It began in a very difficult season of my life several years back. My physical health was deteriorating and my emotional and mental well-being was in a dark, downward spiral.
Tough circumstances at work and hurtful accusations that sent me reeling kept me emotionally drained and teetering on despair.
How could this be happening to me?
It was the worst of times but ended up being the best because out of those dark, depressing days came some extraordinary changes in my life.
While people were beating me down, God started the process of changing the way I thought of myself as these difficulties revealed the fragile, wavering opinion I had of myself.
I believed that I wasn’t good at anything.
The gift in these painful circumstances was my desperation and after saying no to several opportunities to get help during that difficult period, I finally said yes and took a course that woke me up.
At this course, I heard things like you need to love and value yourself. People were telling me that the opinion I had of myself was not healthy.
And as much as I put on a facade behind smiles and the attitude that I’m good, people saw through it and a few even mentioned “you need professional help.” I couldn’t believe that they thought that about me and then two other members of the little group I worked with at the seminar said the same thing.
My head was swirling.
A few weeks later, I was wandering through the aisles of our local bookstore, and the title of a book caught my attention. It grabbed me because it targeted the emotional struggles and negative feelings that I had about myself that had been exposed at the seminar I attended.
The book entitled, The Emotionally Healthy Woman, was written by a pastor’s wife Geri Scazzero.
As I read this book and embraced what Scazzero was saying, it became the key to unlocking that dark, musty room in my mind where I stored all the unhealthy beliefs I held about myself.
Along with the course and this book I finally got the message. I needed to clean out that room. I needed to finally throw out that garbage thinking.
I was on a quest because ‘loving or liking myself’ was all a mystery to me and I wasn’t even sure this was correct theology.
Women believe that our lives need to be one of self-sacrifice and denial because good women put themselves last and the needs of everyone else first.
When we do that, it invariably ends badly for us, because we end up angry and resentful and even bitter. There is no joy in giving or serving because you believe that’s what makes you a good person.
Women, in particular, have grossly misunderstood one verse in the Bible:
According to Scazzero where we go wrong is when women interpret this verse as meaning we must deny ourselves ‘good things’ in order to be seen as a spiritual woman.
But, it is really referring to gossip, slander, lying, or immorality. It in no way refers to denying the good things that nurture our soul and make us feel happy and fulfilled.
We also think this verse means we must say yes to every request made of us. But we can’t help others until we have first helped ourselves.
When they give the flight instructions on a jet, we are told before helping a friend or child, we must make sure you put your oxygen mask on first.
We can only look after others, if we have first taken care of ourselves. If we don’t then both are at risk and I fear that is where many women are at. I know I was.
The Bible says that we need to love our neighbor as our self, but this leads to the obvious question, how many women truly love themselves?
I think most women are like me. I read the Bible verses that God loved me, but in my heart I wasn’t sure I could love me.
I didn’t think I could do anything. I didn’t believe God had a purpose for my life.
If we allow ourselves to live our lives under this interpretation that we deny ourselves all the time whether we feel like it or not (convenient or not) we invariably turn into a “people pleaser.”
Without proper boundaries in place that protect us from over-doing it and saying ‘yes’ to the wrong things we will become angry, resentful and unhappy.
I recall many times doing things, because I thought it was spiritual, in a self-sacrificing way, and I would come home drained and exhausted with little energy left for my family and their needs.
“So, when Jesus said you must love your neighbor as yourself,” He was actually saying we can’t love our neighbors and the people around us without first taking care of our needs (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual).