I am unacceptable: building self-acceptance through your relationship with yourself.
One of the things that I hate about myself is the fact that I rub everyone the wrong way. It’s a strength of mine. It happens with everyone. It doesn’t matter what I do, how good the relationship starts; how nice, kind, or how often I bend over backwards to make relationships work; I always mess it up, and then comes the banishment. I’ve come to expect it as an outcome of journeying with others.
Take the latest example. I have spent years trying to build a relationship with my in-laws. I pushed my husband into dinners and outings. I made sure that I praised everything that they did for us. I even sent thank you cards on occasion (if you knew me, you’d know that this is a HUGE thing that just doesn’t happen, no matter how hard I try). My husband fought me every step of the way. His place in his family structure and the unwritten rules present created its own problems within him, but I was determined to not let that stop me from having a good relationship with these people.
As you can imagine, a person can only swim upstream so long. After four years of trying I was done. I was under extreme pressure from my husband and father-in-law, and it shredded the last of my resolve. Even as I write this I feel the pressure to not have given up. See how easy it is to blame myself for something that requires the cooperation of others? It gets better.
Due to a change of fortune, I found myself again trying to build a relationship with my husband’s family while trying to keep the peace with my husband. Under pressure from myself to “be a better mom,” I wanted to take advantage of the situation to build a better relationship with my in-laws.
My mother-in-law’s love language is time spent. She is the kind of person that feels loved when you hang around her. She also has mad skills with plants. The MAIN complaint throughout our entire marriage from my in-laws is that my family hasn’t helped out enough in the garden. So I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone. I asked permission for her to show us things around the garden (where she is at her strength) and we’d be “helping” so they couldn’t guilt trip my husband about it. The plus my daughter would be learning, outdoors, and not in front of a screen. Triple win.
But yeah, we’re talking about me here. Just wait for it. It went fine for about thirty minutes. Then my daughter got bored. After letting her play for a while, I decided to set the work up as a game (she loves games). She was all happy about it until she wasn’t. She didn’t want to play the game, she just wanted the prize for winning. Fighting down feelings of rejection I gave in and told her she didn’t have to play, but that she would not get the prize. She started yelling and screaming at me to stop. That she didn’t want to play. I told her she didn’t have to, that I would keep the prize for myself and that she could do what she wanted. Still, she screamed herself into a full-on fit. Barely holding in my own upset, I told her to go cool down inside. More screaming. At that point, I picked her up and carried her inside.
I couldn’t handle her disrespect of my person any longer. I knew we both needed to calm down and my husband was inside. When she and I get into such a heated place he can be a very calming voice.
As I carried my disobedient, screaming child into the house my mother-in-law started screaming at me (over the screaming child) that it was all my fault. That I was the one that created this situation. That my daughter would never want to go out into the garden again. She asked me three times if I was even listening to her. I heard every word to my core. As I write this I’m still crying about it. I had two options as I saw it at that moment. Lose it more and start yelling back at my mother-in-law, with whom I was trying to build a good relationship, or keep what was left of my cool by keeping my mouth shut.
I got out, “I hear you!” in a tone I had little control over (not the way I would have wanted to communicate it) and stepped inside.
Later, after we’d calmed down I made it a point to apologize to my mother-in-law for what had happened. I could have blamed my child and her uncontrollable temper tantrums for my banishment. I could have excused everyone’s behavior. Instead, I was the “adult”, took full responsibility for what happened, and asked for my mother-in-law’s forgiveness. She vented at me. I’m still waiting for her to forgive me. At the time of writing this it’s been over a week. I’m not holding out hope. I was banished.
My inner parent wanted to blame my child for her bad behavior that led to the event, but I can’t. She’s a child. She is working on where she is at. To blame her would be to deny my own part and role as a parent. Shifting blame does not bring love in. God calls us to do everything within our power, and accepting responsibility for an event in our journey is within our power.
My inner victim wanted to blame my mother-in-law for not being understanding. She saw her perspective and passed judgment on me. It’s easy for us to want to claim hold of actions outside ourselves. To switch into victim mode, but that is as fruitless as blaming the child. My mother-in-law is who she is. She is working through her own battles, attachments, and agreements. To forgive her, I have to forgive any future action tied to the incident.
My inner judge wanted to blame myself for the situation, but I refuse. What happened is regrettable. I was not right in what I did. I did the best I could do in the situation. I cannot go back and change it. What I can do is let it go, accept God’s forgiveness and extend that forgiveness to everyone involved. We do not control other people, and we should not use those actions to control ourselves. Learning from the past is different than letting the past create agreements for us. Grace means stopping the past from dictating future actions.
Tip One: forgiving others has to start with yourself. If I never forgive myself for “wrecking” the relationships in my life I won’t really ever forgive the people that make up the other half of those relationships.
Tip Two: True forgiveness starts with knowing God forgives us not just for what we’ve done, but for everything we will ever do: past, present, and future. God forgave the whole situation above, so who am I to hold on to resentment against my daughter, mother-in-law, or even myself?
Tip Three: Once you accept God’s forgiveness, share with Him all your justifications. Tell Him why you are worthy of forgiveness (even if you aren’t) to get it out of your system. Prayer can be a powerful way to do this. Journal it if you need to. Do whatever it takes to get it out of your system. God forgives us no matter what, but to forgive ourselves we often need to justify to our inner judge.
Tip Four: Let it go. We often think about Grace as forgive and forget. The hitch here is that if we forget then there is an opening for hurt again. This logic sits on a major flaw. If you love yourself like God loves you, you won’t get hurt in the first place. God never withholds His forgiveness, presence, or love. If we can do that with ourselves, then we can do that for others. The end result is that those possible hurts will never happen. We can fully let go and love.
Thought for the Day:
Today I love myself. I will treat me how God treats me. He loves me enough to be with me regardless of any action I take. He promised never to banish me from His presence no matter what I do. With Him, I am not alone. I promise not to banish myself because of what I do. I will no longer bury who God made me because others might hate me, leave me, or stop me from being with them. God, you are with Me. That is enough.
Remember, you are not alone. Joy be with you throughout your day.