I love this quote taken from my book Jewels for My Journey. Dr. Jim Wilder said it to me when he was helping me learn not to beat up on myself when I failed, messed up, made a wrong decision or just plain irritated someone. He had much to say about that and there are occasions when I have to go back to his words when mine or someone else’s pain is the result of my messes. I was very mixed up about God’s view of failure and tended to hate myself because I couldn’t be perfect enough to keep from causing someone else pain.
We could look at lots of different ways and degrees of messing up. Some are huge with humongous consequences. Some are a result of not thinking; some are a result of quirks from just being myself, which can be irritating or annoying to others. My musings today are of the latter—causing someone else pain when I don’t think and/or when my quirks cause conflict and hurt.
Maybe this is not true for everyone, but I feel great pain when I hurt someone else, no matter the reason. This is one of the characteristics of my heart because I am a loving, bonding and nurturing person. Through the years as I’ve revisited the lessons that I learned from Dr. Wilder about accepting my limitations and not beating up on myself, it was helpful to learn one of the reasons why I tended to do that when someone got hurt by my quirks. I felt a loss of value whenever I caused someone pain, especially if it was unintentional. I had never considered that when I felt hurt because of hurting someone else and wanted to beat up on myself that I believed I was not valuable. Dr. Wilder helped me see I was believing a lie:
“We can hurt someone with the truth or even a need we have. If one walks in the truth, one will hurt people. You have been taking that your value diminishes when you cause pain. You need someone to come along side and say, ‘She still has value even if she does make bad choices or hurt someone.’ When a person has been blamed, devalued and neglected they need someone to stand up and say, ‘You are valuable,’ instead of reinforcing the problem by communicating to them that they are bad.”
As I began to ponder that my value was not diminished because I messed up and/or someone got hurt, it encouraged me to stop beating up on myself and also to see others as valuable even if they hurt me. For these musings I am not talking about excusing hurtful behavior or sin, but rather I am talking about what we sometimes call quirks–those things we do that annoy or irritate others. Dr. Wilder taught me that I will not always be liked for being “Barbara-like.”
Years back I lost myself by trying to be what others around me wanted me to be like. I was rejecting myself because I did not always get good results from being myself. Dr. Wilder helped me see that as I better understood my limitations and that I couldn’t do everything “right,” I would be less upset by being myself. He said that some won’t like when I do Barbara-like things, but I must not give in again to rejecting myself. And he assured me that no matter how much I accepted myself, it would still hurt when someone didn’t like me. So I learned what to do with pain.
The temptation to beat up on oneself can be very strong when the pain level is high, so while I am processing what is my part to take and my part not to take in a conflict that has brought pain, I have to get comfort for my feelings and cling to the truth. D r. Wilder taught me to see myself as a dusty bent arrow:
“When I am doing archery, my bent arrows never go the way I aim. People are crooked arrows and can’t go straight. We are too bent to hit the target, so give up and let the Archer hit it. Ask God whenever you think you made a wrong decision after praying about it or conflict arises over one of your quirks, ‘What were You shooting at God, when I made that decision or irritated that person?’”
“We are all bent arrows. God is the archer and we are His arrows. Our hope is not that some day we will be straight arrows; but rather that our Archer is so good He can shoot bent arrows around corners with perfect precision. He knows we are but dust.”
Upon first glance one might think that seeing ourselves as dusty bent arrows diminishes our importance, but when understood and internalized it can be very freeing. Our worth is not dependent on our performance nor are we meant to strive and strain; we are meant to rest in Him and His sufficiency, letting Him guide and direct.
Sometimes it is still hard for me to remember my limitations and bentness when I “don’t get it right and disappoint someone around me.” When that pain hits, I go back to my journal (documented in Jewels for My Journey) to remind myself what Dr. Wilder told me years ago:
“You will be free when you know ‘we can’t get it right’. When someone is disappointed with you, saying something is wrong with you, they are implying you could get it right. It is ok to be wrong, because we cannot do it right in and of ourselves. If when I get to Heaven, I find I had much of anything right about God I will be amazed. Fearing to do the wrong thing is one of Satan’s traps. Undo the trap by knowing you can’t get it right in and of yourself.”
It’s also easy to fall into this trap of Satan’s when we beat up on ourselves for making a wrong decision. I made one about how I was going to pursue my career as a teacher that looked pretty stupid at the time. Dr. Wilder admonished me to remember that there often are more than two choices and that all decisions are not irreversible, and that I didn’t have to beat up on myself for this either . I can’t figure out the right thing to do via my flesh.
“The better question than ‘Did I make the right choice?’ is ‘Do we want condemnation for choices we make or will we look at effects we are having on others?’ It is much more important to learn about the effects we have on the world around us, than it is to believe we have to go down with the ship over decisions. You need grace from the Christian community and when you do not get it, grieve and follow your heart. You may have to ride with a skunk, (pay consequences) but you do not have to brush its fur (make things worse by beating up on yourself).”
As I walk through life accepting others in spite of their quirks and hoping some will do the same to me, I try not to ruffle the skunk’s fur. Jesus died to set us free and all He asks is that we confess our sins and receive His forgiveness. Beating up on ourselves says He didn’t do enough and we aren’t accepting someone He loves. Forgiving ourselves, asking others to forgive us when needed and forgiving the ones who hurt us returns us to joy with one another. It is good to be together, especially when having to ride a while with a skunk.