In my non-online, real life I am challenged to live up to the ideals I espouse online. I’ve never said any of this is easy. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve said that it isn’t easy. It’s difficult. I am on record however of saying that working through the difficulties is worth the joy on the other side. I’m not perfectly mature myself and so much of what I write about is the stuff with which I struggle. So, I’m right there with you, fighting to be a more mature me. Some days are better than others.
In my online life I am blessed to have some good online friends that sometimes say things that cause me to have personal epiphanies, the quote below, and the title of this post, are two of those epiphanies that occurred to me recently.
Until we accept ourselves it is useless for anyone else to try and convince us that we are acceptable.
There are some things that we have to accept. One of those things is that we cannot control anyone but ourselves. There are things that we can do for our spouse that can help then feel better about themselves. In my opinion we should be our spouse’s biggest cheerleader. However, if there is something that your spouse chooses to not accept about themselves it is a frustrating ordeal to try and get them to change their belief about themselves. They have to make that choice for themselves.
Sure we can encourage them, compliment them and give them a good reflected sense of self BUT until they decide to accept themselves it will be frustrating.
In his article Do You Want Your Partner To Stroke Your Ego Or Your Genitals? Dr. David Schnarch writes:
For instance, the more you need your partner to prop up your reflected sense of self, the more you get a triple whammy:
- You take what your partner is doing (or not doing) very personally, especially when it comes to differences in sexual desire.
- You’re emotionally unnerved when your relationship becomes contentious, which it inevitably will around sex and intimacy.
- You go along and compromise and negotiate on things that maybe you shouldn’t, or you force your partner to adapt to you.
If feeling good about yourself depends on someone else propping you up, a reflected sense of self, everything that person does or doesn’t do is interpreted through that same lens. The lens of self. “What do their actions say about me?”
The answer to that question is, very little. Their actions say much more about how they feel about themselves than they say anything about you. However, when we’re relying on that reflected sense of self, we take their actions personally.
The other thing that happens, #2 in Dr. Schnarch’s list, is that when the relationship is going through conflict, which every relationship does, that conflict is personalized and suddenly that person relying on their spouse to prop them up to feel good about themselves has lost their crutch and is emotionally crippled. They panic emotionally and, because they cannot control themselves, they do all they can to control those around them.
Finally, when we rely on a reflected sense of self to feel good about ourselves we will do one of two things to our partner. We will acquiesce to them to receive their approval or we will force the to acquiesce to us. Once one acquiesces to the other the reflected sense of self comes back into balance and all seems to be right with the world. The problem is that the for a person with a reflected sense of self the things that caused the conflict become secondary to the poor sense of self because of the conflict. In other words, the issue becomes the poor sense of self because of the conflict and, therefor, the real issues that caused the conflict are rarely being addressed or resolved. One is being forced to give in to restore their sense of self or the other is being forced to give in to restore their spouse to emotional stability. Neither is a good outcome and only fosters more future conflict.
The issue really comes down to the lies that we believe about ourselves.
The lies we choose to believe rob us of God’s blessings.
Where do these lies come from?
John 8:44 (NASB)
You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Yes, there are things about myself that are ungodly that I need to change. I need to accept that about myself (that there are things in my life that are ungodly that I need to change). Don’t hear me saying that there isn’t room for growth and that we should just accept the way we are. There are things that we should all be working on to make a better, more mature us. However, I am never going to be 6’4″. Why should I punish my wife who loves the 5’11” me for that? Too many of us are doing just that. We are punishing our spouse that loves us the way we are because we do not like ourselves and there is nothing our spouse can do to make us like ourselves. We have to make that choice our self. It is very difficult, perhaps impossible, to love others when you hate yourself.
I’ll leave you with The Serenity Prayer and some things to think about.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Perhaps it’s time for a self inventory. What are the things in your life that are ungodly that you need to change? Are you punishing yourself or your spouse over things of which you have no control? What are the things that you need to accept about yourself?
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