devozine

Spiritual Practice

FREE TO BE ME

Steve Matthews

Wouldn’t it be great if we “outgrew” the worry associated with measuring up? I haven’t been a teen for . . . well . . . a few years, and I still find myself wondering from time to time if I am good enough. I am an East Coast, middle-age, overweight, under-employed guy. Most of the time I feel OK in my skin. But last week I took my first trip to Los Angeles. Something about going to the land of the perpetually young, the rich and famous, the beautiful people had me feeling insecure.

Fortunately, I have developed some practices that remind me that while I am not perfect, I am good enough in God’s eyes. A few years ago I found a few phrases that help me to regroup when I am feeling insecure. One is from humorist Grady Nutt in Being Me: “I am a person of worth, created in the image of God to relate and to live.” The other is from Psalm 139:14 (NRSV): “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” These truths remind me that there is nothing I can do or not do that will make God love me any less or any more. As I say these words, my shoulders relax and my breathing slows. I am freed to be fully myself, knowing that I may not be perfect but that I am here on this planet to be me . . . and that IS good enough.

 

I recently read an article in The New York Times that talked about the need for developing a sense of self-compassion rather than self-confidence. The article describes self-compassion as the ability to treat ourselves with kindness while acknowledging our imperfections and limitations. This approach can help us to see our abilities objectively, to learn from past mistakes, and to be more empathetic with others. In contrast to a forced self-confidence, self-compassion often leads to a more meaningful sense of worth.

As I was packing for Los Angeles, I tried on some clothes and looked in the mirror. Self-confidence might have led me to say, “Not bad, Matthews. You can do this.” But the truth was that I had gained weight and didn’t have confidence in the way I looked. Self-compassion reminded me to breathe deep, to accept my flaws, and to be myself: “I am a person of worth, created in the image of God to relate and to live.” The power and beauty of me is based in my core, not my surface. I went to LA, had a great time, and felt meaningfully connected to the people I met.

 

DIG DEEPER

Take a few deep breaths, and feel your feet on the ground. Close your eyes, and say the words from Being Me: “I am a person of worth, created in the image of God to relate and to live.” Hold yourself with all the love and compassion that God holds for you.

Now think about a family member, friend, or acquaintance who seems to be struggling to measure up. This struggle may show up as a poor self-image, or it might appear as arrogance or an exaggerated self-confidence. Hold this person in prayer with this same sense of God’s loving compassion. How might you extend compassion to this person?

Steve Matthews was a youth minister for over 15 years. He is now a consultant and leadership coach working with new church starts and re-developing communities of faith. He is also a spiritual director.

—from devozine (July/August 2019). Copyright © 2019 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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