Living in a perpetual state of repentance is the way to change. We are always in brokenness and there is nothing that keeps our hearts tender like saying we’re sorry, turning around and repenting for the things we have done. It is true you make mistakes every day. Why would you not want to live in repentance? The alternative is to not pay attention to the things you are doing wrong or to rationalize and try to convince yourself and others that the things you have done are not that bad. When you put it that way, it seems like there is only one option.
Believe it or not, your self-hatred is the vehicle to finding love. This goes against some common wisdom which says you should really learn to see your own value. I mean sure, you have some nice things about you, but as you examine yourself, you will undoubtedly find some things that are lacking – even just by your own standards. It is impossible to produce love in yourself since you try to do so by some standardized merit system: “if you do and are such and such, you’re okay. If not, you’re not.” That type of love is not even really interesting to us. The only way you can truly receive the love we are talking about is to know the Love that loves you despite yourself and despite your sometimes intense hatred of yourself. Do not be afraid of this self-hatred. It will lead you right where you want to go. It’s just sort of an inside-out way to get there. Do an honest appraisal of yourself and find your wretched unworthiness. Then reach for the Love that loves you anyway.
In all the talk about the dangers of shame, we can start to think it is something that can and should be eradicated altogether. If that were the goal, we might be tempted to think everything we do and are is okay and even great. We all know that is not true. You do some terrible, selfish, unloving things sometimes, and so do I. You are full of imperfections and contradictions. So am I. It would be a positive step to no longer prop up our egos and reach a higher degree of honesty with ourselves. If we are to find true love, it will be through reaching and knowing the depths of our self-hatred, so we can know we are yet still lovable. If you do not know the vastness of your imperfections, how will you know the depth of grace that swallows them all up?
Grace is the only real transformative currency. You have probably learned by now that judging, criticizing and shaming people does not really produce great results. It may change people’s behavior, but in the long run, it just produces more and more shame. You shame your kids, then they feel ashamed and shame their kids. The way out is to find grace for yourself, and you will at that same time find it for others. To some of you, this may seem like cheap grace or “letting people off the hook,” but what else is there? I dare you to try it. Are you holding back on receiving grace for yourself?
You will be able to forgive others as soon as you are ready to accept forgiveness for yourself. The things we do not forgive in others are the same things we refuse to forgive in ourselves. Alternatively, as soon as you are ready to receive grace into your greatest shame, you will be able to offer the same to another. If you can be forgiven then so can I, and vice versa. Grace reaches both of us at the same time; it is the great equalizer.