Stop Lying to Yourself and Start Living
How much training did you receive on emotional health issues while in school? If your formal schooling was like mine, you received very little. I recently heard it said that schools teach the what but rarely the why or the how. Lots of time is spent teaching us theology. Making sure we can understand the deep things of God. This is important of course but it is only the tip of the iceberg of what we need to know to effectively pastor.
During the process of enrolling for my Masters of Divinity degree, the school had me complete a PF16 test along with other evaluation forms. I had a basic intake interview but nothing comprehensive. Other than that, Overall though, very little was done to evaluate my mental health or to help me chart a path to better emotional health.
The only other training I can say I received at the graduate level that would have had a positive impact on my mental health was a class I took on spiritual formation. In this class we were encouraged to spend time daily with the Lord.
As someone walks with the Lord honestly and authentically, it is inevitable that they will improve their emotional health.
To incorporate spiritual disciplines like prayer, silence and bible study into our ministry. As someone walks with the Lord honestly and authentically, it is inevitable that they will improve their emotional health.
In my experience though, I am the least objective personal to evaluate my own emotional well being. I’ve found through personal experience the truth of what the Bible states in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” I find myself often living in a fantasy world. One of my own making.
Living in a Fantasy World
I am insecure. There, I admitted it to the world. It isn’t something I admit easily. I don’t like to face the real me, faults and all. I am my own worst critic. For most of my life I have struggled with the deeply buried hate of myself. That I am weak. That I am not good enough. That I can never measure up to the standards and expectations of those who know me best, the ones closest to me.
I am my own worst critic. For most of my life I have struggled with the deeply buried hate of myself. That I am weak. That I am not good enough. That I can never measure up to the standards and expectations of those who know me best, the ones closest to me.
Logically, I know that it is based in large measure on my childhood. I grew up with parents who loved me but who had a very difficult time expressing their love. My parents were also constantly doing a dance. They would alternate between war and armistice. As a child, I had to walk on eggshells. I never knew when one of my parents would break the truce and lash out at the other or at me. Childhood for me was very stressful. I learned to be a fighter. To hold my ground when my parents attacked me. To talk back if necessary. To use sarcasm. To hide true, authentic self from them so that they couldn’t wound me to death.
I do believe my parents did the very best they could. For much of my youth I was angry at my parents and especially at my mom. I always saw her as the instigator. I idealized my dad growing up. It was probably because I was a boy, I’m not sure, but I was always ready to give him a pass on his failures much more than for my mother. Mom became a lightening rod for my anger growing up. Being able to admit this is quite recent for me. My wife would often mirror back to me the fact that I had treated my mom very rudely and roughly even in public. Without her help I would have never seen it.
I tell you all of this to help you to understand what I mean by my having built a fantasy world for myself. Reality was most often too painful. My fears were real to me but could not be acknowledged for fear that they were true. I therefore leaned to bury my emotions. To hide my true self. To lock my authentic self away even from my conscious mind. Instead, I lived in a world of my own making. A world where I was strong, powerful, smart, intelligent, handsome, talented and capable. Anyone who threatened my fantasy idea of myself had to be neutralized, sidelined or avoided.
You may believe yourself immune to pretending. To living in a fantasy world of your own. Be careful though. We humans are naturally more comfortable with lies than the truth. Truth is too often painful. It exposes our suffering. Suffering is to be avoided at all costs. To be denied, to be buried, to be removed. It is easier to lie to ourselves than to face the truth. This is why I built a fantasy world. This is why I lied to myself.
I once believed that I was a very honest person. I have always hated people who lied to me. Had no time for them. Was quick to condemn them and marginalize them until I discovered that I too was a liar. That apart from the power of the indwelling Christ, all humans are liars. I came to understand Jesus’ words to the pharisees in John 8.
“Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” – John 8:43-44.
Dealing in the Truth
I am learning how to be honest with myself. The person I lie to most often is myself. I have fought so hard to accept the truth. The truth that I am a broken man. A person with deep flaws. With character weaknesses. A person who has failed more than he has succeeded. I have let everyone I love down more times than I can count. I have failed to keep my promises. Failed to be fully present for my wife and children. Failed to love and care for the members of my parish. Failed as a brother and son. Failed in business multiple times. Failed in school. I am a failure. A person to be despised and rejected. Selfish and self-centred. Evil and worthy of death.
Fortunately, that isn’t all that I am. I am also a child of the King of the Universe. I am brother to the best brother anyone could ever hope to have, Jesus Christ. I have been redeemed from my failure. I have been given an inheritance I don’t deserve. A title I haven’t earned. A position for which I was never born into. Forgiveness for every failure and grace for every fall.
Yes, I’m a failure. Without Christ I am nothing. I’m a nobody. I’m a loser.
With Christ though, I am worthy. I am loved. I am accepted. I am home.