take on a different role in your life. Life would have been different for me had I known this years ago.
How do we love ourselves and not be our own worst enemy?
Here are three ideas:
Make peace with your past. "I think most of us experience some sadness attached to our childhood - the mixed messages, confusion, expectations and disappointments: the crushes and hormones, the crippling peer pressure." Some of us have sadness from the past. Some have terrors. Many are somewhere in between. We often want to push those memories away thinking nothing can be done to change them so we should just forget them. But we don't forget. Those hurts keep popping up in a variety of ways. In fact, many of us Christians don't like ourselves very much. Remember, many think we are our own worst enemy...
Just like the matryoshka dolls, each of us has within us the child we used to be. Our younger parts have memories that, for whatever reason, made us come to some conclusions that are not true. Those memories could concern our looks, our gender, our lovability, our worth, or anything that someone can have an opinion about. With that wounding a lie often slips in also. Spoken quietly, probably with a hiss, “You sure are ugly. You are so stupid. Your brother is more athletic than you! Your sister is prettier than you. You aren't wanted. You are such a baby. You are too much. You are too needy”...and on and on. And once it was whispered, our child self sometimes says, yes, it feels so true...
Going back to those lies, identifying them, figuring out the truth of them, is the way we make peace with the past. Sometimes we need help doing this and it would be the best money ever spent. Be diligent. We don't want to continue to be our own worst enemy. How in the world can we love God or our neighbor if we don't love ourselves? Recognize your own temptations toward believing lies. Where am I weak? What parts accuse me? In what do I accuse myself? I am tempted to believe things about myself that are not true as I listen to my negative self talk and the things that make me anxious. I have learned that a healthy self-love comes from recognizing those lies and in becoming an ally for myself for the truth; the truth that became Truth in Christ. I can view myself differently because Jesus sits with God and intercedes on my behalf. Ephesians 5: 1-2 Be imitators of God, therefore as dearly loved children and live a life of love (to God, others, myself) just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Jeremiah 31:3 God tells the Israelites, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness." If God is speaking to me like this, and if he loves me this much, I can be in agreement with him. He pulled me into his heart with such love.
Become your own ally. An ally is someone who comes along side as an encourager; someone who is there to fight for you, to help you win. Jesus sits with God and is on my side. So, for example, when I trip on the sidewalk I don't immediately scream at myself, "You are so clumsy! Can't you even walk?" Instead I pick myself up and say something like, "It's OK. We all trip sometimes. Glad you didn't get hurt." Any friend would do the same. An enemy would laugh and berate or accuse. These kind words make way for peace. They allow a relationship to self that is forgiving, kind and encouraging. Within that atmosphere of acceptance, love can flourish. Confidence grows. An opening up to God who knows and loves can become an option. It moves out of the "shoulds" and into a friendship rich with relationship possibilities. As we journey on the sacred path of making peace with our past, resisting temptation to believe lies and being our own ally, we can forever never say again, “I am my own worst enemy.” Instead we can insist that we are our own best friend. We can do this because Jesus does it for us and he paid a dear price for such peace and friendship.
(Prepared for and presented at a young adult sunday school class on July 27th, 2014)