Monday, September 15, 2014

Growing in the Grace of Loving & Accepting Myself

“There is overwhelming evidence that the higher the level of self-esteem, the more likely one will treat others with respect, kindness, and generosity. People who do not experience self-love have little or no capacity to love others.” Nathaniel Brandon
“Love others in the same way you love yourself.” - Mark 12:31

The idea of accepting myself has been subjected to a broad variety of interpretations, some of which conflict with the concepts of absolute morality and human responsibility. A philosophy of self-acceptance that attempts to tranquilize the guilty conscience at the expense of moral truth is both ineffective and unwise. It will not motivate a person to deal with deep roots that motivate human behavior and discover true inner healing.

Self-acceptance has to do with the idea of bringing behaviors, wounds from the past, personal characteristics, and defective relational styles into the light in order to come to grips with them. We don’t have to like an aspect of our life nor condone it to accept it. However, it's not really possible to come to peace with our past and grow in Christlikeness without fully recognizing our inner reality.

A spiritual base that’s firmly rooted in salvation by faith through grace will make this type of inner honesty a lot easier. Without truth in the innermost being, the possibilities of true self-development or of overcoming deficits in our past are impossible. I cannot change an attitude, emotion or behavior that I refuse to recognize or accept as being true of me.

For most of us, the defective ways we’ve dealt with past hurts and wounds come to a head somewhere between our mid 20’s and 50. More often than not we’ve stuffed and become oblivious to the hurts that deeply imprinted and wounded us via some form of denial or self-protection. Unresolved, they undermine our ability to relate deeply, sincerely and fervently. The added responsibilities, changing roles and relational challenges of adulthood urge us to do whatever is necessary to bring these faulty adaptation patterns to the surface.

It’s important to emphasize that the issue of self-acceptance, imprinting, unhealed wounds and defense mechanisms are problematic for all normal people. These are not merely issues that are reserved for those with deep emotional conflicts or deep psychological problems.

Let’s look at Bill’s story. “Five years ago, when my wife would point out where I was failing as a young father, my typical response was to criticize an area of weakness in her life, or point that I was doing better than many others. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was not accepting myself in this area and hiding behind my defense mechanisms. In the last year, I've got in touch with many negative imprinting events from my childhood. The end result is that I’m more able to see the ways in which I fail my own children as a father. Today, I’m more inclined to accept observations my wife makes about how I’m doing as a father and work at changing.” This is an example of the benefits of growing in self-acceptance.

In many people, a strong idealism as to what ought to be may be our greatest hindrance to growth in self-acceptance and leads to living in denial and being unwilling to explore how past wounds are impacting us in the present.

The acceptance of the true self is the foundational step that can break the strangle hold that previously hidden agendas of adaptation have exercised over us. Just a car can not be repaired until the faulty performance is recognized and damaged parts clearly identified and replaced, so we can not overcome our relational tendencies, phobias and fears until we fully recognize and accept where our performance is defective. Then we can take the time to explore how these patterns came into being and seek God’s help to heal them.

Nathaniel Branden designed an exercise to help a person in the area of self-acceptance that I’ve adapted for this post. His technique consists of rapidly completing phases without allowing too much time to micromanage our answers.

·  Six things about myself that are difficult for me to accept are:
(1). _________________________________.
(2). _________________________________.
(3). _________________________________.
(4). _________________________________.
(5). _________________________________.
(6). _________________________________.

For each of the six areas, complete the following phrases with six to ten endings.
·  The reason I find it difficult to accept ________ is (answer with 3 to 5 endings).
·  If I were to accept ______ completely then (answer with 3 to 5 endings).
·  If the reality is that the truth is the truth whether I accept it or not, then (answer with 3 to 5 endings).
·  I am beginning to realize (answer with 3 to 5 endings).

Where are you in your journey of the grace of loving and accepting yourself and spiritual transformation?

Source: Nathaniel Brandon, Como Meiorar Su Autoestima [How to Raise Your Self-Esteem] (Barcelona: Paidés, 1987, 48.


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