(If you’ve stumbled across thist post, let me explain where you are. You have landed smack in the middle of one of my favorite series ever. We started some time ago by learning that God expects us to love ourselves. Now, we’re going through the definition of love in I Corinthians 13:4-7 to help us understand how we can love ourselves in a healthy way so can love others better. Go back to that first post to read the series from the beginning and to find an index of all the posts available. Enjoy today’s post as well.)
Don’t Be Irritable with Yourself
I’m told that anger turned inward is a working definition of depression. Thus, to help ourselves overcome depression, we must learn to relieve that kind of anger. We don’t have to be irritable with ourselves.
Don’t misunerstand. We do things wrong. There are times when anger even at ourselves is justified. But we don’t need to let that anger turn into a simmering, just-below-the-surface irritability.
Irritability is not out and out anger. It is not the clamoring and wrath and explosion. Rather, it is that low-lying frustration we carry with us just below the surface. It is something not easily seen. However, when little things happen, this irritability ignites the flame of clamor, wrath, and explosion. Irritibality is not the flame. Rather, it is more like the pilot light that stays lit all the time so that when the fuel hits it, the fire gets going. If we can remove the pilot light, we can prevent many of the burns.
We are allowed to love ourselves. We don’t have to be continually exasperated, frustrated, or irritated with ourselves. The fact is we all mess up. We all make mistakes. We all sin. We are growing; we aren’t perfect yet. While we must not ignore these sins and we must take them seriously, we do not have to respond with a constant barage of berating ourselves. We do not have to hang on to the irritation.
We need to be comfortable in our own skin instead of always being under our own skin. This means we have to learn to be gentle with ourselves, patient with ourselves, accepting of ourselves.
One of the best ways to remove this irritation is to remember that God is working on us. According to Philippians 2:12-13, God is working in us both to work and to will for His good pleasure. Further, according to Romans 8:28-30, God is working on conforming us to the image of His Son. According to I Peter 5:10, God will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us. When we remember that God is working on us, being patient with us, and accepting us where we are while working on our weaknesses, we can do the same.
If God is accepting me right now, I can too. I’m not improving myself or my standing with God by carrying the irritation or berating myself. If you’re like me, there is part of you that thinks you can make up for the sin by ranting and raving at yourself, being really angry at yourself, and not letting yourself live down the sins. That doesn’t work. What works is allowing the blood of Jesus to cleanse your conscience so you can be set free to serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14). If you are carrying irritability, you will simply provoke yourself to the same or different sins.
Please understand, loving yourself does not mean ignoring your sins. Rather, it means dealing with your sins properly. Instead of trying to pay for your sins by your own anger, take your sins to Jesus and let Him pay for them. Let His sacrifice purify you and your conscience, but not so you can just keep sinning whenever you want. Rather, let Him purify your conscience so you may serve the living God.
Don’t live in a fantasy land that says you don’t sin or your sins don’t matter. That simply isn’t true. But neither must you let your sins, mistakes, or weaknesses, push you to continued harshness and exasperation with yourself. Even Paul was gentle with himself about his weaknesses. He said he would boast in his weaknesses rather than be irritated with himself about them. Why? Because his weaknesses were what reminded him he needed God. Without the recognition of his weaknesses, he would not have known how much he needed God (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). He would have been lost on his own way which would have ended in death (Proverbs 14:12).
Yes, you make many mistakes. You are growing; you aren’t perfect. But instead of being irritable, love yourself. God loves you even though you’ve made all those mistakes. You can too.
(Come back next Monday as we learn to love ourselves God’s way instead of resenting ourselves.)