Self confidence doesn’t come naturally to me or many people I know. Churches are the hardest place to be self confident because they insist that we are worms, lowest of the low before Jesus came on the scene and saved us from our sorry selves. Recently I was attending our local Beer and Hymns. We sing old hymns that have been around for hundreds of years. I was struck by the bad theology in these songs. I’ve never really given much thought to the words before but this one night was different. The imagery is horrendous. People are referred to as worms and wretches as if the beautiful people God created in God’s image didn’t exist. Now I’ve been a believer a long time and I understand the theology behind these songs. The idea is to make sure people don’t forget that Jesus is the only reason we aren’t bound for hell and without Jesus we wouldn’t be fit for living. I’ve listened for years to people talk about the culture of shame and blame they were raised in at their local churches. The church has spent millennia controlling people by telling them what to believe, how to think and what they’re worth without God. I was fortunate not to have attended a church like this growing up but my self worth was taken from me by other people of authority. We are judged by society if we’re overweight, too loud, not feminine or manly enough, have tattoos or piercings, don’t wear the right clothing brands and the list goes on and on. These shallow reasons are just deep enough to deride a person’s sense of worth.
Why are we so easy to convince that our self worth is tied to our outer appearance or our ability to fit in everywhere? I believe we all have an inner child that longs to be whole and accepted. I believe that is who we were always meant to be. It makes sense to me that if God went to all the trouble to create people to be in relationship with, God would put within them everything necessary to be whole and confident. Unfortunately people come along and steal that potential from others. It sometimes starts with babies who are told they’re bad or young children who are ignored, abused or called names. This indignity comes from adults who themselves were treated the same way. Drug abuse and alcoholism are coping mechanisms for those trying to escape themselves and the bad situations in which they find themselves. It’s a vicious cycle that carries over into the churches we attend. Some churches relegate women to second class citizens where they’re to tend the children and be dutiful wives. They are never to rise up and try to lead. They are led to believe that God has subjugated them to a life of service to men and that their voice has no appeal to the God who created them. I’ve watched the shame churches instill on women carry over into how they raise their children. I’ve watched men drift into internet porn and other addictions trying to be happy and fulfilled.
Now I realize I’m painting a pretty grim picture. Thankfully not everyone has tasted the bitter pill of rejection and low self esteem but I’d bet that they are in the minority. Not everyone talks about their ups and downs. I’ve witnessed first hand the talent that is putting on a happy face and appearing to have everything well in hand. I’ve known people who seemingly have it all together and exude self confidence to the point I just hope some will overflow onto me. I long for that. I overthink most situations and lose sleep if I feel I’ve been too obnoxious or said the wrong thing. My mouth has been getting me in trouble for years. I’m opinionated and I share too much. I’m overweight and struggle with my feelings of self worth. I’ve been called bossy, pushy, and a bit too much. But I’m honest and try to make others feel cared about. I’m well aware of how my self worth was taken from me and who participated. I’ve been to counseling enough to know what voices I need to listen to and when to turn away. The thing that saddens me the most is knowing that I’ll never regain that confident inner child. I can pretend and project to the world that I’m whole and have it all together. That I’m not afraid of what others think, that I’m not concerned when someone doesn’t like me. But truthfully, although I do continue to work on those issues, I have come to the conclusion that I’ll never be exactly who I was designed to be. That was taken from me at a young age. Now I’m working to instill within me the knowledge that who I am, exactly as I am, is enough for God. I am enough.