TwoCheatingHearts asked in the comments of my previous post why I feel insecure and why I need constant affirmation. I started writing a reply, but the more I wrote and thought, the more I realized this deserves its own post.
The answer is, I’m not sure. My best guess (and it’s not REALLY an answer) is that I know myself and I know my faults intimately. This is probably true of everyone, but not everyone has my insecurities and occasional self-loathing. So what’s different?
I don’t excuse things in myself that I would excuse or forgive in others. Oftentimes when I fail in some way, I don’t really forgive myself or accept forgiveness from others. I compartmentalize it just fine and can move on, but instead of jettisoning the guilt and shame, I just lock it away where it festers. I carry a lot of this around with me.
It’s a symptom of self-righteousness, not in the sense of feeling like I’m more spiritual or moral than others, but that I should be. I’ve been given great gifts physically, mentally, spiritually, and materially, and yet I’ve squandered them. I have enough advantages that I should be a super-star in every area of life, and yet I kind of skate by, never living up to more than a small fraction of my potential.
On some level, I want to be justified by who I am and what I do – I feel I should be better than I am. Because I don’t live up to that standard of perfection, I am wracked with guilt (at least when I can’t keep a lid on it). So is it any wonder that I don’t accept praise for the things that remind me more of my failures than of my successes?
The thing is, all of what I just wrote is bullshit. It’s true in that it’s what I think, but at the same time I know it’s wrong. Everyone is in the same boat. We all fail to live up to our potential. We all have the burden of our past failures. It’s arrogant on my part to think that somehow I’m different because I’m just so f’n special that I shouldn’t be less than perfect.
It also shows a lack of grace. I talk about grace all the time as something God offers to other people or something that we should all show to others. But if I don’t accept God’s grace to me, I’m missing out. I’m hard-hearted towards it. I don’t want to just let it go, casting it upon Christ. Like so many people, including Christians, I think I’m still trying to earn it somehow even though I know intellectually that I can’t. Even trying to earn what God gives freely is an affront to what Jesus did for me.
Underneath all of this awfulness is fear. That’s one of the things I got out of therapy that has really helped – fear almost always is beneath the stupid, hurtful things we do. In this case, my insecurity and my desire to earn God’s and my wife’s love and grace is the result of fear that I’m not really loved, that I’m not really lovable, and that what love exists is there only because I’m not fully known. This a lie, and I know it intellectually, but I still believe it in my heart of hearts.
So if that is the problem, what is the solution? I don’t mean, what is the church answer or the intellectual answer, I mean what do I need to be doing right now? I don’t quite know, but I’m going to start by praying. God is full of mercy and I know this isn’t what he wants for me. So I’m going to pray, and I’m going to read scripture, and I’m going to talk to my wife. My wife is the visible manifestation of God’s grace in my life. If she can forgive me for what I did for her by reflecting His grace, love, and forgiveness, then who am I to argue?