Unworthiness became the core belief about myself very early in my life. Throughout my Christian life I have been reminded of my unworthiness. “look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged” (Isaiah 51:1) I believed my worth could only come from whatever good I could do, not from the person that I was.
Much research has been done on the effects of nurturing infants and children. It creates the image a child will have of herself, others, and how the world works. That image will determine how she interacts with people for the rest of her life unless something intervenes. Although there are several good books on the subject, I will recommend one of my favorites. What Your Body Knows About God by Robert Moll.
Having not felt loved as a child, it was hard for me to feel loved as an adult. I could intellectually understand that I was loved, but the emotion of feeling loved eluded me. I had little childhood experience from which to draw, but as a mother I could draw from my experience of loving and enjoying my own children. Although the people in my young life didn’t acknowledge my value, God did. Yes, I experienced horrible things. No, it wasn’t right or fair. However, none of that had any bearing on God’s love for me or my true value. That’s why it’s so important to show God’s love to people whether we think they deserve it or not. Every person deserves to be loved.
Learning about and experiencing God’s love for me naturally led to loving myself. That was another uncomfortable feeling. Yet all the things I believed about others had to be true for me as well. The first thing Jesus showed me was the second great commandment – love your neighbor as yourself. I had always “heard” that verse as “love your neighbor instead of yourself.” That little word “as” means “in the same way.” Love your neighbor “in the same way” you love yourself. I believed self-love could only mean selfish indulgence, which is not love at all. I had learned it backwards, so I began loving myself in the same way I loved others.
I was surprised by the guilt I felt by loving myself. I couldn’t enjoy decisions I made for my benefit. These emotions caused me to question why I felt this way. That’s when I learned what I believe to be God’s design for emotions. I have found them to be messengers from my heart, revealing what I truly believe. Just like my physical senses help me interact with the physical world, my emotions help me interact with God and people. I began a routine that I continue to use. I start with my thoughts, “What am I thinking?” That leads to my emotions, “How does that make me feel?” Sometimes it’s hard to get to the root emotion, but it’s worth the effort. If the emotion doesn’t line up with the truth of God’s word, then I ask myself, “What does Jesus say about that? What lie am I believing?” Now I’m confronted with the choice of believing what God says or believing a lie. Whatever I chose will determine how I interact with God and people.